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The Count of Monte Cristo

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The Count of Monte Cristo
Author(s) Alexandre Dumas, père
Cover artist M. Valentin
Country France
Language French
Genre(s) Historical, Adventure, Romance
Publisher Chapman and Hall
Publication date 1844–1846
Media type Print ( Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 1312 pages

The Count of Monte Cristo (French: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) is an adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas, père. It is often considered to be, along with The Three Musketeers, Dumas' most popular work. The writing of the work was completed in 1844. Like many of his novels, it is expanded from the plot outlines suggested by his collaborating ghostwriter Auguste Maquet.

The story takes place in France, Italy, islands in the Mediterranean and the Levant during the historical events of 1815–1838 (from just before the Hundred Days through to the reign of Louis-Philippe of France). The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book. It is an adventure story primarily concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness.

Background to the plot

Dumas has himself indicated that he had the idea for the revenge in The Count of Monte Cristo from a story which he had found 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 related the tale of a shoemaker named Pierre Picaud, who was living in Nîmes in 1807. Picaud had been engaged to marry a rich woman, but three jealous friends falsely accused him of being a spy for England. He was imprisoned for seven years. During his imprisonment a dying fellow prisoner bequeathed him a treasure hidden in Milan. Picaud was released in 1814. He took possession of the treasure and returned under another name to Paris. Picaud spent ten years plotting his successful revenge against his former friends. In another of the "True Stories" Peuchet relates the tale of a terrible affair of poisoning in a family. This story, also quoted in the Pleiade edition, has obviously served as model for the chapter of the murders inside the Villefort family. The introduction to the Pleiade edition mentions other sources from real life: the Abbé Faria really existed and died in 1819 after a life with much resemblance to that of the Faria in the novel. As for Dantès, his fate is quite different from his model in Peuchet's manuscript, since the latter is murdered by the "Caderousse" of the plot. But Dantès has "alter egos" in two other works of Dumas: First in "Pauline" from 1838, then, more significantly, in "Georges" from 1843 where a young man with black ancestry is preparing a revenge against white people who had humiliated him..

Historical background

Alexandre Dumas, père in 1855

The success of Monte Cristo coincides with France's Second Empire. In the book, Dumas tells of the return of Napoleon I in 1815 and alludes at least once to the contemporary events when the governor at the Château d'If is promoted to a position at the castle of Ham. The attitude of Dumas towards "bonapartisme" was conflicted. His father, Thomas Alexandre Dumas, a Haitian of mixed descent, became a successful general during the French Revolution. When new racially discriminating laws were applied in 1802, the general was dismissed from the army and became profoundly bitter towards Napoleon. In 1840, the ashes of Napoleon I were brought to France and became an object of veneration in the church of Les Invalides, renewing popular patriotic support for the Bonaparte family.

In "Causeries" (1860), Dumas published a short paper, "État civil du Comte de Monte-Cristo", on the genesis of Monte-Cristo. It appears that Dumas had close and intimate contacts with members of the Bonaparte family while living in Florence in 1841. In a small boat he sailed around the island of Monte-Cristo accompanied by one of the young princes, a cousin to Louis Bonaparte, who was to become emperor of France ten years later. During this trip he promised the prince that he would write a novel with the island's name as title. At this moment the future emperor was imprisoned at the citadel of Ham – a name that is mentioned in the novel. Dumas did visit him there, although he does not mention it in "Etat civil". From 1840, Louis Napoleon was imprisoned for life, but fled in disguise in 1846, while Dumas's novel was a great success. Just in the manner of Dantès, Louis Napoleon reappeared in Paris as a powerful and enigmatic man of the world. In 1848, however, Dumas did not vote for Louis Napoleon. The novel may have contributed, against the will of the writer, to the victory of the future Napoleon III.

A chronology of The Count of Monte Cristo and Bonapartism

Dumas grandfather:

  • 1793: Thomas-Alexandre Dumas is promoted to the rank of general in the army of the First French Republic.
  • 1794: He disapproves of the revolutionary terror in Western France.
  • 1795-97: He becomes famous and fights under Napoleon.
  • 1802: Black officers are dismissed from the army. The Empire re-establishes slavery.
  • 1802: Birth of his son, Alexandre Dumas père.
  • 1806: Th. A. Dumas dies, still bitter about the injustice of the Empire.

