Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Château de Chaumont

*Château de Chaumont (SHAH-toh deh shoh-MOHNG). Home of the novel’s hero, Henri d’Effiat, the marquis de Cinq-Mars, sits alone high on a hill near the Loire River, dominating what lies below, distinctly separated from a village and its commoners. Halfway up the slope of the mountain is a church, frequented by both the nobles from the château and the villagers. Alfred de Vigny’s descriptions of the châteaux in this story emphasize the fairy-tale ambience of the Loire countryside, a region famous for its many Renaissance châteaux and the romantic legends that surround them. Vigny presents the valley as the scene of peace, prosperity, health, and happiness. The Château de Chaumont is, naturally enough, the birthplace of the love between Cinq-Mars and Marie de Gonzague, an Italian princess who takes refuge there.

The ideals and values that the Château de Chaumont and its setting represent physically are clear: the grandeur of France’s hereditary feudal nobility, their traditional independence, their religious traditionalism, and their obligations to the lower classes. In the novel’s first chapter, the young, passionate, impetuous Cinq-Mars rides forth from his lofty dwelling, headed for Perpignan to fight in Louis’s war against the Spanish—but ultimately to defend the hereditary nobility and his own ambition against Richelieu.

Once Cinq-Mars leaves his mountain castle, however, he begins a physical and moral descent that will end in his execution, in a public square in Lyon beside another river—the Rhône.

Château de Chambord

Château de Chambord (SHAH-toh deh shahm-BORE). Favorite country estate of King Louis XIII, not far away from Cinq-Mars’s estate in the Loire Valley. In direct contrast to the latter, Chambord is dark, sad, and dreary—the estate of a gloomy,...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Denommé, Robert T. “Alfred Victor de Vigny.” In vol. 5 of European Writers: The Romantic Century, edited by Jacques Barzun and George Stade. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1985. An excellent general account of Vigny and his work, including a fine discussion of Cinq-Mars.

Doolittle, James. Alfred de Vigny. New York: Twayne, 1967. Mainly a critical biography, with an acute and relatively balanced discussion of Cinq-Mars.

Jensen, Mark K. “The Relation of History to Literature in Vigny’s Thought Before the Preface to Cinq-Mars.” French Forum 18, no. 2 (May, 1993): 165-183. This investigation shows that Vigny was strongly interested in writing about historical subjects from his tragic dramas written in the period 1815-1817 (which he later destroyed) until the theoretical grounding of his position in the preface to Cinq-Mars in 1829.

Kushner, Eva. “Vigny’s Vision of History.” Bulletin of the New York Public Library 69 (1965): 609-617. A study of Vigny in the context of the historical consciousness of French Romanticism that shows him to have been “the most acutely curious inquirer” of all the Romantic writers.

Wren, Keith. “A Suitable Case for Treatment: Ideological Confusion in Vigny’s Cinq-Mars. Forum for Modern Language Studies 18, no. 4 (October, 1982): 335-350. This study takes issue with Marxist interpretations that Cinq-Mars is a “straightforward threnody for the defunct second estate” (the nobility) when, on the contrary, the romance is ideologically confused and hence fails to demonstrate its thesis that the destruction of the nobility resulted in the collapse of the whole of society.