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Classroom Connections: Three Musketeers

The cast of Asolo Rep's production of Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers. Photo by Cliff Roles..jpgThanks for joining us for Asolo Rep's production of Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers

The page below contains information about how the story came to be, the history of the time period, and some other cool things about putting together a swashbuckling epic onstage. 


L'auteur: Alexandre Dumas AlexandreDumas_illo.jpg

(1802-1870, France) 

Alexandre Dumas wrote over 300 novels, plays, and other pieces of writing in his lifetime.  His most beloved works include: 

  • The d’Artagnan Romances: The Three Musketeers (1844), Twenty Years After (1845), The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later (1847) 
  • The Nutcracker (1844) 

  • The Count of Monte Cristo (1846) 

  • The Man in the Iron Mask (1850) 

Dumas' Life at-a-glance:

  • Alexandre Dumas was the son of Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy De La Pailleterie, the first Black General to serve in the French Army. Dumas often experienced racial discrimination because of his mixed-race ancestry. 
  • Dumas’ most popular novels, including The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, never went out of print and continue to be published today. 

  • Alexandre Dumas’ adaptation of the German story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King was adapted by Tchaikovsky into the famous Nutcracker ballet.  

  • By the end of his life, he had completed over 100,000 pages of written work! 

  • Dumas was known for his expensive tastes, spending his fortune on elaborate parties and a lavish chateau outside of Paris, which he filled with writers, musicians, artists, and a menagerie of animals. Dumas’ lavish lifestyle eventually bankrupted him, and he died penniless in 1870 at the age of 68.

  • Dumas was originally buried in the village where he grew up. However, on the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2002, his remains were exhumed and buried at the Pantheon in Paris, where other French artists and authors like Victor Hugo were laid to rest.  

“Dumas was the most generous, large-hearted, delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.”

Watts Phillips, English Playwright

Writing Three Musketeers:


Dumas often took inspiration from famous historical figures, saying that history was “the nail on which I hang my novels."

Example: During the reign of Louis XIII, the musketeers served as a type of training ground for the French army. Aramis, Porthos, and Athos—the Musketeers who gradually befriend D’Artagnan--are loosely based on actual people who fought during the same reign. Not much is known about these men, though evidence exists to show that Armand de Sillegue, the inspiration for Athos, died in Paris as the result of a duel. 

Un pour tous et tous pour un!

Though Dumas is primarily credited as the author of the story, the development of this tale was a team effort! French writer Auguste Maquet collaborated with Dumas for this project, as well as the two sequels and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844). Maquet would conduct historical research, then suggest a general outline of the plot; Dumas would then expand on his ideas and specify the details of the story.  

While researching the reign of Louis XIV for a separate project, Dumas and Maquet stumbled across a historical novel written by Gatien de Cortilz de Sandras. This work, titled Memoires de d'Artagnan, became the main source of inspiration for the writing duo.  


For Serial?

The Three Musketeers was not originally published all at once. Instead, chapters of the novel were published in the magazine Le Siècle on a daily basis, but over the course of several months. This serialized form of writing was popular at the time and made the story accessible to more people; ending each chapter with a cliffhanger would build anticipation for the next set of chapters.  

Titles penned by Dumas and published as a serial include:

  • The Three Musketeers 
  • Man in the Iron Mask
  • The Count of Monte Cristo


The Swashbuckler

What do you get when you combine outrageous adventures, daring swordfights, a commitment to honor and justice, and really great costumes? Meet the swashbuckler: a literary genre featuring all of the above, and more!  

C'est si romantique!

The swashbuckler genre emerged between 1800 and 1850, alongside the rising popularity of French Romanticism. Romanticism emphasizes human emotion and glorifies individualism, glorifying the beauty of nature and the simple pleasures of bygone eras. Stories are often set in the Renaissance era and feature the adventures of heroic protagonists as they set out to defend their honor and protect the endangered. A swashbuckler’s opponent is often a cruel, dastardly villain who threatens to destroy the hero’s idealistic ways of life. The protagonist, often accompanied by a merry band of fellow dreamers, swordfight and outsmart forces of evil, culminating in one final confrontation between the protagonist and the villain.  


