|THE COUNT OF MONTE-CRISTO
Type of Work: Novel
Author: Alexandre Dumas, Father (1802-1870)
Type of Plot: Historical romance
Time of Plot: Nineteenth century
First Published: 1844
Edmond Dantès, a young sailor
Mercédès, his sweetheart
Ferdidand Mondedo, a rival
M. Danglars, an ambitious shipmate
M. Villefort, a deputy
Valentine, his daughter
Abbé Faria, a prisoner, Château d’If
Caderousse, an innkeeper
M. Morrel, a shipping master
Maxilimian, his son
Albert, Mondego’s son
‘ Haidée, an Albanian
When Edmond Dantès sailed into Marseilles harbor that day in 1815, he was surrounded by enemies. His shipmate, Danglars, coveted his appointment as captain of the Pharaon. Ferdinand Mondego wished to wed Mercédès, who was betrothed to Edmond.
Danglars and Ferdinand wrote a note accusing Edmond of carrying a letter from Elba to the Bonapartist committee in Paris. Caderousse, a neighbor, learned of the plot but kept silent. On his wedding day, Edmond was arrested and taken before a deputy named Villefort, a political turncoat, who, to protest himself, had Edmond secretly imprisoned in the dungeons of the Château d’If. There Dantès’ incarceration was secured by the plotting of his enemies outside the prison, notably Villefort, who wished to cover up his own father’s connections with the Bonapartists.
Napoleon came back from Elba, but Edmond lay forgotten in his cell. The Battle of Waterloo ensued and the Empire collapsed; Napoleon was exiled again to Saint Helena. Years passed. Then one night, Edmond heard the sound of digging from an adjoining cell. Four days later, a section of the flooring feel in and Edmond saw an old man in the narrow tunnel below. He was the Abbé Faria, whose attempt to dig his way to freedom had led him only to Edmond’s cell. Thereafter, the two men met daily, and the old man taught Edmond history, mathematics, and languages. In Edmond’s fourteenth year of imprisonment, Faria, mortally ill, told Edmond where to find a tremendous fortune should he escape after the old man’s death. When death did come, the abbé’s body was placed in a sack, and Edmond conceived the idea of changing places with the dead man, whom he dragged from the tunnel into his own bed. The jailers threw the sack into the sea. Edmond ripped the cloth and swam through the darkness to an islet in the bay.
At daybreak, he was picked up by a gang of smugglers with whom he worked until a stroke of luck brought him to the island of Monte-Cristo, where Faria’s fortune awaited him. He landed on the island with the crew of the ship, and, feigning injury in a fall, persuaded the crew to leave him behind until they could return for him. Thus, he was able to explore the island and to find his treasure hidden in an underground cavern. He returned to the mainland and there sold some small jewels to provide himself with money and a small boat enough to carry out his plans to bring his treasure from Monte-Cristo. Returning to Marseille, Edmond learned that his father had died and Mercédès, despairing of Edmond’s return, had married Ferdinand.
Disguised as an abbé, Dantès visited M. Caerousse to seek information of those who had casued his imprisonment. M. Villefort had gained fortune and station in life as the king’s Attorney General (le procureur du roi). Danglars was a rich banker. Ferdinand had won wealth and a title in the Greek war. For this information, Edmond gave Caderousse a diamond worth fifty thousand francs.
Dantès learned also that his old shipping master, M. Morrell, was on the verge of bankruptcy. In gratitude, because Morrel had given his father, the older Dantès, money to keep from starvation, Edmond saved Morrel’s shipping business.
Edmond took the name of his treasure island. As the Count of Monte-Cristo, he dazzled all Paris with his fabulous wealth and his social graces. He and his mysterious protégée, a beautiful girl named Haidée whom he had bought during his travels in Greece, became the talk of the boulevards.
Meanwhile, Dantès was slowly plotting the ruin of the four men who had caused him to be sent to the Château d’If. Caderousse was the first to be destroyed. Monte-Cristo had awakened his greed with the gift of a diamond. Later, urged by his wife, Caderousse had committed robbery and murder. Now, released from prison, he attempted to rob Monte-Cristo but was mortally wounded by an escaping accomplice, the illegitimate son of an affair between Villefort & the wife of Danglars. As the Caderousse lay dying, Monte-Cristo revealed his true identity.
In Paris, Monte-Cristo had succeeded in ingratiating himself with the banker Danglars and was secretly ruining him. Ferdinand, the next victim on his list, had gained his wealth and fame by betraying Ali Pasha in the Greek revolution of 1823. Monte-Cristo sent a former military officer to Greece for confirmation of Ferdinand’s treachery there. Ferdinand, now a Peer of the realm, was exposed before the Chamber of Peers of France as a betrayer to Ali Pasha by Haidée, his sole-surviving daughter. Albert, Viscount of Morcerf, son of Ferdinand and Mercédès, then challenged Monte-Cristo to a duel to avenge his father’s disgrace. Monte-Cristo intended to make his revenge complete by killing the young man. Mercécès, however, came to Monte-Cristo to beg for her son’s life. Aware of Monte-Cristo’s real identity at this time, she interceded with her son as well. At the scene of the duel, the young viscount declared publicly that his father’s, , the Count of Morcerf’s, i.e, Ferdinand’s ruin had been justified. Mother and son left Paris while Ferdinand shot himself.
In the meantime, Madame Villefort desired to possess the wealth of her stepdaughter, Valentine, whom Maximilian Morrel, son of the shipping master, loved. Madame Villefort, gifted in the use of poisons, murdered three people in her household. Monte-Cristo, also an amateur dabbler in poisons and antidotes, came to the rescue of Valentine, when she too succumbed to one of the depraved stepmother’s concoctions. Upon learning that his friend Maximilian loved Valentine, Monte-Cristo vowed to save the young girl. But Valentine had apparently died. Nevertheless, Monte-Cristo promised future happiness or a painless suicide for the young Maximilian.
Danglars now found himself bankrupt, deserted his unfaithful wife, and fled the country to Italy. There he is captured by Luigi Vampa, a gang leader, who reduces Danglars to penury and begging. Meanwhile, Villefort, having discovered his wife’s treachery and crimes, confronted her with a threat of exposure and ultimately the guillotine. She then poisoned herself. Monte-Cristo revealed his true name to both Danglars and Villefort.
Monte-Cristo had not deceived Maximilian. He had rescued Valentine while she lay in a drugged coma in the tomb. Monte-Cristo then reunited the two lovers who immediately eloped to far away lands. Monte-Cristo gave up his title and wealth (to the elopers in the novel but to Madame de Richardet in the TV film) and was reunited with his true love (again to Haidée in the novel and to Mercédès in the TV film; in the novel, Mercédès enters a monastery while Haidée marries Franz d’Epinay, Maximilian’s rival for Valentine’s hand in marriage earlier in the film).