Edmond Dantès

Edmond Dantès

Edmond Dantès is the protagonist and title character of Alexandre Dumas, père's novel, "The Count of Monte Cristo".

Dumas got the idea for the "character" of Edmond from a story which he found in a book compiled by Jacques Peuchet, archivist to the French police. ["True Stories of Immortal Crimes," H. Ashton-Wolfe, 1931, E. P. Dutton & Co., p.16-17] Peuchet related the tale of a shoemaker named Pierre Picaud, who was living in Nimes in 1807. Picaud had been engaged to marry a rich woman, but four 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. When Picaud was released in 1814, he took possession of the treasure, returned under another name to Paris and spent ten years plotting his successful revenge against his former friends.


Dantès, first mate of "The Pharaon"

When the reader is first introduced to Edmond Dantès, he is arriving in Marseille aboard the merchant ship "Le Pharaon" (The Pharaoh), and the reader learns that he is First Mate under Captain Leclère. At only 19 years old, the young Dantès seems destined for success. At the beginning of the novel, Dantès and the "Pharaon" are returning from a successful voyage; albeit with bad news. Although the trip was successful, the former Captain, Leclère, has fallen ill and died. Dantès sadly relays these events to his patron, M. Morrel, who subsequently tells Dantès that he will try to have him named captain of "The Pharaon." Dantès rushes off to see his beloved, a young Catalan woman by the name of Mercédès, and the two agree to be married immediately, as they have been seeing each other for what is presumably a long time.

The wedding and the arrest

Unfortunately, their marriage never occurs. On the night of their nuptial feast, Dantès is arrested as a suspected Bonapartist, and taken to see the public prosecutor, Gérard de Villefort. De Villefort concludes that Edmond is innocent, and assures Edmond that he will be released. He then asks for a piece of evidence cited in a letter denouncing Edmond to the authorities. The letter claims that on Edmond's last voyage, he made a stopover at the island of Elba, and received a letter from the deposed Emperor Napoléon. Edmond hands over the letter, which he received in the name of Captain Leclère, and of which the contents are to Edmond unknown. De Villefort throws the letter on the fire, and once again promises Edmond's speedy release. The letter had been addressed to a M. de Noirtier, who, unbeknownst to Edmond, is de Villefort's father. De Villefort has renounced his father, a staunch Bonapartist, and destroyed the letter to protect himself, not Edmond; to further protect his name, de Villefort sentences Edmond to imprisonment in the dreaded Chateau d'If.

Despair and near-suicide

Edmond was taken to the infamous Chateau d'if, an island fortress from which no prisoner had ever escaped, and to which the most dangerous political prisoners were sent. After many long years in solitary confinement in the dungeons of the Chateau, Edmond decided to commit suicide by starvation. After nearly two weeks, and having become so ill that the jailers thought him near death, one night, he heard scratching against the wall of his cell. Concluding that it could only be another prisoner digging his way to freedom, Dantès resolved to live, and to aid this fellow prisoner, so that they might gain their freedom. Dantès eventually broke through into the tunnel and the adjoining cell, which belonged to an old Italian abbé named Faria.

The priest and the escape

The two prisoners became as father and son, with the learned priest teaching young Dantès all he knew about Mathematics, Science, Languages, Philosophy, and Economics. Together, the two determined the names of the men who denounced Edmond as a Bonapartist, and although Faria disapproved, Edmond formulated plans of revenge against the men who had betrayed him. Sadly, Faria died before the two could escape, but before he died, he bequeathed to Edmond a secret treasure, so vast that it would shame kings, hidden on the isle of Monte Cristo. The night of Faria's passing, Edmond exchanged himself for his mentor in the priest's bodybag, and obtained escape from the prison. (The jailers, rather than burying him, threw him over the fortress's wall into the sea, weighted with an iron ball tied around his legs. Using a homemade knife, Edmond freed himself of this burden and reached the surface.) He was rescued from the sea by several smugglers, who believed him a shipwreck victim. At his earliest opportunity, Edmond suggested a stopover and trading of goods at the small island of Monte Cristo, during which he confirmed the existence of Faria's treasure. On this and subsequent visits, Edmond obtained enough wealth to remake himself into a man unrecognizable to any who may have known the man who had entered the Chateau d'If fourteen years before.

Loyalty and betrayal

Upon returning to Marseille, Edmond tried to determine what had happened to all those whom he had known. He learned that his father had died and that Mercédès had disappeared. His old neighbour and acquaintance Gaspard Caderousse was still alive, and (under the guise of the fictitious Abbé Busoni) Edmond visited Caderousse to learn more. Caderousse told him how M. Morrel had tried to obtain a fair trial for Edmond, and how Mercédès tried to determine his fate. Edmond learned that Mercédès had married one of the men who had betrayed Edmond, Fernand Mondego. He also learned that almost as if fate had intervened, those who had remained loyal to Edmond had suffered at the hand of Fate, while those who had betrayed him had prospered. On the other hand, M. Morrel was faced with bankruptcy and disgrace, and his father had died of a broken heart. Edmond thanked Caderousse for the information, paying him with a large diamond that he said had come into Edmond's possession while in prison. Realizing that only Morrel had remained loyal, Edmond created two new guises, one of an Englishman named Lord Wilmore from the firm Thomson and French, and one named Sinbad the Sailor, and under these guises, saved Morrel from bankruptcy and suicide. He would then go into hiding, spending ten years reforming himself as the Count of Monte Cristo.

Paris and the Count

Ten years after saving the fortunes of M. Morrel, Edmond would emerge into Parisian society as the mysterious and sophisticated Count of Monte Cristo. Having begun a transformation while in the Chateau d'If, under the tutelage of the Abbé Faria, Dantès has perfected his persona as the ideal nineteenth century gentleman. Having purchased the deed to the island from whence he obtained his treasure, Edmond is able to place himself in the upper strata of Parisian societyand assume the role of one of the most influential men in all of France. As such, he is introduced to several other powerful men, most notably the Baron Danglars, who is now a wealthy banker; Count Fernand de Morcerf who through military success has become a hero of France; and M. Villefort, who is now the Procureur du Roi, one of the most powerful advocates in the country. Furthermore, Count de Morcerf has married the beautiful Mercédès, and the two have a son named Albert. Having established himself in Parisian society, and having distanced himself from Edmond Dantès, the Count is able to formulate his plans of revenge against the men who betrayed him.

By the end of the novel, Dantès has enacted revenge against all of the men who would have seen him rot in prison. Although terribly embittered from his experiences, he is still able to find love.

Portrayal in adaptations

Edmond Dantes has been portrayed on film many times by actors such as Robert Donat, Gérard Depardieu, Richard Chamberlain and, most recently, James Caviezel.


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