The Three Musketeers is a well-loved novel from the time of its publication in the 19th century until today. The novel is a combination of the historical aspects of France and the typical romance attributes of 19th century novels. The genius and the innovator behind this revolutionized storytelling is no other than French author Alexandre Dumas. Dumas’s magnificent concept was to combine elements of a historical novel and a Romance novel into a single story.
Technically, historical fiction can simply mean fiction based on historical themes or events. Romance, on the other hand, isn’t so simple to define in a technical sense. The genre of Romance is not specific to a given time or place, but it is rather a theme throughout the history of literature. Most of the works that literary experts and scholars would describe as Romances were based on folk tales and written down from the 12th through 14th centuries, mostly in France. As the years progressed, the term has been comfortably applied to works from more recent eras. A work of Romance more or less has the following elements: quest, love, immorality, chivalry and religion. These elements were incorporated put to work with magnificent effect in The Three Musketeers. There were several interweaving quests by the central characters, d’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis and Porthos; love is a key element in the plot and a central character motivation for the main characters, especially d’Artagnan; a mixture of immorality, in the form of villains and their conspirators, and chivalry in the form of the three musketeers and a brave neophyte; and the element of religion are all present and craftily laid out in the story.
A novel that sets itself apart from other novels of its time, The Three Musketeers is a bold and fearless innovation by Alexandre Dumas. He combined these two forms together in a way that changed the way historical novels are presented. Dumas, as a writer, already know that the traditional and conventional form of historical novels was dogged by slow pace, strained historicity, and outdated prose. Dumas fearlessly went against his time’s conventions and wrote in modern, conversational prose. He made his story more important, but without sacrificing and devaluing the history surrounding it. Dumas masterfully and seamlessly created a sense of historicity of a certain period and place behind the narrative of the story, while keeping the readers engrossed with the characters and the story. He deliberately wrote fast-paced adventure stories that evoked history without being bogged down by it.
Dumas was born in a period of transition in his time. Monarchy was abolished following the chaos and violence of the French Revolution, and Republicanism was born in 19th century France. However, the struggles continued during that time and France was a nation in turmoil. Inspired by history and feeling the sentiments of his fellow countrymen, he wrote historical novels and gave them a touch of his activism and the cause of the common people. Thus, the people embraced Dumas’s novels because the novels gave them a sense of their own common history, which fostered their sense of national pride. The Three Musketeers was not meant to provide a picture-perfect recreation of the history, manner, or mood of the period it purports to study, which is the 17th century France. Rather, Dumas intended it to be an exciting and comforting make-believe world which is based on 17th century France. The Romance aspect added to history creates an extensive, entertaining, and grand story for its time. Thus, it has become a timeless piece of lierature.