Programming / Epic Play
In all the ingredients that make it possible to invent a story that will blow the listeners, or readers, or spectators away, there is, almost before anything else, a villain.
The more this character is well thought out, well conducted, well used, the more likely your story will leave a lasting impression.
I won’t even mention Darth Vader anymore – he’s a given on this subject. Or Sauron – the prince of cats – that’s funny, Tybalt is also the prince of cats.
If you agree with me on this, then come on, let’s continue.
The villainous character that occupies me tonight is called Milady.
Need I say that she is a woman? – So much for those who are talking nonsense on the subject.
His author is Creole – black – he was and still is an absolute idol in France: his name is Alexandre Dumas, his father was a very great general of the Grande Armée (Napoleon is never far from my heart) – a West Indian general. Here’s my author who I’ve always loved right in the hearts of the 2020s worriers, he ticks all the boxes – how come he’s from the 1830s?
In short, he’s very much in the modern mainstream, and all the better for it.
The most famous story he wrote is called: The Three Musketeers.
And here comes the beautiful, treacherous, terrible and chilling Milady.
Without her, no story.
Without her, no fear.
The story is that of the 3 Musketeers who are 4, since to the 3 original musketeers: Athos Porthos and Aramis, is added a guy from Bearn who was called D’Artagnan – it has been adapted and played so much, is it really necessary to retrace it?
In a nutshell, we land in the royal court of France – before Versailles. The King is Louis XIII – the Queen Anne of Austria. Their eldest son would become quite famous under the title of Louis XIV.
Louis XIII has a hard time imposing Royalty in France – which is not yet unified. His mother – Marie de Medici – did not help him, since this charming lady twice raised armies against her son, whom she considered unfit to rule.
Twice, her son defeated his mother’s armies.
The second time, he begged her – literally begged her – not to force him to lay hands on that head he loved. She understood – and then no one would fight for her anymore.
Inside, the kingdom was ruled by the Cardinal de Richelieu – Richelieu, it is historical, loved cats and was gladly nicknamed Prince of Cats.
Anne and Louis do not love each other – they are not married to love each other but to consolidate alliances.
Anne is a beautiful woman – she is Austrian – she is sad.
Of course, a man begins to love her.
Of course he is an Englishman.
As a present of love, she gives him a jewel box containing “her diamond earrings”, given by her royal husband Louis XIII.
It was a mistake.
There is enough here to start a war against the English.
Richelieu learns the story – decides to catch Queen Anne and her English lover.
He has an idea: the Queen will have to wear the King’s earrings at the next big party.
And so the story begins: the King’s Musketeers, in order to save their Queen’s honor, will do everything they can to retrieve the jewels in time to bring them back to Anne before the fateful hour when she must appear at the ball.
The Cardinal’s agents will do everything to ensure that this rescue fails.
The Cardinal’s best agent is called Milady – Milady de Winter.
She is an excellent and rare female character.
She is beautiful.
Her eyes, it is said, are enough to disturb the bravest man – d’Artagnan will be defeated. Athos was.
But she is not a Mata Hari, Milady.
She does not sell her body, her charms or her kisses.
She doesn’t sell anything at all.
She seduces – she uses it – but gives nothing.
She fights – a little – but not like a man – she doesn’t pretend to be a fencing queen or to win a duel with a pistol (and a period one).
But fear is a feeling that is foreign to her.
If she has to brave the storms of the sea, she will brave them – it’s in the pouring rain and strong winds that she will land in England.
In carrying out her mission, she is calm – cold – indifferent – and a little too intelligent. She is a monolith – an adversary that we don’t know how to beat – an adversary so strong that the four musketeers who fight against her don’t seem to be well enough armed.
And that’s where she really comes into her own as the Big Bad of literature.
Dumas has portrayed her well enough to make us fear for these heroes who are great heroes.
And since she is a woman, we know they will hesitate. And they hesitate.
When they hesitate, they lose.
Because she is an extremely well-written, extremely well-thought-out character, until the end, the reader/viewer believes that she can turn the tables and win.
– which helps to make the end of the story – which is definitely not as cute as Darth Vader’s end – go by.
Because of this, Milady is an extremely difficult female role to play – and before that, extremely difficult to adapt – it’s so much easier to play on the habits we have with female characters.
But saying what I say, and reading what I read, I say that Milady is definitely worth being treated well in adaptation – without falling into unbearable caricatures of girls. Because she’s a real girl – and she doesn’t need help to exist as a character.
On the contrary.
If I add that the story takes place for the most part in the Louvre – Versailles doesn’t exist, Louis XIV wasn’t even born yet, poor guy – that the Louvre is known for its hidden corridors, its false doors, its hidden staircases, its lack of light – its frightening atmosphere in a word – then I’m adding a setting that isn’t exploited enough when it works so well.
And why be stingy? we can even slip in the fact that Louis, the son of Anne and Louis XIII, will spend his whole life avenging his mother and his brother’s fears – Anne of Austria’s misfortunes were just beginning – and it’s her son who will do the best job of defending her – isn’t that a nice ending? and a true one at that. Without this story, no absolute monarchy, no Sun King, no Versailles, no system thought out in every detail to humiliate the Nobility who had wanted to humiliate his mother.
Featured Image : Maimie Mc Coy, as Milady de Winter – in The Muskeeters – BBC TV series