Chapter 1: The story's setting is France during the winter of 1815. The opening scene describes the slow arrival of the Pharaon, a merchant ship owned by Morrel and Son. The main character of the story and first-mate of the Pharaon, is Dantes. Since the captain of the ship, Leclere, has died, Morrel soon promotes Dantes to captain. Dantes is well-liked by all of the sailors, except Danglars, who is jealous of Dantes' favorable position with the owner, and hopes to discredit the nineteen-year-old. Soon Dantes' leaves the scene, fulfilling his promise to visit his father and then to see Mercedes, his fiance.
Chapter 2: The reader is introduced to Caderousse, the neighbor of Dantes' father. Soon the reader learns that Caderousse is a friend and fellow conspirator of Danglars. Dantes returns home to find his father without money. Leaving some money from his pocket, Dantes leaves his father to find Mercedes.
Chapter 3: This scene begins with Mercedes talking to Fernand, a friend who hopes to marry Mercedes. Yet the beautiful woman says she only loves him as a brother. Soon Dantes enters and greets Mercedes; it's evident that the two love each other greatly. Later, Fernand, Caderousse and Danglars drink together as they conspire to crash the wedding of the two lovers.
Chapter 4: The big wedding feast is prepared and soon the celebration begins. Suddenly soldiers barge into the hall, interrupting the feast and arresting the bridegroom, Dantes, taking him away. The reason for the arrest is not stated. Everyone is shocked, but Dantes believes that it's just a misunderstanding.
Chapter 5: The fifth chapter gives some historical background. Napoleon has been exiled to the Isle of Elba. The scene takes place in the home of some royalists, those who despise Napoleon and his followers and wish to restore the rule of monarchy. Villefort is planning to marry another aristocrat, though the wedding has not yet occurred. The reader learns that Villefort's father was a Bonapartist, a Napoleon supporter.
Soon Villefort, the district magistrate, and Dantes cross paths. Villefort is told that Dantes is a Bonapartist conspirator. Though it looks as though Dantes has tried to help Napoleon, actually the young sailor was simply following orders given to him be his late captain. One of the orders was to deliver a letter to someone is Paris. As Villefort questions Dantes, Dantes shows him the letter, hoping to reveal his innocence. Villefort reads the letter, seeing that it's addressed to his father, Noirtier. Hoping to destroy any evidence that he is helping the father whom he has disowned, Villefort burns the letter, telling Dantes never to speak about the affair again. Dantes is told that he will be released, but the sailor is forced to stay in prison for the night.