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Old 06-18-2018, 09:28 AM   #46
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I went into this looking for it to be subversive, in part because Dumas was writing during the lead up to the revolutions of 1848, where I would have expected his sympathies to be on the side of the insurgents, especially given that his adored father was an ardent Republican who was badly treated by Napoleon in the long run, although he served him brilliantly in the field. Then, very early on, I thought Dumas signaled very heavily what we were to make of d'Artagnan, when after his father gave him his horse in trust, committing him to treating the horse well and giving it a comfortable retirement, d'Artagnan no sooner got to Paris then he sold them. But perhaps that was the message; that no father can expect entire fealty from his son, who has to find his own way.

Ordinarily I'm no fan of discussing a text in terms of a writer's life, but in a case like this of popular literature, I don't see why not.

As I think everyone agrees, I also find the characters to be inconsistent and the message, such as it was, also inconsistent. I found the scene where d'Artagnan returned to Aramis to find him on the verge of holy orders and the exposition of religious philosophy to be subversive and hilarious. Then, of course, Aramis while Aramis throws over religion, again, on receipt of a missive from his lady love, he returns to it eventually, and seemingly wholeheartedly. Perhaps a bit of St. Augustine's, "Lord, make me holy, but not yet," going on there. Although I find no inherent inconsistency in his postponing holy orders for a stint as a musketeer in a time of religious wars.
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:45 AM   #47
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From Pevear.

Quote:
It was a dark and stormy night.
The lady thought she was alone and hopefully safe in the forest. Ten men burst in on her, one of which turns out to be the man that branded her all those years ago. Is that not some excuse for the very bravest person to say:
Quote:
“Oh, no, no!”—getting up and backing towards the wall. “Help me! help me!” she cried in a hoarse voice, turning to the wall, as if she could open a way through it with her hands.
But, by the time we get to:
Quote:
“Oh, mercy! mercy! forgive me!” the wretched woman cried, falling to her knees.
Quote:
Milady uttered a dreadful cry and moved several paces towards her judges, dragging herself on her knees.
It's no longer certain that at least some of this behaviour is not manipulative. We've already seen what she is capable of during her captivity in England.

And, in any case, we eventually move on to:
Quote:
“You are cowards, you are wretched assassins, it takes ten of you to cut one woman’s throat! Watch out, for if I’m not rescued, I will be avenged.”
This does not sound cowed or cowardly to me, although it does continue to more desperate pleas of being too young to die, and
Quote:
“Oh, my God!” she cried, “my God! are you going to drown me?”
But this is followed with:
Quote:
There was something so heartrending in these cries that d’Artagnan, who at first had been the most relentless in his pursuit of Milady, sank down on a stump and hung his head, stopping his ears with the palms of his hands. And yet, despite that, he still heard her threatening and crying out.

D’Artagnan was the youngest of all these men, and his heart failed him.

“Oh, I can’t bear to see this frightful spectacle! I can’t consent that the woman should die like this!”
So her cries are having an effect. Remember that a variation of this sort of thing is how she escapes from captivity in England (she keeps trying things until she finds one that looks like working), but over there we get to see it from her perspective, so the deception is obvious. And it was made obvious in those scenes that she was never going to go quietly. Here we don't get her perspective, and even if we did, it must be obvious that the chances of escape are almost non-existent - but still she keeps trying. Until...

Quote:
“I am lost!” Milady murmured in English. “I must die.”

Then she stood up by herself and cast around her one of those bright glances that seemed to spring from a blazing eye.

She saw nothing.

She listened and heard nothing.

She had only enemies around her.

“Where am I to die?” she asked.

“On the other bank,” replied the executioner.

[...]

During the crossing, Milady had managed to untie the rope that bound her feet. On reaching the shore, she jumped out lightly and started running.

But the ground was wet; on reaching the top of the embankment, she slipped and fell to her knees.

A superstitious idea must have struck her. She understood that heaven was refusing her its aid, and she remained in the attitude in which she found herself, her head bowed and her hands joined.
I don't find that an especially undignified ending on her part, though it casts no honour on the men.
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:50 AM   #48
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The Hobson translation of the above:

So the words are slightly different, but the general impression is the same.
Indeed they are very similar. Thank you for those.
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Old 06-18-2018, 09:57 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by issybird View Post
Perhaps a bit of St. Augustine's, "Lord, make me holy, but not yet," going on there.


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Originally Posted by issybird View Post
Although I find no inherent inconsistency in his postponing holy orders for a stint as a musketeer in a time of religious wars.
I guess I agree - the times were very different (or were they?) but there does seem to be a fair bit of hypocrisy in his stance, as you point out when he finds his lady love is back on the scene. It does call in to question the strength of his beliefs.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:00 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by gmw View Post
From Pevear.



