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In the movie adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Edmond Dantès lands at Elba, kills some British soldiers and knowingly accepts a letter from Napoleon Bonaparte. Whereas in the book he doesn't accept the letter directly from Napoleon and has no reason to believe it has anything to do with Napoleon.

To me having this scene at Elba was unnecessary (in more ways than one), it makes it hard to believe that he was just naive and does the meaning of his betrayal by Mondego and Danglars.

To put it in a more modern context, had a terrorist leader passed him a letter which was said to contain a letter to family but actually contained plans for an attack, then Mondego and Danglars would be considered heroes and Edmond's quest for revenge would not be justified.

So, can Edmond Dantès really be considered innocent of treason?

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I have watched the movie you have said. Yes, Edmond does accept the letter, but considering the time-frame (its not a modern movie in a modern society), I think Edmond cannot be considered a traitor. In those time, treason, bravery, etc. were highly valued.

As for the movie itself, adding that letter-taking part creates more tension among the viewers and questions the character of Edmond Dantes. So I think its necessary and Edmond cannot be wholly considered a traitor.

  • "In those time, treason, bravery, etc. were highly valued.", what do you mean by treason was highly valued? – row1 Dec 6 '11 at 1:17
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    I meant that even an act of treason is more dramatic and is a cause for gossip among peasants. It will even elate the status of a warrior among uneducated peasants a bit. – Roshnal Dec 6 '11 at 7:43
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Edmond Dantes landed at Elba, gave a letter to Captain Marshall as per the instruction given to him by Captain Leclere on his death bed. He also took another letter to an unknown person in Marseilles from Captain Marshall. His action was more based on his desire to fulfill a dying man's wish. If the Captain was not dying, Edmond wouldn't have had to take the letter. In the book, it is said that Napolean entered Captain Marshall's house when Dantes was there and spoke to him.

Also it cannot be denied that Edmond Dantes was totally naive about the consequences of his action if it was known to the King's people.

Edit: I have not watched the movie, but had recently read the book, an edition published by Wordsworth Classics. So my thoughts are sorely based on the book.

  • In the movie I thought they landed at Elba for medical attention and I didn't get the impression that the letter was premeditated. I could easily be mistaken though. – row1 Dec 8 '11 at 2:28
  • As I added in my edit, as per the book the Captain was the one who was supposed to collect the letter from Napolean. Since he was dying he asked Edmond to do the same. – Techiegirl Dec 8 '11 at 5:00
  • I could be mistaken, but in the book I didn't think he collected the letter directly from Napoleon himself (wikipedia suggests this as well): "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" – row1 Dec 8 '11 at 6:07
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    @row1 I have edited my answer. As per the book, Dantes collected the book from Captain Marshall, but he did meet Napolean in Captain Marshall's house during his visit. link – Techiegirl Dec 8 '11 at 11:36
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No, Dantès trusts that the content of the letter is innocent, and only accepts it reluctantly.

When Napoleon first asks Edmund to deliver the letter, Edmund says no (or is about to, before Napolean interrupts).

Napoleon proceeds to say:

It's just a letter from one old soldier to another. It's totally innocent, I assure you. But more important, it is the price I demand for the use of my physician.

One could argue that accepting the letter is foolish, but Dantès clearly doesn't do it out of any desire to betray France or help Napoleon regain power. If he wants that, he would gladly accept the letter without the need for further convincing.

When Villefort (a magistrate and therefore an expert in the law) questions Edmund, even he acknowledges that Dantès is not a traitor, explicitly stating, "You are no traitor". Villefort only has Dantès thrown in prison after Dantès reveals that he was supposed to deliver the letter to Villefort's father.

Also, a minor correction to something you said.

Dantès and Mondego do not kill any English soldiers. When the British Lieutenant cuts the unconscious ship captain, he says, "That's for my wounded men." This has no bearing on the question of whether Dantès is a traitor, but I wanted to offer that correction.

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