The Count of Monte Cristo Book

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Montecristo tells the story of Edmond Dantès, a young and innocent merchant sailor who is framed and wrongly imprisoned, and his journey of revenge against those that betrayed him.

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Setting

The Count of Monte Cristo is set in the early 19th century France, during the Monarchy Restoration periods after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Other notorious places that appear throughout the story are Italy, Greece and the Middle East.

Plot

It’s early 19th century and Edmond Dantès, a good-natured 19-year-old merchant sailor, leads a perfect and promising life: he’s granted the succession of the captain of a ship, he’s to marry the beautiful Mercédès upon his return to Marseille and he’s liked and respected by almost everyone that knows him. This perfect life, however, stirs up jealousy among some of those surrounding him: Danglars, the treasurer of Dantès’ ship, envies his early career success; Fernand Mondego, Mercédès’ cousin, is deeply in love with her; Caderousse, his neighbor, is simply envious of Dantès’ luck in life.

Together the three of them use Dantès’ good nature and naiveté to destroy his life. Taking advantage of the favor Dantès did to his recently deceased captain of carrying a letter from the exiled Napoleon, the three men draft an anonymous letter accusing him of treason and so Dantès is arrested for his alleged crimes. Joining this plot by sheer chance is the deputy public prosecutor, Gérard de Villefort, who, while having decided to set free a clearly framed Dantès, changed his mind after discovering that Napoleon’s letter was addressed to Villefort’s own father. Fearing that the knowledge of his father being a treasonous Bonapartist would become public, and foreseeing the recognition that the prosecution of an alleged conspirator (Dantès) would bring him, he seizes this chance to spoil his father’s activities while pursuing his own ambitions.

Thus, the confused and betrayed Dantès is taken as a dangerous political prisoner to the infamous and isolated Château d’If, leaving a loving father, a heartbroken fiancée and a promising career behind.

Dantès spends years in his cell in despair and is on the brink of suicide when he meets a fellow prisoner, the Italian priest Abbé Faria. The priest becomes Dantès’ mentor, spending years educating him in history, science, philosophy and languages, as well as helping him uncover the truth behind his imprisonment. Both plan a way to escape and, upon gaining the priest’s trust, Dantès is bequeathed with the knowledge and location of a great treasure, hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. Should they ever escape, the treasure would be theirs, but the old Faria dies of illness and Dantès is left with a route of escape by trading places with the dead priest. A glimpse of his past luck returns to him as he is thrown into the sea instead of being buried alive and so is able to cut himself free and swim to freedom.

After his escape, Dantès manages to travel to the Monte Cristo Island and find Faria’s treasure of inconceivable value. From then on he believes his fortune to be a gift from God, given to him for the sole purpose of rewarding those who have tried to help him and, most importantly, bringing justice to all those that ever wronged him.

Thus begins his journey and masquerade: First, disguised as the Italian priest Abbé Busoni, he returns to Marseille to gather information of all that happened during his years of imprisonment. Through the treacherous Caderousse he learns of the death from starvation of his father, the details of the plot to frame him, the rise to power of Danglars, Villefort and Count de Morcerf (Fernand Mondego), and the marriage between Morcerf and Dantès’ former fiancée, Mercédès. Before leaving Marseille to plan his revenge, he saves his former ship owner and boss Morrel from financial ruin while disguised as the eccentric English nobleman Lord Wilmore.

Dantès spends years scheming and preparing for his revenge while travelling disguised under the name of Sinbad the Sailor. The time to put his plan into motion comes a decade after leaving Marseille, when Dantès emerges in Rome calling himself the Count of Monte Cristo. While in Rome, the Count meets Albert de Morcerf, son of Morcerf and Mercédès, and after a series of events is introduced through him to the Parisian society. None of his old cohorts but Mercédès recognize the mysterious, wealthy and resourceful Count as Edmond Dantès and thus he’s able to insinuate himself effortlessly into the lives of Danglars, Morcerf, and Villefort while armed with damning knowledge about each of them.

