The Count of Monte Cristo

by: Alexandre Dumas

Vengeance

1

He condemned these unknown persecutors to the most horrible tortures he could imagine, but found them all insufficient, because after the torture came death, and after death, if not repose, at least that insensibility that resembles it.

Dantès deliberates while in prison. Although Dantès does not at this point know whom to blame for his captivity, he has already developed the definition of vengeance that will carry him through the rest of the story: Death seems too good for his enemies. The revenge should match his sentence, a torment he believes to be far worse than death. Dantès will apply this philosophy when he finally has the opportunity and confirms the identities of the guilty parties. In fact, vengeance will become his life’s work, because exacting retribution for what he has endured will take many years.

2

And now . . . farewell kindness, humanity, and gratitude! Farewell to all the feelings which expand the heart! I have been Heaven’s substitute to recompense the good— now the God of Vengeance yields to me his power to punish the wicked!

After his escape from prison, Dantès greatly enjoys helping out the Morrel family. But with that work finished, Dantès, almost reluctantly, turns to his work of vengeance. Although he has vowed to do the work, he does not actually expect to enjoy hurting others and dealing with unpleasant people. He knows his quest for vengeance might bring moral injury on himself. Nevertheless, he believes that he has been given the task by God: God both freed him and gave him an immense fortune with which to do the work. Thus Dantès believes he has both a duty and the power to fulfill his vow.

3

“[T]his is a glorious day for me,” continued the young girl, raising her ardent gaze to heaven, “for I find at last the opportunity of avenging my father.”

Other characters desire vengeance in addition to Dantès. The Greek princess Haydée, whose father was betrayed by Count Morcerf leading to her enslavement, never actively sought revenge like Dantès. As a child and now a young woman, such a path was not open to her. Yet when the opportunity to denounce and shame Morcerf in the House of Peers presents itself, Haydée insists on speaking to the assembly. She believes that her benefactor, Monte Cristo (Dantès), would not want her to do so, but in fact, Haydée denouncing Morcerf enacts Dantès’s vengeance just as much as Haydée’s.

4

Well! the French did not avenge themselves on the traitor; the Spaniards did not shoot the traitor; Ali, in his tomb, left the traitor unpunished; but I, betrayed, sacrificed, buried, have risen from my tomb, by the grace of God, to punish that man. He sends me for that purpose, and here I am.

Mercédès recognizes Dantès as the count of Monte Cristo. As Dantès points out to Mercédès, Morcerf’s career has been a series of betrayals, all unpunished until now. He betrayed Napoleon, going over to the king’s side; he betrayed his home country, Spain, by fighting for France; he allowed his Greek benefactor, Ali, to be killed by his enemies. Dantès’s desire for vengeance appears personal, but Morcerf’s downfall seems more than justified by plenty of additional crimes. In fact, Dantès insists that his vengeance enacts God’s punishment, not just his own. In the face of these arguments, Mercédès no longer asks Dantès to stop, only to spare her son.

5

The count breathed with difficulty, perspiration ran down his brow, anguish contracted his chest. ‘No!’ he murmured to himself, ‘no! The doubts I felt were the first stage of the process of forgetting; but in this place my heart rises up once more and cries out for revenge!’

Dantès as Monte Cristo has completed most of his acts of vengeance, and in so doing, some innocent people have suffered. Knowing this truth, he begins to have doubts about whether God has actually ordained his work. But then he visits his former prison, now a tourist attraction. He visits his former room and that of his mentor, Faria. Being in those rooms revives his memory of suffering and renews his belief in the justness of his work, as highlighted here in this scene. Dantès finds the motivation to complete his vengeful plan against his final betrayer, although he shows that man more mercy than the others received.