(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Clermont d’Ambois has vowed to avenge the murder of his brother, Bussy. Although he doubts the virtue of repaying violence with violence, he has made a solemn promise to Bussy’s ghost. His sister, Charlotte, unambiguous in her feelings, is impatient for immediate revenge, and her marriage to Baligny has been made under the stipulation that he, too, pledge himself to effect the death of Montsurry, Bussy’s murderer. Tamyra, the wife of Montsurry and former mistress of Bussy, has returned to her husband, but she makes no secret of her hatred of him and her desire for his death. The design of these people is obstructed by the cowardly Montsurry, who has barricaded himself in his home.

Clermont, who insists on a fair duel and who will allow no one else to discharge his duty, has instructed Baligny to deliver his challenge. Baligny’s entrance to Montsurry’s home is accomplished with the help of a decadent nobleman, the Marquess Renel. Renel, visiting Montsurry on business, bribes the guards to admit Baligny. When Baligny enters, Montsurry is terrified and refuses to accept the proffered challenge. Baligny leaves the challenge with Tamyra, who promises to make her husband read it.

This plot is not the only one in which Baligny is involved. A treacherous man, he bases his actions on his belief that troubles for others mean blessings for himself. Wearing a different mask for every acquaintance, he is able to gain people’s confidence and thus discover their dissatisfactions and sow the seeds of further discontent. In dealing with King Henry III, he expounds the doctrine that any evil done out of loyalty to a king is justified. Such a philosophy being agreeable to King Henry, Baligny has become his trusted agent. In talking to the duc de Guise, on the other hand, Baligny expresses the belief that conspiracy is sometimes defensible.

The principal object of jealousy in the court at this time is the Guise faction. King Henry is fearful and jealous of the increasing influence of the duc de Guise, and Baligny strives to increase his distrust. Guise’s closest friend is Clermont d’Ambois, whom Guise not only admires but also endeavors to emulate. He sees in Clermont a valor equal to Bussy’s and, more important, a profound knowledge of life. Clermont’s principles of restraint, unworldliness, and stoic acceptance guide the actions of the powerful duke. Because of the close relationship between the two men, jealousy of Guise is often extended to include Clermont. Thus Baligny is able to convince King Henry of the advantage of getting rid of Clermont. He suggests that Clermont be invited to visit Cambrai, where, away from his friends at court, he can be arrested.

Baligny induces Clermont to go to Cambrai on the pretext that he will be reviewing a muster of the king’s troops. In his conversation with Clermont, Baligny attempts to weaken Clermont’s ties with Guise...

(The entire section is 1189 words.)