Morcerf’s punishment comes with the help of Haydée, the daughter of the Greek vizier Ali Pasha betrayed by Morcerf; after she testifies against him in front of the senate his good name is irreversibly ruined and both his wife and son flee ashamed, leading him to suicide.

Villefort’s punishment comes slowly and in several stages, leaving a trail of innocent deaths behind caused by the Count’s manipulation of Madame de Villefort’s ambitions and murderous intent. The Count’s conviction in his ways and self-proclaimed right to implement divine justice falter after Villefort’s son (Edward de Villefort) is killed by his own mother (Madame de Villefort). These events and a previous public disclosure of the existence of Villefort’s and Madame Danglars’ illegitimate son Benedetto lead to the prosecutor’s insanity.

Danglars’ punishment, though being the mastermind behind the plan, seems to be idle and lenient compared to the others’ but in truth it targets the only thing Danglars ever cared about: money. The Count plays on Danglars’ and his dishonest wife’s greed to destroy his vast wealth, turning the former banker into a penniless beggar.

Caderousse’s punishment, being the only one forgiven by the Count, comes through his own wrongdoings. Even after taking part in the plot he never finds fortune and resorts to occasional robbery and murders to satiate his greed. This leads to his own murder by Benedetto, Villefort’s bastard.

After his revenge is fulfilled and his punishing ways seemingly amended with occasional acts of goodness, the Count of Monte Cristo allows himself to fall in love and start a new life with the adoring and beautiful Haydée.

Characters

Edmond Dantès, a.k.a. The Count of Monte Cristo

Edmond Dantès, a.k.a. The Count of Monte Cristo
Edmond is a young merchant sailor from Marseille with a promising career and a doting fiancée. Before his imprisonment he’s a kind, innocent, honest, and loving man. He’s optimistic and positive, filled with admiration for his boss Monsieur Morrel, love for his father and adoration for his fiancée Mercédès, even trying to think kindly and see the good side of men who clearly dislike him.

While in prison, however, he undergoes a drastic change: first he falls into despair and near madness for his unfair imprisonment and uncertainty about the reasons behind it; after meeting a fellow prisoner Abbé Faria, he manages to see through the plot and reasons behind his situation and thus becomes a bitter and vengeful man, obsessed over the wrongs committed against him. Abbé Faria becomes both a mentor and a fatherly figure to the changing Dantès and when the old man dies, so does the last trace of Dantès’ old naïve self. After learning Dantès’ good nature, Faria shares with him the knowledge of a vast fortune hidden in the island of Monte Cristo, a treasure they would share should they ever escape from prison. The priest however never manages to escape, dying of illness years after meeting the young sailor.

The death of Faria provides Dantès the means of escape by trading places with him and posing as a dead man. He seizes his freedom after being thrown into the sea instead of being buried alive and begins his journey to the Monte Cristo Island.

After finding the treasure he decides to throw away his old identity and go back to Marseille disguised as the priest Abbé Busoni to learn about all that happened in his absence. With the knowledge of the details of the plot behind his imprisonment and the fate of those involved, he becomes certain of his role as the agent of Providence or God himself, being granted the right of bestowing judgment and punishment upon those that wronged him, while rewarding those that ever helped and loved him.

His careful scheming and journey of revenge lasts over a decade and sees him as four different personas. The first of them is the Italian priest Abbé Busoni, who acts mainly to gather information. The second is the eccentric English nobleman Lord Wilmore, whose identity he uses to commit random acts of kindness such as helping his former boss Monsieur Morrel. The third disguise is the secretive Sinbad the Sailor, a persona Dantès adopts to travel alongside Italian bandits. His last and most important persona eventually becomes his own self, the wealthy, resourceful and mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. In the end, the Count’s identity is gradually revealed to everyone that took part in his past life, both good and evil.

