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How Musketeers Worked

The Musketeers of Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas was the grandson of a French nobleman and a Creole woman from Haiti (because his son was also named Alexandre, the author of "The Three Musketeers" is referred to as Dumas, père). He began his career as a dramatist in Paris in the 1820s and went on to become one of the most popular novelists of his time.

"The Three Musketeers" was first published in serial form in the French magazine Le Siècle in 1844 [source: Rafferty]. This partly explains the cliff-hanger predicaments that end many of the chapters. The book became an instant success.

Dumas adapted the story from an obscure, semifictional memoir about a musketeer named D'Artagnan. The real D'Artagnan joined the Musketeers of the Guard in 1632, later than his fictional counterpart, and served mostly under Louis XIV, who became king in 1643. He became commander of the Musketeers and was killed in war in 1673 [sources: Scott, Necessary]. The other main musketeer characters also had real-life counterparts, with names similar to those used in the novel. Dumas transformed the complicated history of the period into a story of love and adventure.

In the novel, D'Artagnan comes to Paris from rural Gascony bent on becoming a prestigious Musketeer of the Guard. He falls in with the three musketeers and becomes their close comrade. The musketeers are then drawn into a complicated intrigue involving the Cardinal, the English Earl of Buckingham, King Louis XIII and Queen Anne. A secret agent known as Milady emerges as D'Artagnan's nemesis. The book abounds in tales of war, travels, romance and adventure, with D'Artagnan becoming an official Musketeer along the way.

Like some modern authors of best-sellers, Dumas churned out books on an industrial scale. He wrote so voluminously that he had to employ assistants to help him. "But," as critic Terence Rafferty points out, "if Dumas was a hack, he was a hack with genius. His storytelling never seems the least bit mechanical: no assembly line, then or now, could ever turn out a narrative as joyful, as eccentric, as maddeningly human as "The Three Musketeers" [source: Rafferty].

"The Three Musketeers" has been adapted over and over into movies and stage productions. There have been comic versions, silent versions and Technicolor extravaganzas. One of the latest big screen renditions is a 2011 3-D film starring the actor Logan Lerman [source: Internet Movie Database].

If you're wondering how modern audiences could be drawn to so many different renditions of the same classic tale, just refer back to the scene -- that fight between D'Artagnan and the cardinal's soldier Jussac -- examined in the first paragraph of this article. How did it play out? The impatient Jussac sprang forward, allowing the young musketeer wannabe to skewer him -- and then proceed to his next adventure.

Read on for lots more information about musketeers.

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