Critical Evaluation

The Three Musketeers was the most popular novel written by Alexandre Dumas, père, and the one he considered his best. It has retained a great deal of popularity in spite of some weaknesses. The characterization is sketchy. The dialogue, by modern, realistic standards, is often long-winded and full of preposterous declarations of adoration, fidelity, patriotism, and other noble sentiments. Dumas’s dialogue shows the influence of that early genius of the historical novel, Sir Walter Scott. That The Three Musketeers has survived with so many generations of readers is testament to Dumas’s talent for describing violent action and tempestuous love affairs while maintaining suspense for nearly eight hundred pages.

An example of Dumas’s craftsmanship can be seen in chapter 47, “The Council of the Musketeers.” In this chapter, D’Artagnan consults with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis about how to foil the insidious schemes of Cardinal Richelieu. This could be a dull, static scene, but Dumas dramatizes it by placing his devil-may-care heroes in a bastion where they are under attack by waves of enemy soldiers. From masterful scenes such as this, professional writers of many lands have learned how to maintain suspense and avoid stretches of dreary exposition. The scene furnishes an excellent example of what American novelist Henry James meant when he advised fiction writers, “Dramatize, dramatize, dramatize!”

What made The Three Musketeers the best and most successful of Dumas’s five or six hundred volumes was the sinister character of Cardinal Richelieu. The machinations of this seventeenth century political genius are like the mainspring in a clock that keeps the entire mechanism running. All the other characters in the book are either acting under Richelieu’s orders or reacting to foil a scheme he has set in motion.

The main plot running throughout The Three Musketeers has to do with D’Artagnan and his three friends trying to prevent Richelieu from exposing Queen...

(The entire section is 838 words.)