This story begins with a rather attractive young seaman named Edmond Dantes, who is just getting back from a journey aboard the Pharaon. The vessels owner, Mr. Morrel, finds out that his ship's captain died along the way and that Mr. Dantes took over the duties with astonishing skill. Mr. Morrel hires him officially as the Captain for the next voyage.
Dante's plans to marry with Mercedes, a beautiful girl who has been waiting for him to arrive from his voyage. He and his father's future appear to very promising, however Dante's future will never come to pass. His achievement, being great, also gets him the attention of three people who plan to ruin him. They are Danglars, Fernand Mondego, and Caderousse. Danglar wants to take the position of caption for the vessel Pharaon, Fernand wants to steal away Mercedes' love, and Caderousse is just simply jealous of Dantes good fortune, and wants to see him fail.
In an unfortunate twist of fate, the three enemies write a letter which slanders the ruling party and it is delivered to the public prosecutor, Monsieur de Villefort. Monsieur de Villefort is worried about his own personal career, and so not taking strong action in this case might ruin his own reputation among the ruling royalists. He then incarcerates Dantes, who is innocent, into the prison Chateau D'lf.
During the course of Dantes imprisonment, the politcs change and Dante is left to serve out the unjust sentence he has been given. Dantes begins to abandon all home and tries to commit suicide by not eating. His fate changes again when his neighbor, who was secretly building a tunnel to escape, ends up creating a path to Dantes' cell instead. He tells Dantes of a large treasure on the Isle of Monte Cristo, and hopes that Dantes can find it if he ever manages to escape. Finally his neighboring cell mate dies and Dantes replaces the body with his own. They toss the body bag into the sea, where he is rescued by some Italian smugglers....