The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers Study Guide

The Three Musketeers was first published in 1844. It was serialized (published in monthly installments) in the newspaper Le Siecle between March and July 1844. Later that same year, the novel was published as a complete eight-volume set. Dumas had established himself as a successful playwright in the 1830s, and noticed a literary trend taking shape in France in the late 1830s. Inexpensive newspapers were beginning to be printed, and editors quickly noticed that including serialized fiction tended to boost newspaper sales, especially if the plot of the fiction was melodramatic and suspenseful. Observing other writers experiencing success writing these types of stories, and knowing that his playwriting had equipped him to tell dramatic and exciting narratives, Dumas began writing serialized fiction.

In 1841, Dumas visited Marseilles and happened to read an obscure text called The Memoirs of M. D'Artagnan, which had been published in 1700. A French writer named Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras had been inspired by a man named Charles de Batz de Castelmore, also known as D'Artagnan, who lived from 1611 to 1673. The actual D'Artagnan was a French musketeer who served King Louis XIV and acted as Captain of the Royal Musketeers. About 25 years after the death of the historical D'Artagnan, de Sandras wrote a semi-fictionalized memoir combining historical fact and his own inventions about D'Artagnan's life. Dumas was inspired, and borrowed some of this content to become the basis for his own novel. For example, the names Athos, Porthos, and Aramis appear in de Sandras' work first.

The Three Musketeers was a huge boon to Dumas' reputation and literary stature, and he cemented this achievement by following the novel immediately with The Count of Monte Cristo, which was another bestseller. Dumas also published two subsequent novels: The Three Musketeers: Twenty Years After (1845) and The Vicomte de Bragelonne (1847). The latter novel includes a section which is often published independently as The Man in the Iron Mask.

The success of the novel spread outside of France as well. By 1846, three English translations had already appeared, with both British and American translators spreading Dumas's novel to new audiences. The first theatrical adaptation of the novel was staged in Paris in 1849 and as new technologies developed, the characters and story became popular source material for film and television adaptations. Silent film adaptations began appearing in the first decade of the 1900s, and notable Hollywood adaptations include the 1921 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, and the 1948 version starring Gene Kelly and Lana Turner.