The Count of Monte Cristo Summary

Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

The Count of Monte Cristo Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

The Count of Monte Cristo is an adventure novel by French author Alexandre Dumas, first serialized in 1844-1845. One of Dumas’ most popular works, it was co-written by his ghostwriter Auguste Maquet. Exploring themes of revenge, hope, mercy, and forgiveness, the tale centers around Edmond Dantes, a French sailor who is accused of treason and imprisoned without trial. After finding out that a group of his rivals was behind framing him, he escapes with the help of an ally he meets in prison. Taking on an assumed identity and attaining great wealth, he returns to his homeland with an elaborate plan to infiltrate high society and exact his revenge upon the trio of men who conspired to destroy him. In a book of true stories from Dumas’ life, Dumas stated that the events of The Count of Monte Cristo were inspired by real events involving a shoemaker named Pierre Picard. Considered a classic of French literature, it is still widely taught around the world today and has been adapted countless times into film, television, opera, and stage productions. In the public domain, it has served as the inspiration for reinventions and sequels in the literary world.

The story begins with Edmond Dantes, a young merchant sailor who has recently been made Captain of a ship, returning home to marry his fiancé Mercedes. His deceased Captain Leclere asks Dantes to deliver a package and a letter to supporters of the exiled Napoleon. However, on the eve of Dantes’ wedding, Dantes’ jealous rival Fernand Mondego (Mercedes’ cousin, who is also in love with her) conspires with Dantes’ fellow sailor Danglars. Danglars wants Dantes’ ship, while Mondego wants his fiancée. They send an anonymous letter accusing Dantes of being a loyalist to Napoleon. Caderousse, Dantes’ neighbor and a cowardly drunk, hears them conspire and does nothing, letting Dantes be arrested and sentenced. Dantes’ fate is sealed when Villefort, the local prosecutor in Marseille, destroys the letter to protect his Bonapartist father and his own career. To silence Dantes, he sentences him to life imprisonment without trial.

After six years in prison in the notorious Chateau d’if, Dantes is on the verge of suicide when he befriends a fellow prisoner, Abbe Faria. Known as the Mad Priest, Faria has dug a tunnel into Dantes’ cell, and the two accidental roommates become friends. Faria tutors Dantes in all his knowledge over the next eight years. As he’s about to die, he tells Dantes the location of a treasure on the isle of Monte Cristo. When Faria dies, Dantes takes his place in the burial sack and is smuggled off the island. He heads to Monte Cristo, takes the treasure, and then purchases the island and the title of Count. Anonymously, he returns to his home. He meets Caderousse, who is consumed with regret for not intervening. Dantes, now the Count, gives him a diamond to allow him to either redeem himself or fall into his own ways. Dantes pays off the debts of his old employer Morrel, as well, rewarding him for kindness shown to Dantes in the past. Now, in his new guise as the Count of Monte Cristo, he is ready to turn his focus to his betrayers.

All of Dantes’ old enemies have made good use of their time, as Fernand is now a count and Mercedes’ husband. Danglars is now a baron and a wealthy banker. Villefort is now the King’s personal prosecutor. The first who the Count of Monte Cristo targets is Danglars. He dazzles the now rich scammer with his wealth, convinces him to invest in what the Count advises, then manipulates the bond market using his wealth to destroy a large percentage of Danglars’ wealth. He then proceeds to continue to use his control over the market via his massive wealth to bankrupt his old enemy. Before moving on, he gets to know Viscount Albert de Morcef, the son of Fernand and Mercedes. He arranges for the boy to be kidnapped by bandits, and then rescues him, establishing himself as a hero. Villefort is next on his list of targets. It turns out that Villefort once had an affair with Madame Danglars and had a child with her. Villefort attempted to dispose of the child, but the child was saved by a smuggler named Bertuccio. The boy has grown up to be a petty criminal named Benedetto, who encounters Caderousse during one of his many prison sentences. Through this, the Count is able to expose Villefort’s cruelty and malfeasance, and the prosecutor soon goes insane as he faces the loss of everything he’s built.

Dantes’ revenge on his nemesis Fernand is the most complex, and comes back to how Fernand attained his wealth. Years before, he had a patron named Ali Pasha, who Fernand then betrayed to the Turks. Ali’s wife and daughter were sold into slavery, and while his wife died soon after, his daughter was purchased by Dantes. Fernand is exposed for his crimes and brought to trial. Albert is enraged by the arrest of his father, but Mercedes recognized Dantes and begs him to spare her son’s life. Fernand is exposed and commits suicide, and Albert realizes he was wrong about his father. Although Mercedes sees her husband for what he is, she is unable to turn back the clock, and she and Albert renounce their titles and leave to begin new lives. His revenge complete, but still unfulfilled, the Count of Monte Cristo leaves Marseille with Haydee, the daughter of Ali Pasha, as he tries to find happiness anew.

Alexandre Dumas was a popular French writer, who wrote dozens of novels, plays, and nonfiction works in his life. He is most well known for The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as The Three Musketeers. The son of a famous mixed-race general born in what is now Haiti, Dumas was present for the most tumultuous years in French history, as governments came and went quickly. Political themes were common in his works. He is still widely read today, especially his most famous works, and he is honored in France where his ashes are currently interred in the Pantheon of Paris with other French luminaries.