The Three MusketeersI'm surprised that no-one has done a reworking of this book with Milady and Richelieu as the heros, and the Musketeers as the villains. It wouldn't take much of a twist at all. With the exception of one event, the former are no more villainous than the latter. That is, unless, you take Dumas' word for it. In that case, Milady is pure evil, and the tale is one fit perfectly for kids. Fortunately, the story he tells is richer than the gloss the narrator sometimes tries to put on it.
Let's look at tI'm surprised that no-one has done a reworking of this book with Milady and Richelieu as the heros, and the Musketeers as the villains. It wouldn't take much of a twist at all. With the exception of one event, the former are no more villainous than the latter. That is, unless, you take Dumas' word for it. In that case, Milady is pure evil, and the tale is one fit perfectly for kids. Fortunately, the story he tells is richer than the gloss the narrator sometimes tries to put on it.Let's look at the characters:Richelieu is the first minister of France, and Louis XIII most trusted advisor. There is currently a Protestant uprising in France, and Richelieu is charged with quelling it. Louis is not that interested in managing tedious things (like his country), so this responsibility falls with Richelieu. Now, Anne of Austria is queen. But she's also a member of the family of France's primary enemy, and she is in love with the Duke of Buckingham, a direct enemy of England who would gave aid to the French insurrectionists. Richelieu's actions in the book are directed at exposing Anne and Buckingham, which directly supports French interests. Thus, the affair of the diamond studs was actually a matter of state. Richelieu was simply trying to show the King what was really going on, and what could jeopardize his interests as King. Mme. Boncieaux, the Musketeers, and the Queen, are all acting in only there personal interests, and against the interest of France. What the do is probably treasonous. (Certainly Anne's affair with Buckingham was treason. The efforts to thwart the cardinal exposing her treason border on treason, but were probably enough).Despite all this, Richelieu's one wish throughout the book concerning D'Artagnan is that he would want to make him his own man. The King does nothing for D'Artagnan. The Queen gives him a ring, but never even finds out who her hero is. Even de Treville only gets him an appointment in the King's guard. But Richelieu becomes his main benefactor. First, his order makes D'Artagnan a Musketeer, granting his fondest wish. And later, showing grace and humor in defeat, Richelieu gives him a commission as Lieutenant in the Musketeers (which is apparently a big deal, since twenty years later he still holds the same rank).And yet, Richelieu is the evil mastermind of this book?Now, let's take our heros, the Musketeers.Porthos is a bit of an oaf. As for his honor, when he's wounded in a duel, he lies about it and says he twisted his knee. He lies about his mistress. His great ambition in life is to marry the wife of a lawyer so he can get her money. While wounded, he holes up in a room in an inn, refuses to pay and nearly brings the innkeeper to ruin, while threatening to kill anyone who tries to move him or interfere with his convalescence. Aramis is a bit better. He merely lies about his love interest. The main complaint I can make about him is his willingness at the beginning of the book to kill D'Artagnan over the dropped handkerchief. In this instance, it's Aramis' lies about the handkerchief that bring on the appointment for the first duel.Athos is the heart and soul of nobility. And yet, when he learned that his wife had been branded, he simply hung her by the neck and left her for dead. When he tells his true name to another man before dueling, he also tells him that its too bad, because now he will have to kill him, and then does. (I may be wrong, but I think this may be the only person who actually dies in a duel in this book, so it is kind of a big deal.) And on another occasion, Athos also takes over an inn and nearly ruins it, drinking and eating almost all of its provisions without a thought of paying for any of it, and accusing the innkeeper of having wronged him solely because the
innkeeper had been mislead by agents of the government. And D'Artagnan: the main issue I have with D'Artagnan is his love life. He loves Mme. Bonciaux. She's married to his landlord (whom he never pays, and from whom he steals a fortune). He also loves, at times, Milady. And very quickly, he also professes undying love for her maid, Kitty. He uses Kitty to spy on Milady. He then rapes Milady (unless you think having sex with someone while pretending to be someone else is consensual). He does this within the hearing of Kitty, his other love. And he also takes a valuable ring from MiLady under false pretenses.These are our heros? Well yes, they are amazing hero' and extremely fun to read. But they are rough, thoughtless, terrible to women (excepting maybe Aramis), and probably treasonous on at least two occaisons.Now let's turn to Milady, who is the great villain of the book. She was a poor girl who got put into a convent. As a nun, she got involved with a priest. The two had already taken vows, so they needed to escape. The priest stole the sacristy and was caught. He got branded and served time for his crime, but escaped. His brother was the executioner of the branding. The brother tracked down Milady, and on his own, branded her as well. The priest ended up killing himself, and of course the brother blamed Milady for the whole thing. Every wrong can be traced to the wiles of a woman, right?Milady, despite her many handicaps, then raises herself to a position where she manages to allure Athos. When he finds out, however, that she had been branded (falsely, by the way), he hangs her and leaves her for dead. Somehow, she escapes. This is one resourceful woman.After that, and the timeline is not too clear, she raises herself yet again, this time even higher and becomes the wife of Lord de Winter, and an agent for Richelieu. OK, there's something shaky about marrying an Englishman and being a French spy, but its a totally cool thing, and makes for a great background for a book in which she would be the heroine. Lord de Winter dies, and this is also supposed to be one of her crimes, but its a crime for which there is no evidence at all.In the affair with the diamond studs, she merely does her duty and serves France. The abduction of Mme Bonciaux was a harsh measure by Richelieu's secret police, but not anything especially villainous or out of the ordinary, especially when you consider that Constance clearly puts her duty and devotion to Anne above her duty to France.Following that, she simply gets defeated, insulted, and abused by D'Artagnan. He pretends to be her lover under cover of dark, rapes her, takes her ring. And then he forces himself on her again, in a bargain, in his true self. When he reveals that the two lovers are one, she gets more than a little miffed and vows revenge. Being a woman, she can't challenge him to a duel and kill him honorably, so she tries other ways to exact vengeance. In one of the most remarkable parts of the book, she's given a commission to assassinate Buckingham to shorten the siege at La Rochelle. Taken prisoner by her brother-in-law, in five days time using only her brains and her voice, she turns her jailer inside out and converts him into her worshipper, and also convinces him that his greatest desire in life is to kill the Duke, which he does. So with everything stacked against her, she accomplishes her mission and manages to escape. This is an amazingly smart and resourceful woman.So, take away the vengeance that she finally does exact on D'Artagnan, by poisoning Constance, and almost everything about Lady de Winter is both admirable and badass. (She even carries around a cyanide pill before they had cyanide pills, and keeps it in her ring.) She's a woman and can't run someone through with a sword because she feels insulted, so she uses the gifts that she has brilliantly, and she's no more selfish in the use of her gifts than anyone else in the book. Yes, she's the true villain of this book. But she's also the strongest, most interesting character and the one that made it most worth reading for me.
And I wonder if that's one of the great ironies of the book. Dumas keeps telling everyone to watch out for her because she's evil but totally seductive. And I've come out seduced....more