Dumas father:

  • 1832: The only son of Napoleon I dies.
  • 1836: A. Dumas is already a famous writer.
  • 1836: First putsch by Louis Napoleon, aged 28, fails.
  • 1840: June. A law is passed to bring the ashes of Napoleon I to France.
  • 1840: August. Second putsch of Louis Napoleon. He is imprisoned for life and becomes known as the candidate for the imperial succession.
  • 1841: Dumas lives in Florence and becomes acquainted with King Jérôme and his son, Napoléon.
  • 1841-44: The novel is conceived and written.
  • 1846: The novel is a European bestseller.
  • 1846: Louis Napoleon escapes from his prison.
  • 1848: French Second Republic. Louis Napoleon is elected its first president but Dumas does not vote for him.
  • 1857: Dumas publishes État civil du Comte de Monte-Cristo

Plot summary

Edmond Dantès

In 1815 Edmond Dantès, a young and successful merchant sailor recently granted his own command by his dying captain Leclère, returns to Marseille to marry his fiancée Mercédès. Leclère, a supporter of the exiled Napoléon I, has charged Dantès to deliver two objects: a package to Maréchal Bertrand (exiled with Napoleon Bonaparte on Elba), and a letter from Elba to an unknown man in Paris. An anonymous letter accuses Dantès of being a Bonapartist traitor. Villefort, the deputy crown prosecutor in Marseille, normally a just man, condemns Dantès without trial to life imprisonment and destroys the incriminating letter. During his fourteen years imprisonment in the Château d'If, Dantes befriends the Abbé Faria, ("The Mad Priest"), a fellow prisoner trying to tunnel his way to freedom who claims to be in possession of a massive treasure, offering to reward the guards well if they release him. Faria educates Dantès and, when he knows he is dying, tells Dantès the location of a treasure on Monte Cristo. After Faria's death the following year, 1829, Dantès stages an escape and is rescued by a smuggling ship. After several months of working with the smugglers, he goes to Monte Cristo. Dantès fakes an injury and convinces the smugglers to temporarily leave him on Monte Cristo, then makes his way to the hiding place of the treasure. After recovering the treasure, he returns to Marseilles, where he learns that his father has died in poverty. He buys a yacht, hides the rest of the treasure on board and buys both the island of Monte Cristo and the title of Count from the Tuscan Government.

Returning to Marseille, Dantès plans his revenge but first helps several people who were kind to him before his imprisonment. Traveling as the Abbé Busoni, he meets Caderousse, now living in poverty, whose intervention might have saved Dantès from prison. Dantès learns that his other enemies have all become wealthy since Dantès' betrayal. He gives Caderousse a diamond that can be either a chance to redeem himself, or a trap that will lead to his ruin. Caderousse murders the jeweler to whom he sells the diamond and is sentenced to life in the prison galleys. Dantès, using the disguise of English Lord Wilmore, frees Caderousse and gives him another chance at redemption. Caderousse does not take it, and becomes a career criminal. Learning that his old employer Morrel is on the verge of bankruptcy, Dantès, in the guise of a senior clerk, buys all of Morrel's outstanding debts and gives Morrel an extension of three months to fulfill his obligations. At the end of the three months and with no way to repay his debts, Morrel is about to commit suicide when he learns that all of his debts have been mysteriously paid and that one of his ships has returned with a full cargo, secretly rebuilt and laden by Dantès.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Character relationships in The Count of Monte Cristo (enlarge to view)

Now nine years later (1838), Dantes, disguised as the rich Count of Monte Cristo, takes his revenge on the three men responsible for his unjust imprisonment: Fernand, now Count De Morcerf and Mercédès's husband; Danglars, now a wealthy banker; and Villefort, now married to his second wife and living in Paris. The Count surfaces first in Rome, where he becomes acquainted with the Baron Franz d'Épinay, and Viscount Albert de Morcerf, Mercédès's and Fernand's son. Dantès moves to Paris, and with Albert de Morcerf's introduction, becomes the sensation of the city. Due to his knowledge and rhetorical power, even his enemies, who do not recognize him, find him charming, and because of his status they all desire his friendship. The Count dazzles the crass Danglars with his seemingly endless wealth, eventually persuading him to extend him a 6,000,000 francs credit, and withdraws nine hundred thousand. Under the terms of the arrangement, The Count can demand access to the remainder at any time. The Count manipulates the bond market, through a false telegraph signal, and quickly destroys a large portion of Danglars' fortune. The rest of it begins to rapidly disappear through mysterious bankruptcies, suspensions of payment, and more bad luck on the Stock Exchange.

