“Les Trois Mousquetaires”
When I found out that I would be playing the part of Monsieur de Treville in the Stratford Festival’s 2013 production of “The Three Musketeers”, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, I immediately bought the book and dove in. I became fascinated by the characters and places described by Dumas. I had seen the various movies (the 1973 Richard Lester version is my favourite) but I needed to know the real nitty gritty of the story, so I began my in-depth research on-line - some of which I’m sharing with you now.
Between March and July of 1844, “Les Trois Mousquetaires” was first published in serial form in the French newspaper “Les Siecle”. Alexandre Dumas was 42 years old and had already great success writing magazine articles, travel books, and plays such as “Henry the Third and His Courts”, many of which were performed at the Theatre Historique in Paris, which he himself had founded.
After publishing the Musketeer series as a complete novel, Dumas wrote three more books about D’Artagnan and his exploits, collectively called the D’Artagnan Romances. To many such as myself, reading these adventures served as an exciting introduction to the streets of Paris.
Dumas had taken the initial story from the archives of the Royal Library, where he found a memoir from a musketeer named D’Artagnan which included the names of his friends Athos, Porthos and Aramis (pseudonyms such as they continue to use today in the French Foreign Legion).
Dumas’ use of Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, Cardinal Richelieu, and the Duke of Buckingham (as well as his assassin John Felton), all real people in history, leads us to believe that D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis might be real people too – which Dumas also alleges to be true. Dumas claims to have found their names again in the memoirs of the Comte de la Fere (aka Athos), though this manuscript cannot be found and perhaps never actually existed.
I was very surprised to learn that de Treville (AKA Troisville), my character in the play, was indeed a real person and was the much respected Captain of the Musketeers during the reign of Louis XIII.
As fate would have it, at the same time I was conducting my research I learned that I had been granted a Guthrie award, allowing me a one month stay in playwright David Edney’s apartment in Paris. And so my personal Musketeer adventure was to begin.
In preparation for the trip, we (my wife Leslie and myself) downloaded maps of 17th century Paris, comparing the streets mentioned in the book with present day maps. Remarkably, many remained the same. We discovered that the neighbourhood where most of the action took place was quite small and within walking distance of where we were staying.
Initially we wanted to visit all of the places in France mentioned in the book, from Tarbes to Calais, but our budget couldn’t stretch that far, so we settled strictly on the Parisian aspects of the story. We've added a map of the travels outside Paris here.
Okay, here we go. The Luxembourg Palace Neighbourhood
Promotional photo for the 1973 movie
Photo of Alexandre Dumas by Nadar
Portrait of the Comte de Tréville by Le Nain. Located on Wikipedia.
Website created by Leslie Francombe & Victor Ertmanis