The Count of Monte Cristo

seaman Edmond Dantès

seaman Edmond Dantès

The effect of the serials, which held vast audiences enthralled … is unlike any experience of reading we are likely to have known ourselves, maybe something like that of a particularly gripping television series. Day after day, at breakfast or at work or on the street, people talked of little else. — Carlos Javier Villafane Mercado

At the age of nineteen, seaman Edmond Dantès has a charmed life – about to be promoted to Captain, and engaged to the beautiful Mercédès. But Marseilles in 1815 is a dangerous place, and three of Dantes’ acquaintances set in train a chain of events that will lead Edmond to fourteen years of solitary confinement in the notorious Chateau D’If.

Our story starts at Chateau D’If, with a body being tipped into the sea. Edmond Dantès has managed to escape by exchanging places with a dead man.

Just at the moment his escape is discovered, a bloated body of a dead Maltese seaman floats by. Dantès quickly exchanges his prison garb with that of the seaman. From now on, he will be known as Maltese.

The reason for his escape, revenge, revenge on those who betrayed him and caused him to be cast into prison.

Lucky for Dantès, a passing ship rescues him, thinking he is a survivor from the Maltese ship wrecked on the rocks. The passing ship are smugglers.

Fourteen years earlier, Dantès has brought a ship home as First mate after the Captain died. The dying wish of the Captain, was to divert to Elba and deliver a package to Napoleon. It is this act that leads to his betrayal, this is France, with a restored king post-revolution.

Brilliant 4-part dramatisation of The Count of Monte Cristo by BBC Radio 4.

Alexandre Dumas was born in 1802. His father, the illegitimate son of a marquis, was a general in the revolutionary armies, but died when Alexandre was four years old. His most successful novels were The Count of Monte Cristo (serialised between 1844-1846) and the Three Musketeers (1844).

The Count of Monte Cristo (French: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) was originally published in the Journal des Débats in eighteen parts. Publication ran from 28 August 1844 to 15 January 1846.

Dumas wrote that the idea of revenge in The Count of Monte Cristo came from a story in a book compiled by Jacques Peuchet, a French police archivist, published in 1838 after the death of the author. Dumas included this essay in one of the editions from 1846. Peuchet told of a shoemaker, Pierre Picaud, living in Nîmes in 1807, who was engaged to marry a rich woman when three jealous friends falsely accused him of being a spy for England. Picaud was placed under a form of house arrest, in the Fenestrelle Fort where he served as a servant to a rich Italian cleric. When the man died, he left his fortune to Picaud whom he had begun to treat as a son. Picaud then spent years plotting his revenge on the three men who were responsible for his misfortune. He stabbed the first with a dagger on which were printed the words, “Number One”, and then he poisoned the second. The third man’s son he lured into crime and his daughter into prostitution, finally stabbing the man himself. This third man, named Loupian, had married Picaud’s fiancée while Picaud was under arrest.

To coincide with the broadcast of The Count of Monte Cristo, the Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 Tom Reiss’s account of the life of Alexandre Dumas’s father – General Alex Dumas, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.

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