The Man In The Iron Mask Summary
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Among the most widely read and translated of all French authors, Alexandre Dumas lived and worked in the nineteenth century. A playwright, journalist, and travel writer, Dumas is likely best known for his historical fiction, much of which was originally published in serialized form. Along with The Count of Monte Cristo, his most enduring works are the three books that make up his D’Artagnan Romances: The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte deBragelonne, the final section of which is known as The Man in the Iron Mask.
The Man in the Iron Mask is set thirty-five years after the initial appearance of The ThreeMusketeers. Here, the main characters, Athos, D’Artagnan, Aramis, and Porthos are in the court of King Louis XIV. D’Artagnan was not one of the three at the onset of the Musketeers’ adventures. Iron Mask is the darkest tale of the Musketeers trilogy. The story gets underway at the Bastille, a French prison. Aramis, a priest and former Musketeer, is hearing the confession of the prisoner Philippe. There is nothing for the man, forced to wear an iron mask, to confess as being the twin brother of the King of France is all he is “guilty” of. Aramis is one of the only people aware of this and hopes to free the prisoner and trade him for the real king. He is planning this with the hope of great rewards once the prisoner becomes the imposter king. Once he has explained to a somewhat skeptical Philippe that by going through with the plot they will be able to achieve much together, Philippe agrees.
Aramis decides to make the switch happen at a gala thrown by Fouquet, one of the king’s advisors. The king is not pleased with the scope of the party Fouquet has staged and, by citing money that is missing from the treasury, creates grounds for having Fouquet placed under arrest. When D’Artagnan is asked to guard Fouquet for the night, Aramis kidnaps Louis XIV and has Philippe replace him according to plan. As king, Philippe frees Aramis’ friend Fouquet. Aramis informs Fouquet about the switching of the kings,expecting to goad him into becoming an accomplice, but instead, it prompts Fouquet to leave in attempt to free the king and fix the situation. Aramis along with fellow former Musketeer, Porthos, is forced to Fouquet’s Belle-Isle by fear that the plot is unraveling, and they will be discovered. The king takes Fouquet’s money and arrests him. D’Artagnan goes after Fouquet and brings him back to the king.
Meanwhile, another of the former Musketeers, Athos, is living with his son Raoul. Raoul remains in love with Louise la Vallerie, who was once with him but is now the king’s mistress. Raoul tries to escape his heartache by going to Africa with the hope of being killed in battle. He does not fear losing his life, as he already feels that he cannot go on without Louise. The king has ordered D’Artagnan to find and capture Porthos and Aramis after he takes Philippe to another prison, this one on St. Marguerite. D’Artagnan sets off to capture the pair, but resigns rather than betray his friends. There is a battle in which Aramis and Porthos attempt to defend themselves, leading to the death of Porthos. Aramis escapes to Spain were he becomes a duke. Louis XIV gets D’Artagnan to agree not to resign and to work to support the king’s wishes. The king then grants a pardon to Aramis. Raoul dies in Africa in battle. News of Raoul’s death causes Athos to lose his will to live, and he dies shortly thereafter. D’Artagnan becomes a leader in the king’s army as it attacks Holland and receives a promotion for his service, but is almost immediately killed by cannon fire. As The Man in the Iron Mask reaches its conclusion, Aramis is the only one of the original Musketeers who is still alive.
There is an historical basis to the story of The Man in the Iron Mask. An unidentified prisoner was arrested in around 1670 and spent time in several French prisons, including the Bastille. His actual name was never definitively known, and though it is thought that it might have been EustachDauger, in reality, hundreds of guesses have been made about his identity. Whoever the mysterious prisoner was, he remained with one jailer for thirty-four years and died known by the name of Marchioly during the reign of Louis XIV. His face was kept hidden by a velvet cloth. Philosopher and writer Voltaire,in his writings about the prisoner,referred to the mask as being made of iron, and Dumas expanded the story adding, for example, the identical twin plotline.
How Mouston Gained Weight Without Warning Porthos, and How This Spelled Trouble for the Worthy Nobleman
D’Artagnan and Porthos rarely see one another anymore. One (d’Artagnan) has been performing a tedious task for the king, and the other (Porthos, a baron) has been shopping for furniture for his various residences after acquiring a taste for luxury while he was in His Majesty’s service.
One morning the loyal d’Artagnan has a few spare moments and thinks of his friend Porthos; he is worried since he has not seen the baron for two weeks and goes to his town house. Porthos is sitting on his bed, half-naked and melancholy. Around him on the floor are strewn a collection of suits, all in “clashing colors” and full of fringe, braids, and embroideries.
Porthos does not see his friend enter the room, as his presence is blocked by Monsieur Mouston, a corpulent man who is now holding up one of his employer’s suits. Man and suit are sufficient to hide d’Artagnan. After hearing Porthos’s heavy sighs for a bit, d’Artagnan finally coughs discreetly to announce his presence.
Porthos is thrilled to see his friend and is sure d’Artagnan will be able to help him. Mouston steps out of the way and Porthos hugs his friend “with an affection that seems to gather new strength with each passing day.” When d’Artagnan asks Porthos why he is feeling so sad today, Porthos dramatically tells him everything. First, d’Artagnan wants to disentangle them both from all the fine clothes on the ground, but Porthos belittles the expensive fabrics and says he has no use for them. He is the only man in the country, says d’Artagnan, who could wear a new suit of clothes every day for the rest of his life without ever having to visit a tailor again; however, Porthos only shakes his head in despair.
D’Artagnan asks Porthos if his various estates and holdings are in trouble, but quite the...
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