Fernand Mondego, a.k.a. Count de Morcerf

Fernand Mondego, a.k.a. Count de Morcerf
Fernand is a former Catalan fisherman who, driven by his jealousy and deep love for Dantès’ fiancée Mercédès, helps in framing the innocent sailor by sending the anonymous letter that accused him of alleged treachery. After Dantès is imprisoned, Fernand joins the army. During his years as a soldier he gains notoriety and eventually becomes a wealthy and powerful man through acts of treason and desertion, being this his most guarded secret.

After betraying his patron Ali Pasha to the Ottoman Empire he sells the Greek vizier’s daughter and wife into slavery, all the while gaining an incredible wealth. Sometime during his ascent to power he manages to persuade a heartbroken Mercédès to finally marry him as well as acquire the title of Count de Morcerf. With a good name gained by his treacherous achievements in warfare, a woman he deeply loves as a wife and a doting son engaged to one of the richest women in Paris, his life seems to be nearly perfect. His good fortune, however, takes a great turn when the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo is introduced to the Parisian court. Through a series of events he ends up witnessing how Haydée reveals before the senate his treachery and true actions as a soldier, disgracing thus his good name. This revelation and the knowledge of his past actions against Dantès lead his wife and son to abandon him while feeling a deep sense of shame and betrayal. These events drive him to despair and consequent suicide.

Gérard de Villefort

Gérard de Villefort
Villefort is an ambitious prosecutor who would sacrifice anything, even his own father, to achieve his goals. Despite initially not taking part in framing the innocent Dantès, he ends up playing a major role in the sailor’s fate: he sees through the plot to imprison Dantès soon after meeting him and is ready to release him when he learns that the letter Dantès had in his possession came from the island of Elba (where Napoleon was exiled) and was addressed to Villefort’s father. Were this knowledge to be made public, his father would be accused of treason against the ruling monarchy and thus Villefort’s career would be destroyed. Seizing this chance to put an end to his father’s machinations as well as gain recognition for prosecuting an alleged Bonapartist (Dantès), he sends the innocent man to the isolated prison Château d’If, where he is to remain for life. These ambitions become his own downfall as he becomes the main focus of the Count’s revenge.

During Dantès’ absence Villefort makes a politically advantageous marriage, becoming a noble, and years later manages to rise to the post of Deputy Minister of France. After his wife’s death he remarries to a young and beautiful woman scarcely older than his own daughter Valentine, Héloïse de Villefort. As if she was Villefort’s reflection, Héloïse is ready to sacrifice anything or anyone that will pose a threat to the interests of their young son, Edward. Villefort’s good fortune takes a turn after the suspicious deaths of his former parents-in-law and the apparent death of his dear daughter Valentine, with all the trails leading to a poisoner within the household. Confronted with this knowledge and being certain that the culprit was none other than his wife Héloïse, he demands that she brings justice upon herself so that his name won’t be tainted. All the while, a long forgotten sin comes back to haunt him: his bastard son Benedetto (a.k.a Prince Cavalcanti), whom he had buried alive right after birth, not only appears to have been saved but also comes into scene to bring justice upon his father. Finally realizing that he had no right to judge anyone when his own wrongdoings have been so grave, he decides to forgive his wife and start a new life with their son but, just when Villefort thought that things couldn’t get any worse, he finds that he’s too late and she has poisoned both Edward and herself. The last thread that holds his sanity in place is broken at the sight of Edward’s dead body and when Dantès, disguised as Abbé Busoni, reveals his true identity to him.

Baron Danglars

Baron Danglars
Danglars is the greedy treasurer of Dantès’ ship before the sailor`s imprisonment, as well as the mastermind behind the plot to frame him. Danglars’ envy of the young sailor is made clear from the start: Dantès is younger, more attractive, more talented and more successful. This envy, together with Danglars’ boundless greed, prompt him to frame the newly promoted captain. Knowing that Dantès was asked by the former captain to deliver a letter from Elba (were Napoleon was exiled), Danglars persuades both Fernand and Caderousse to help him write an anonymous letter accusing the sailor of being an ardent Bonapartist.

