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concerning Henri III et sa cour

     Henri III et sa Cour was Alexandre Dumas' first smash hit play, and is of considerable interest, both as a landmark in the history of the French theatre, and also because it bears the seed of many themes that Dumas would explore in his later work.
     Henri III was the last of the Valois monarchs, effeminate, weak, corrupt, and treacherous. He surrounded himself with "mignons," perfumed young men who flattered the King and did his bidding, while he maneuvered to maintain his grip on the throne against equally powerful and unscrupulous rivals. Henri's elderly mother, Catherine de Medici, helped introduce the political techniques of the Borgias--poison, assassination, and betrayal--into French politics.
     Dumas assembled several incidents from Henri's reign into his play. As the play opens, Henri's rule is threatened by his cousin Henri, Duc de Guise and the ruler of then independent principality of Lorraine. The Duc de Guise is the leader of the militant Catholic party, the Holy League, which is conspiring to unseat Henri III and extirpate Protestants throughout France.
     Dumas successively introduces St. Megrin, a young knight in the King's court and conveniently resurrects one of the greatest swordsmen of the era, Bussy de Amboise, whose death some years before (!) Dumas describes in La Dame de Monsoreau.
     The Duc de Guise returns from the battlefield, and demands that Henri III name the head of the Holy League. St. Megrin challenges the Duc to a duel, and Henry outmaneuvers him by naming himself as head of the Holy League. The Duc, however, has no wish to risk his life in a duel with St. Megrin. The Duc visits his fiancée, Therine, Princess of Porcian, having appeared, of course, in Le Comte de Monte Cristo. Many of the characters in the play (including Henri III, Catherine de Medici, the Duc de Guise, Bussy de Amboise, Joyeuse, Crillon, and the duc d'Epernon) will reappear in Dumas' Valois trilogy La Reine Margot, La Dame de Monsoreau, and Les Quarante-Cinq.

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