The Count threatens Villefort with knowledge of his past affair with Madame Danglars, which produced a son. Believing the child to be stillborn, Villefort had buried the child. The boy had been rescued and raised in Corsica by his enemy, Bertuccio (now The Count's servant), who gave the child the name "Benedetto". As an adult, Benedetto becomes a criminal who was sentenced to the galleys with Caderousse. After being freed by "Lord Wilmore", Benedetto takes the identity of "Viscount Andrea Cavalcanti" (sponsored by the Count) and cons Danglars into betrothing his daughter Eugénie to him. Caderousse blackmails Andrea, threatening to reveal his past. Cornered by "Abbé Busoni" while attempting to rob The Count's house, Caderousse begs to be given another chance, but Dantès grimly notes that the last two times he did so, Caderousse did not change. He forces Caderousse to write a letter to Danglars exposing Viscount Cavalcanti as an impostor and allows Caderousse to leave the house, but the moment Caderousse leaves the estate, he is stabbed in the back by Andrea. Caderousse manages to dictate and sign a deathbed statement identifying his killer, and The Count reveals his true identity to Caderousse moments before Caderousse dies.

Years before, Ali Pasha, the ruler of Yannina, was betrayed to the Turks by Fernand. After his death, his wife Vasiliki and his daughter Haydée were sold into slavery. Haydée was found and rescued by Dantès and becomes the Count's ward. The Count manipulates Danglars into researching the event, which is published in a newspaper. As a result, Fernand is brought to trial for his crimes. Haydée testifies against him, and Fernand is disgraced. Mercédès, still beautiful, alone recognizes The Count as Dantès. When Albert blames The Count for his father's downfall and publicly challenges him to a duel, Mercédès goes secretly to The Count and begs him to spare her son. During this interview, she learns the entire truth of his arrest and imprisonment. She later reveals the truth to Albert, which causes Albert to make a public apology to The Count. Albert and Mercédès disown Fernand, who is confronted with Dantès' true identity and commits suicide. The mother and son depart to build a new life free of disgrace. Albert enlists as a soldier and goes to Africa in order to rebuild his life and honour under a new name, and Mercédès begins a solitary life in Marseille.

Villefort's daughter by his first wife, Valentine, stands to inherit the fortune of her grandfather (Noirtier) and of her mother's parents (the Saint-Mérans), while his second wife, Héloïse, seeks the fortune for her small son Édouard. The Count is aware of Héloïse's intentions, and "innocently" introduces her to the technique of poison. Héloïse fatally poisons the Saint-Mérans, so that Valentine inherits their fortune. Valentine is disinherited by Noirtier in an attempt to prevent Valentine's impending marriage with Franz d'Épinay. The marriage is cancelled when d'Épinay learns that his father (believed assassinated by Bonapartists) was killed by Noirtier in a duel. Afterwards, Valentine is reinstated in Noirtier's will. After a failed attempt on Noirtier's life, which instead claims the life of Noirtier's servant Barrois, Héloïse then targets Valentine so that Édouard will finally get the fortune. However, Valentine is the prime suspect in her father's eyes in the deaths of the Saint-Merans and Barrois. On learning that Morrel's son Maximilien is in love with Valentine, The Count saves her by making it appear as though Héloïse's plan to poison Valentine has succeeded and that Valentine is dead. Villefort learns from Noirtier that Héloïse is the real murderer and confronts her, giving her the choice of a public execution or committing suicide by her own poison.

Fleeing after Caderousse's letter exposes him, Andrea gets as far as Compiègne before he is arrested and brought back to Paris, where he is prosecuted by Villefort. Andrea reveals that he is Villefort's son and was rescued after Villefort buried him alive. Villefort admits his guilt and flees the court. He rushes home to stop his wife's suicide but he is too late; she has poisoned her son as well. Dantès confronts Villefort, revealing his true identity, but this, combined with the shock of the trial's revelations and the death of both his wife and son, drives Villefort insane. Dantès tries to resuscitate Édouard but fails, and despairs that his revenge has gone too far. It is only after he revisits his cell in the Château d'If that Dantès is reassured that his cause is just and his conscience is clear, that he can fulfill his plan while being able to forgive both his enemies and himself.