What makes a hero? A swashbuckler is an example of a stock character, a type of fictional character in a work of literature or art who possesses a set of characteristics that appear regularly in a particular genre or artistic movement. Though a hero’s individual circumstances may vary depending on the story, they all contain the following traits:  

  • Impressive skill in sword fighting, acrobatics, and other forms of combat. 

  • It’s important to note that swashbucklers do not engage in duels or other skirmishes without cause; when they fight, they fight for honor. 

  • Wears flashy, extravagant clothing fit for an artistocrat: large, feathered hats, high boots, breeches, and elegant waistcoats. Their weapon of choice is a rapier, a sword with a long, thin blade that is double-edged and pointed at the tip.  

  • Adheres to a strict moral code; above all, a swashbuckler believes in noble ideals like honor, justice, true love, kindness, and chivalry. 

Talk About It: Swashbuckling

  • Stock characters are seen across many different genres and stories. Discuss other examples of stock characters you recognize from books, movies, and art that you know. Why do you think stock characters exist?  

  • What makes a hero? Discuss with others. How do your ideas of a hero differ/how are they the same?     

Rules of the Duels

En garde! Throughout the 17th century, France was cweb-3muck-duel.jpgonsidered the dueling capital of Europe. Fought primarily between noblemen, duels could be sparked by something as simple as a word of disrespect or a look of disdain.  

Duels d’honneur, or honor duels, adhere to a formal code of etiquette that must be followed by all parties involved. Over 80 rules exist in the dueling code, from wardrobe choice to size of weapons. The following is a duel’s basic structure: 

Step 1: The Challenge

If a gentleperson’s honor was threatened or offended, they could challenge the offender to a duel in the following ways: 

  • A formal, written request. (An excellent choice for those who wish to plan ahead.) 

  • A verbal invitation. (Short, sweet, to the point.) 

  • A slap to the face. (For some added drama.) 

Step 2: The Second

Once a duel was set, each party must select a “second.” The second, usually a close friend or servant, must be present to ensure that the rules of the duel are followed. Seconds may also fight each other. 

Step 3: The Weapon

Duels must be fought with the same weapon; it’s against the rules to pin a pistol against a sword, for example. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the most common weapon of choice was the rapier, the long, slender double-edged swords used by our protagonists in The Three Musketeers. Unlike older types of swords, which were heavy and difficult to maneuver, the lightweight rapier had a much quicker reaction time. Its thin, pointed blade easily inflicted fatal wounds. However, the rising popularity and cheaper price tag of the pistol made it a common choice for those who could not afford a sword.  

Step 4: The End

A duel could end in the following ways: 

  • A mutual resolution of the argument was reached before the drawing of weapons. 

  • “First blood”: Whoever injures their opponent to the point of drawing blood wins the duel. 

  • “To the death”: The duel ends upon the death of an opponent. 

Knock-off the Dueling!

In an attempt to control the frequency of duels, King Louis XIII released a Royal Edict stating that those engaging in duels of honor were committing a crime punishable by death. However, this did little to curb its popularity. In fact, duels between the rival regiments of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu were encouraged, as the two men believed that it strengthened the reputation of each unit. After the French Revolution, laws forbidding duels were rescinded, leading to an 18th century dueling boom. 

Talk About It: Rules of Duels

  • Why do you think dueling became so popular?

  • Why do you think formality was so important in a duel? 

  • Is there a modern version of a duel? Is it as regulated as this historical model of a duel?

About the Production

Director, Peter Amster, discusses his view of the classic story:



Bringing Swashbuckling to Life (onstage)!

How do you bring the daring adventures of this story to life onstage? Get an inside look at what it takes to create the sword fights in Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers from Fight Director Geoffrey Kent. 

Production Materials

Production Program

Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers Program

Show program for Ken Ludwig's The Three Musketeers at Asolo Rep, Jan 11-March 26.

Content Guide and Educational Standards

Asolo Rep's Content Guide includes:

  • Synopsis
  • Content Information (including language)
  • Discussion Questions
  • ELA BEST Standards associated with viewing this production. 

Access Content Guide