After Dantès is jailed, Danglars puts into motion his plans to become wealthy and powerful, managing to do so through fraudulent means. He ends up married to Baroness Danglars, becoming a Baron himself, and eventually becomes one of the most powerful bankers in France. Soon after the Count of Monte Cristo’s arrival in Paris and introduction to Prince Cavalcanti (Benedetto), Danglars decides to break off his daughter’s engagement to Albert de Morcerf, arranging it instead with the alleged Prince. The revenge upon Danglars begins when he’s publicly shamed after it’s disclosed that Prince Cavalcanti is nothing more than a disguised convicted criminal. All the while the Count manages to involve himself in Danglars’ and his unfaithful wife’s finances, gradually stripping them of their wealth. After going bankrupt, Danglars takes hold of his last assets and flees but is soon kidnapped by the bandit Luigi Vampa, under the Count’s orders, and forced to pay immense amounts for his daily sustenance. The Count considers himself avenged and releases Danglars when the former banker is left almost penniless.

Haydée

Haydée
Haydée is the young and beautiful daughter of Ali Pasha, the former vizier of the Greek state of Yanina, who was betrayed to the Ottoman Empire by a soldier that served under him (Fernand Mondego).

Haydée was just a child when Fernand Mondego committed felony and treason, selling both her and her mother into slavery after Ali Pasha was killed. She was bought and then freed years later by the Count of Monte Cristo, whom she eventually falls in love with. After living in a self-imposed seclusion alongside the Count, she finally finds her revenge when she testifies in front of the senate against Morcerf, disclosing his deepest secrets. This testimony brings to light the source of his fortune and title, therefore disgracing his good name and military achievements. In the end Haydée is able to let go of her past and pursue a new life with her beloved Count of Monte Cristo.

Mercédès Mondego

Mercédès Mondego
Mercédès is the innocent victim first of the plot against Dantès and later of his consequent revenge. Coming from a humble Catalan family, the beautiful Mercédès was to marry her beloved Dantès soon after his return to Marseille. Despite being relentlessly pressured by the affections of Fernand Mondego, whom she loved not like a man but like a brother, she looked forward the marriage and new life next to Dantès but is left devastated when he’s arrested during their betrothal. The heartbroken Mercédès takes upon the care of Dantès’ old father after her pleas to know about the fate of her beloved go ignored.

She stays true to her fiancée for years, resolutely ignoring Mondego’s affections, until she finally succumbs to his unceasing pursuit after losing all hope of ever seeing Dantès again. Being ignorant to Morcerf’s (Fernand Mondego) dishonest military achievements and involvement in Dantès’ arrest, she marries him and eventually becomes the Countess de Morcerf. Despite raising an honest and good-hearted son alongside her husband Morcerf, her love for Dantès never dies and all her pains and struggles come back to life when she recognizes him in the new Parisian sensation, the Count of Monte Cristo. Upon learning of his fate and all of her husband’s wrongdoings she is filled with regret and shame for not hoping and waiting enough for Dantès to come back, deciding to abandon her wealth and disgraced husband and live a humble solitary life for the rest of her days.

Héloïse de Villefort

Héloïse de Villefort
Héloïse is the second wife of Gérard de Villefort and is scarcely older than his daughter Valentine. Her ambitions almost overshadow those of her husband and she will stop at nothing to reach her goals, no matter the means. Having a young kid of her own, she becomes jealous of Villefort’s fondness of Valentine (the daughter from his first marriage) and of the vast fortune she will inherit both from her father’s and deceased mother’s side. She’s convinced that her son Edward is being cast aside and so Héloïse becomes obsessed over his future and financial security. This obsession is presented with an opportunity upon meeting the Count of Monte Cristo.