The lady thought she was alone and hopefully safe in the forest. Ten men burst in on her, one of which turns out to be the man that branded her all those years ago. Is that not some excuse for the very bravest person to say:


But, by the time we get to:

It's no longer certain that at least some of this behaviour is not manipulative. We've already seen what she is capable of during her captivity in England.

And, in any case, we eventually move on to:

This does not sound cowed or cowardly to me, although it does continue to more desperate pleas of being too young to die, and

But this is followed with:

So her cries are having an effect. Remember that a variation of this sort of thing is how she escapes from captivity in England (she keeps trying things until she finds one that looks like working), but over there we get to see it from her perspective, so the deception is obvious. And it was made obvious in those scenes that she was never going to go quietly. Here we don't get her perspective, and even if we did, it must be obvious that the chances of escape are almost non-existent - but still she keeps trying. Until...



I don't find that an especially undignified ending on her part, though it casts no honour on the men.
I actually pretty much agree with all you've said (sorry ). My only real point of divergence is that I thought we could have had a lot more from her at the end, and that she gave in all too meekly (yes, I know she was against overwhelming odds, but then wasn't she something of a superhero of villains? I expected better).
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:05 AM   #51
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Hi Pajamaman. I tried out the Pevear amd the Hobson, and decided on the Hobson. But either of these would be a good modern translation.
Thanks! I've gone with Hobson. It looks much better than the version I read before. I must say, it's going to be a lot more fun reading it in a good translation than in the original French. It's just too tiresome for me. And all that passé simple tense. Yuck!

I generally find French a tedious language in literature, both for its grammar and for the style of writing (existential, pompous navel-gazing), but Dumas is its towering exception. He had good taste too and loved Shakespeare. He said something like, After God Shakespeare created the most.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:08 AM   #52
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As for Milady, I quite agree with Catlady - she wouldn't have flinched. She was of course painted as the supreme villain, but it's interesting to consider what made her that way.

- Why was she in a nunnery in her youth? Clearly not by choice.
- She was branded by the executioner for leading his brother astray. How about a bit of personal responsibility for his actions by the brother instead of blaming the girl, which is all she was.
- She was hanged by her husband and left for dead, not because of anything she did, but because of the brand.
- She was double-crossed and treated disgustingly by D'Artagnan, our supposed chivalric young hero.

Who can blame her for wanting her revenge upon all men?
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I was thinking about this as I was nearing the end of the book and I think Milady is what happens when you try to write a female villain but you firmly believe that women are constitutionally different to men. So she has a toughness to her, she can be very resolved, but she is still very controlled by her emotions - whether it's quailing at the execution or flying into a rage over D'Artagnan's betrayal of her.

<SNIP>

[...] it turns out she was punished out of all proportion of any perceived crime on her part.
Milady was something of a female demon, wasn't she, whose face occasionally revealed her essential evil. Was she supposed to embody an essential belief about women, going back to Eve's tempting Adam? Men helpless and feckless and thus forgivable in the face of temptation?

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This is something I wondered about--were the attitudes those of the mid-1800s or those of the mid-1600s?

Milady certainly wasn't admirable, but on the other hand, what choices did a woman on her own have? She was tough and a survivor.
Milady, naturally enough, was my favorite character and I thought the book picked up whenever she appeared. I can come up with a ton of theories about why all the women were portrayed as they were - tempting and controlling. I do wonder if there's an element of anti-Mariolatry going on; there was no sense of women as nurturing or holy. Constance Bonacieux comes closest with her explicit heavy-handed name (Constant Goodheavens), but as Bookpossum said, she needed to be killed off because ultimately she was still an unfaithful wife.

Last edited by issybird; 06-18-2018 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:09 AM   #53
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I strongly suspect that it has endured precisely because it provides such good fodder for films.
I partially disagree. It has endured IMO because it is so well written and just so much fun! It is the most read in French. I know of nothing else like it in French. It is a total exception. And comparing it to English books of the time, I must say I think nothing compares to it for just downright entertainment. And think of the other classics he wrote--The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask...Dumas was a remarkable author. When I feel down, I turn to Dumas for guaranteed giggles.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:17 AM   #54
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Then, very early on, I thought Dumas signaled very heavily what we were to make of d'Artagnan, when after his father gave him his horse in trust, committing him to treating the horse well and giving it a comfortable retirement, d'Artagnan no sooner got to Paris then he sold them. But perhaps that was the message; that no father can expect entire fealty from his son, who has to find his own way.
Selling the horse so quickly made me dislike D'Artagnan intensely right away. He both spurned his father's heartfelt gift and blithely discarded a loyal family animal--showing himself to lack honor, respect, and compassion. I could forgive a lot of his youthful braggadocio but I couldn't forgive that. And yet he is supposed be chivalrous and loyal?