After the Count's manipulation of the bond market, Danglars is left with only a destroyed reputation and five million francs he has been holding in deposit for hospitals. The Count demands this sum to fulfill their credit agreement, and Danglars embezzles the hospital fund. Abandoning his wife, Danglars flees to Italy with the Count's receipt, hoping to live in Vienna in anonymous prosperity. While leaving Rome, he is kidnapped by the Count's agent Luigi Vampa and is imprisoned the same way that Dantès was. Forced to pay exorbitant prices for food, Danglars eventually signs away all but 50,000 francs of the stolen five million (which Dantès anonymously returns to the hospitals). Nearly driven mad by his ordeal, Danglars finally repents his crimes. Dantès forgives Danglars and allows him to leave with his freedom and the money he has left.

Maximilien Morrel, believing Valentine to be dead, contemplates suicide after her funeral. Dantès reveals his true identity and explains that he rescued Morrel's father from bankruptcy, disgrace and suicide years earlier. He persuades Maximilien to delay his suicide for a month. On the island of Monte Cristo a month later, Dantès presents Valentine to Maximilien and reveals the true sequence of events. Having found peace, Dantès leaves for an unknown destination to find comfort and a new love with Haydée, who has declared her love for him.


Edmond Dantès and his aliases

  • Edmond Dantès (born 1796): A sailor with good prospects, fiancé to Mercédès. After his transformation into the Count of Monte Cristo, he reveals his true name to his enemies as each revenge is completed,
  • English Chief Clerk of the Thomson and French banking firm
  • Lord Wilmore: English persona in which Dantès performs random acts of generosity.
  • Sinbad the Sailor: The persona that Dantes assumes when he saves the Morrel family.
  • Abbé Busoni: The persona of religious authority.
  • Monsieur Zaccone: Dantès, in the guise of both Abbé Busoni and Lord Wilmore, tells an investigator this is the Count of Monte Cristo's true name.

Dantès' allies

  • Abbé Faria: Italian priest and sage.
  • Giovanni Bertuccio: The Count of Monte Cristo's steward and very loyal servant.
  • Luigi Vampa: celebrated Italian bandit and fugitive.
  • Peppino: Formerly a shepherd, he later a bandit and full member of Vampa's gang.
  • Haydée (also transliterated as Haidée): The daughter of Ali Pasha of Yannina.
  • Ali: Monte Cristo's mute Nubian slave.
  • Baptistin: Monte Cristo's valet-de-chambre.

Morcerf family

  • Mercédès Mondego: (née: Herrera) Dantes' fiancée at the beginning of the story.
  • Fernand Mondego: Count de Morcerf, Dantes' rival and suitor for Mercédès.
  • Albert de Morcerf: Son of Mercédès and the Count de Morcerf, friend of Monte Cristo.

Danglars family

  • Baron Danglars: First Dantes' junior officer; then a wealthy banker in the later portion of the book.
  • Madame Hermine Danglars: (Formerly Baroness Hermine de Nargonne née de Servieux). She had an affair with Gérard de Villefort, and has an illegitimate son Benedetto.
  • Eugénie Danglars: Daughter of Baron Danglars.

Villefort family

  • Gérard de Villefort: Royal prosecutor who imprisons Dantès.
  • Renée de Villefort, née de Saint-Méran: Gérard de Villefort's first wife, mother of Valentine.
  • Le Marquis de Saint-Méran and La Marquise de Saint-Méran: Renée's parents.
  • Valentine de Villefort: The daughter of Gérard de Villefort and his first wife, Renée.
  • Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort: The father of Gérard de Villefort and grandfather of Valentine, Édouard (and, without knowing it, Benedetto).
  • Héloïse de Villefort: The murderous second wife of Villefort.
  • Édouard de Villefort. The only legitimate son of Villefort.
  • Benedetto: The illegitimate son of de Villefort and Hermine de Nargonne (Baroness Hermine Danglars), raised by Bertuccio (later Monte Cristo's steward) and his sister-in-law, Assunta, Rogliano. Becomes "Andrea Cavalcanti" in Paris.