She’s introduced to the Count soon after he arrives in Paris and becomes interested in his knowledge of poisons and chemistry. The Count, seeing her wicked personality and murderous intent, takes advantage of it by teaching her about a drug which could be both medicine and poison depending on the doses it’s taken in. Héloïse, too overzealous about securing the inheritance for her son, decides to poison her way to it and so first come the deaths of Villefort’s former parents-in-law and then an attempt on Villefort’s own father. She also directs her poisons to Valentine but the Count prevents her death just in time even if everyone else believes her to be dead. After being confronted by her husband over all these deaths she’s given a choice: either kill herself or face public execution. She chooses the first, taking her son’s life in the process as well.

Madame Danglars

Madame Danglars
Baroness Danglars is the wife of Baron Danglars. Just like her husband, Madame Danglars lives exclusively by her greed and unfaithful relationships, first with Villefort and then with her husband’s young officer Debray. Her relationship with a married Villefort produces a bastard, Benedetto, whom Villefort fakes to be stillborn yet buries alive. When her daughter’s engagement is rearranged to be with Prince Cavalcanti, she’s ignorant to the fact that she agreed to a marriage between her own daughter and a son she believed to be dead.

Her relationship with Debray, though apparently being a romantically driven one, is based on their financial ambitions. Together they manipulate stocks and bonds to accumulate large sums of money. Through the Count’s machinations, both Madame and Baron Danglars get trapped in a cicle of financial losses until they become bankrupt. When the time to face their financial struggles comes, Madame Danglars is abandoned both by her husband and lover.

Abbé Faria

Abbé Faria
Abbé Faria is an Italian priest and intellectual falsely imprisoned in Château d’If for his alleged political views. He is thought to be insane after he reveals to the jailers and governor the existence of a great treasure, which he could use to pay for his freedom should they allow him to find it. Despite the general opinion of his sanity he is in fact a remarkable and ingenious person that managed to create tools for writing and digging walls using nothing but the few items available in his cell.

He accidentally ends up in Dantès’ cell after his calculations went wrong and he dug a tunnel in a different direction from his planned escape route. This meeting saves Dantès from committing suicide and Faria becomes the spiritual father and intellectual mentor to the young prisoner, educating him in many areas such as history, art, science and languages. The priest ends up revealing the existence and location of a great treasure to Dantès. Through the biography he managed to write using the tools he created during his long years of imprisonment, he reveals that he was friends with a noble Italian family that ended up ripped apart by death and deceit, and how he eventually found out about the existence and location of their long hidden treasure. When both prisoners are nearing the planned escape, Faria’s long-lasting illness overtakes him and he dies in his cell.

Albert de Morcerf

Albert de Morcerf
Albert is the young Viscount de Morcerf. He is a handsome man, full of life and passion, with a deep sense of honour and pride and a promising future next to his loving mother Mercédès, respected father Morcerf, and rich fiancée Eugénie Danglars. He is, also, the Count of Monte Cristo’s bridge to the Parisian court. While in Rome, Albert meets the Count and feels instantly charmed and drown to the mysterious man. He ends up indebted to him after being kidnapped by the infamous bandit Luigi Vampa and rescued by the Count. This debt eventually becomes the Count’s ticket to Paris.

Albert’s honest and doting personality gain the respect of the Count, but that doesn’t hold them from a bitter confrontation when Morcerf’s honour and name is being questioned by Parisian society. Albert regards his father with deep admiration and when Morcerf’s disgraceful achievements in warfare are brought to investigation, he finds the accusations to be inconceivable. Upon learning that the Count of Monte Cristo is the source of his father’s dire situation, Albert’s bitterness leads him to challenge the Count to a duel. Mercédès, finally aware of all the wrongdoings of her husband, shares her knowledge with her son and prevents him from killing the Count. Albert, feeling ashamed and betrayed by his father’s deeds and source of their wealth, leaves him and joins the army to make a name for himself.

Edward de Villefort

Edward de Villefort
Edward is the nine-year-old son of Gérard and Héloïse de Villefort. He’s a spoiled and odd child who, in spite of his attitude, seems to enjoy the Count’s company and gifts. He unknowingly becomes the source of his mother’s ambitions and murderous ways as well as the first innocent victim of the Count’s revenge.