He didn't treat women any better than he treated the horse--they were disposable and interchangeable. He used Kitty and he raped Milady. I think his supposed love for Constance was a thing of the moment--she was only of interest because she was a damsel in distress and gave him an excuse to play the gallant musketeer--and his grief over her death was maudlin.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:26 AM   #55
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I partially disagree. It has endured IMO because it is so well written and just so much fun! It is the most read in French. I know of nothing else like it in French. It is a total exception. And comparing it to English books of the time, I must say I think nothing compares to it for just downright entertainment. And think of the other classics he wrote--The Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask...Dumas was a remarkable author. When I feel down, I turn to Dumas for guaranteed giggles.
Dumas seems to me to be in the Sir Walter Scott mode, whereas his contemporary Balzac would have been more Dickensian in his social commentary.

I do agree with you, though, that there is wit about Dumas and his tongue-in-cheek descriptions which makes the ride much more enjoyable than reading it for plot and characterization.
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Old 06-18-2018, 10:46 AM   #56
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It's no longer certain that at least some of this behaviour is not manipulative. We've already seen what she is capable of during her captivity in England.

...

So her cries are having an effect. Remember that a variation of this sort of thing is how she escapes from captivity in England (she keeps trying things until she finds one that looks like working), but over there we get to see it from her perspective, so the deception is obvious. And it was made obvious in those scenes that she was never going to go quietly. Here we don't get her perspective, and even if we did, it must be obvious that the chances of escape are almost non-existent - but still she keeps trying.
I did not get the sense that Milady's terror-filled outbursts at the end were manipulative; her cajoling and empty threats and attempts to bargain for her life were, but her terror seemed real. And of course she had reason for feeling terror, but what seems out of character is so blatantly showing that terror to these men arrayed against her.

If manipulation was her aim, I think that she would more likely have tried to play the noble martyr or pretend to repent. She could have woven a story with herself as victim--that would have been worth a shot at least; it worked with Felton.

Or she could have glared defiantly at the men and died with dignity.

But I suppose in that male-dominated story, it wasn't enough for her to be beheaded, she had to be shown to be contemptibly weak as well.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:01 AM   #57
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I did not get the sense that Milady's terror-filled outbursts at the end were manipulative; her cajoling and empty threats and attempts to bargain for her life were, but her terror seemed real. And of course she had reason for feeling terror, but what seems out of character is so blatantly showing that terror to these men arrayed against her.

If manipulation was her aim, I think that she would more likely have tried to play the noble martyr or pretend to repent. She could have woven a story with herself as victim--that would have been worth a shot at least; it worked with Felton.

Or she could have glared defiantly at the men and died with dignity.

But I suppose in that male-dominated story, it wasn't enough for her to be beheaded, she had to be shown to be contemptibly weak as well.
Her switch at the end reminds me a bit of Angels with Dirty Faces, when Pat O'Brien, playing a priest, gets Jimmy Cagney to act cowardly and terrified on the way to the chair, in order to discourage the young hoodlums who have taken him as a role model.

There's nobody on the scene to benefit from Milady's last-minute chickenheartedness, so I think your conclusion is correct; we, the readers, are the hoodlums who are in danger of being seduced by Milady's beauty and charm and manipulation and Dumas is Father Pat O'Brien, pulling the strings. Didn't work, though; she's still the most interesting and forceful character in the book.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:14 AM   #58
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Even if she wasn't being deliberately manipulative (as you say, she did have legitimate reason to be truly terrified), I don't actually see the portrayal as "contemptibly weak". Arguably some weak moments leading up to the death, but I did not find any of it contemptible.

And perhaps more to the point, I don't see anything here inconsistent with what we had been shown up to now. Her captivity in England, and her reputation prior, all indicated that there was not much she would not stoop to to protect herself; I never saw any indication that she was the type that would walk quietly to the chopping block and lay down her head.

And yes, issybird, I agree that Milady is the most interesting character in the book.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:20 AM   #59
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It occurs to me that the point of Milady's behavior leading up to her death is that it was at odds with what would have been expected at that time of high religiosity. If her death was inevitable, it would have been a time for her to gather her thoughts and commend her soul to God, seeking forgiveness for all her sins. But we know Milady had no religious convictions at all (not even of the hypocritical kind common to Richelieu on down), hence her abject terror. This really was the end.
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Old 06-18-2018, 11:33 AM   #60
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Yes, I think there are many things - including religiosity of the time - that make it difficult to work out how the book would have been interpreted then versus what we see now. I see it a bit like watching cartoons with young children, we might both laugh, but it will often be at different things.
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