Morrel family

  • Pierre Morrel: Dantès's employer, owner of Morrel & Son.
  • Maximilien Morrel: Son of Pierre Morrel, an army captain who becomes a friend of Dantès.
  • Julie Herbault: Daughter of Pierre Morrel. Wife of Emmanuel Herbault.
  • Emmanuel Herbault: an employee of Morrel & Sons who becomes Julie's husband

Other characters

  • Gaspard Caderousse: Originally a tailor, a neighbour and friend of Dantès.
  • Louis Dantès: Edmond Dante's father.
  • Baron Franz d'Épinay: A friend of Albert de Morcerf, first fiancé of Valentine de Villefort.
  • Lucien Debray: Secretary to the Minister of the Interior. A friend of Albert de Morcerf, and a lover of Madame Danglars.
  • Beauchamp: Journalist and friend of Albert de Morcerf
  • Raoul, Baron de Château-Renaud: Member of a noble family and friend of Albert de Morcerf.
  • Louise d'Armilly: Eugénie Danglars' music instructor, her closest friend.
  • Monsieur de Boville: originally an inspector of prisons, later a detective in the Paris force.
  • Barrois: Old, trusted servant of Monsieur de Noirtier.
  • Monsieur d'Avrigny: Family doctor treating the Villefort family.
  • Major (also Marquis) Bartolomeo Cavalcanti: Old man who plays the role of Prince Andrea Cavalcanti's father.


The Count of Monte Cristo was originally published in the Journal des Débats in eighteen parts. Publication ran from August 28, 1844 through to January 15, 1846. It was first published in Paris by Pétion in 18 volumes (1844-5). Complete versions of the novel in the original French were published throughout the nineteenth century.

The most common English translation was originally published in 1846 by Chapman and Hall. Most unabridged English editions of the novel, including the Modern Library and Oxford World's Classics editions, use this translation, although Penguin Classics published a new translation by Robin Buss in 1996. Buss' translation updated the language, is more accessible to modern readers, and restored content that was modified in the 1846 translation due to Victorian English social restrictions (for example, references to Eugénie's lesbian traits and behaviour) to Dumas' actual publication. Other English translations of the unabridged work exist, but are rarely seen in print and most borrow from the 1846 anonymous translation.

Alexandre Dumas wrote a set of three plays that collectively told the story of The Count of Monte Cristo: Monte Cristo (1848), Le Comte de Morcerf (1851), and Villefort (1851). The book itself went on to inspire the plot for a wide array of novels, from Lew Wallace's Ben-Hur (1880) to Stephen Fry's The Stars' Tennis Balls,

Selected notable adaptations


  • 1934: Count of Monte Cristo, directed by Rowland V. Lee
  • 1940: The Son of Monte Cristo, directed by Rowland V. Lee
  • 1946: The Return of Monte Christo, directed by Henry Levin
  • 1975: Count of Monte Cristo, directed by David Greene
  • 2002: Count of Monte Cristo, directed by Kevin Reynolds

Sequels (books)

  • 1853 " A Mão do finado" Alfredo Hogan
  • 1881: The Son of Monte Cristo, Jules Lermina
  • 1869: The Countess of Monte Cristo, Jean Charles Du Boys, also 1934 and 1948
  • 1946 The Wife of Monte Cristo

Plays and musicals scripts

  • 2006 Monte Cristo - The musical by Jon Smith and Leon Parris
  • 2009 The Count of Monte Cristo, by Frank Wildhorn
  • 2003 The Count of Monte Cristo (Граф Монте-Кристо) by Alexandr Tumencev and Tatyana Ziryanova
  • 2008 Monte-Cristo by Roman Ignatyev (composer) and Yuli Kim (lyrics)
  • 2009 The Count of Monte Cristo, by Ido Ricklin
  • 2010 The Count of Monte Cristo, Rock Opera by Pete Sneddon

Audio adaptations

  • 1938 - Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air players (radio).
  • 1939 - Orson Welles with Agnes Moorehead at Campbell Playhouse (radio)
  • 1939 - Robert Montgomery on the Lux Radio Theatre (radio)
  • 1947 - Carleton Young (radio series)
  • 1960s - Paul Daneman for Tale Spinners For Children series (LP) UAC 11044
  • 1961 - Louis Jourdan for Caedmon Records (LP)
  • 1987 - Andrew Sachs on BBC Radio


  • 2004 - Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
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