The deaths of those that stand between him and the inheritance begin soon after the Count is introduced to the Villefort family. After his mother is confronted with the murders by Villefort, she decides to poison both Edward and herself. Edward’s death is the catalyst for the Count’s re-evaluation of his sense of justice and divine judgment.

Benedetto, a.k.a Prince Cavalcanti

Benedetto, a.k.a Prince Cavalcanti
Benedetto is a true reflection of an immoral mother (Madame Danglars) and a corrupt, ambitious and callous father (Villefort). Being born from an adulterous relationship and then buried alive just minutes later, Benedetto represents the personification of all the wrongdoings committed by everyone involved with the Count’s past misfortunes.

Benedetto is saved by sheer chance after Bertuccio, a man that waged a personal Vendetta against Villefort, attacks the prosecutor and then digs up the wooden box believing it to be a treasure. After finding the contents of the box to be a new-born child instead of a treasure, he decides to take Benedetto into his sister-in-law’s care. Showing a vicious and wicked personality from a very young age, Benedetto makes Bertuccio’s life miserable. After beating up and robbing his foster mother, Benedetto finds himself in prison with Caderousse as his cellmate. Together they immerse in a life of crime.

Benedetto is tracked down by the Count of Monte Cristo and paid to play the role of an Italian prince Andrea Cavalcanti. The Count coldly uses him to both disgrace Danglars by getting a convicted criminal engaged to his own sister, and condemn Villefort for his attempted homicide.

Sinbad the Sailor

Sinbad the Sailor
Sinbad the Sailor is the name Dantès adopts while travelling with Italian smugglers. It is also Dantès’ signature for the anonymous gift used to save his former boss Monsieur Morrel from financial ruin.

 

Luigi Vampa

Luigi Vampa
Luigi Vampa, a former shepherd, is the infamous head of a large Roman gang of bandits. He became acquainted to Sinbad the Sailor back in his shepherd days, when they parted ways as friends. Sometime later, however, and when Luigi is already a bandit, he fails to recognize Sinbad the Sailor in the Count of Monte Cristo and attempts to capture him but is captured by the Count instead. The bandits are spared from the authorities by agreeing that Luigi would always respect the Count and those he called his friends. This agreement is what allows the Count to free a kidnapped Albert de Morcerf and capture a fleeing Danglars.

Bertuccio

Bertuccio
Bertuccio is a former smuggler turned into a loyal servant to the Count of Monte Cristo. Earlier in his life Bertuccio had been wronged by Villefort, for which he waged a personal Vendetta against the prosecutor. To avenge himself he attempts to murder Villefort when he finds him burying a wooden box in the garden of a lavish home. After stabbing the man and digging out the box with the hopes of finding riches inside, he finds a newborn baby buried alive instead and decides to raise him alongside his sister-in-law. The kid, Benedetto, proves to be a vicious person and makes their life miserable.

At some point Bertuccio, who was part of a smuggling ring that used Caderousse’s inn as a hideout, is arrested for murders committed by the host himself. With the help of Abbé Busoni he is able to clear himself of these crimes and enter the service of the Count of Monte Cristo, becoming the Count’s loyal and most competent servant. Bertuccio’s testimony of Villefort’s wrongdoings prove to have a key importance in the Count’s quest for revenge against the prosecutor.

Abbé Busoni

Abbé Busoni
Abbé Busoni is an Italian priest Dantès uses as a disguise to gather information and manipulate people in order to fulfil his revenge. With the religious authority that such a name connotes, Dantès is able to get very close to everyone he wishes to without his motives being questioned.

Disguised as Abbé Busoni he’s able to question Caderousse about the details behind his arrest, as well as the whereabouts of people dear to him and those involved in the plot. Abbé Busoni is also the disguise he uses to get close to Villefort’s family from within, learning about their whereabouts in detail and saving Valentine from poisoning in the process.