Template:About The Hunchback of Notre Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris) is a novel first published in 1831 by the prolific French author Victor Hugo. It is set about 1485 in Paris in and around the Cathedral.
The enormous popularity of the novel in France spurred the nascent historical preservation movement in that country and strongly encouraged Gothic revival architecture. Ultimately it helped to preserve Notre Dame Cathedral, where much of the story is based, in its contemporary state.
Plot summary Edit
The work is divided into eleven books each consisting of two to eight chapters. Template:Spoiler
The reader is introduced to Pierre Gringoire, a poor playwright who has come to the Great Hall to see his play performed on Epiphany. However, the performance goes awfully, with the play being interrupted by the heckling of the student crowds, the arrival of the Cardinal and the antics of a famous beggar (Clopin Trouillefou). The crowds see Quasimodo, the eponymous hunchback, and there is a commotion at his hideousness. They are then enchanted by the sight of Esmeralda, a gypsy, dancing in the square. Gringoire leaves, bitter over his play's failure and disgusted by the Paris of his times.
Cold and hungry, Gringoire wanders the streets and finds himself in the thieves' quarter. He sees Esmeralda and her goat, Djali, performing acts and decides to follow her in the hope of finding shelter. Quasimodo attempts to kidnap Esmeralda(at the request of the Archdeacon Frollo, who is infatuated with her), but his attempt is foiled by Phoebus, captain of the King's Archers, whom Esmeralda instantly admires. Gringoire wanders into the Court of Miracles, where he is cornered by charlatan beggars. The thieves (led by Trouillefou) sentence him to death for trespassing, but Esmeralda arrives and offers to marry him to save his life. Gringoire accompanies Esmeralda to her home, but she is less than friendly.
Hugo digresses in two long descriptions, one regarding the cathedral, the other the various streets and architecture of Paris at the time of the novel, and how it compares to the Paris of Hugo's time. His neo-Gothic viewpoints and criticism of "modernization" are explained.
We are told about Quasimodo's background - how he was found as a hideous and abandoned baby and taken in by Claude Frollo, the archdeacon of Notre Dame. Quasimodo's life within the confines of the cathedral and his only two outlets - ringing the bells (which eventually deafens him) and his love for Frollo - are described. Frollo is shown to be a formidably intellectual man, forced early on to become a parental figure when he and his younger brother, Jehan, are orphaned. As the years go by, we see Frollo's growing withdrawal into himself, and his fascination with alchemy - as well as his related unpopularity.
Frollo is visited by his friend Coictier and Coictier's mysterious friend Tourangeau, who is inquisitive about Frollo's learning. Frollo explains his quest for alchemic immortality, his meddling with the arcane and how he reads the mystical dimensions of the cathedral; his guests think him mad. In parting, Tourangeau hints at his true identity - King Louis XI. In the next chapter, Hugo expands on a comment of Frollo's which portrays two great human endeavours - printing and architecture - as diametrical opposites, and argues that the former has displaced the latter.
We return to Quasimodo, who is on trial for the attempted kidnapping of Esmeralda. He, a deaf bellringer, is tried by a deaf judge, and the resulting misunderstandings lead to Quasimodo being sentenced to the pillory. During his sentence and flagellation, he is abused and humiliated by both his captors and the crowds; and it is his victim Esmeralda who has pity on him and gives him water after the ordeal is over. At that point, a woman shouts a curse at Esmeralda. The woman is Paquette la Chanterfleurie, a recluse who has made a cell for herself on the street as a sign of mourning for her daughter, whom she believes to have been kidnapped by gypsies. Paquette especially despises Esmeralda, as she is the same age as her lost daughter.
Esmeralda encounters Phoebus along with his wealthy fiancée and her family, and the gypsy's infatuation with him becomes apparent to all present. Phoebus' hope for a lucrative marriage does not keep him from arranging an illicit rendezvous with Esmeralda. Meanwhile, Frollo's madness and obsession grow as he obtains information about Esmeralda from an unsuspecting Gringoire. With the help of his brother, Jehan, Frollo strikes up a deal with Phoebus that allows him to hide and watch Phoebus and Esmeralda during their meeting. He spies on their encounter as agreed upon until he is no longer able to control himself, at which point he emerges and stabs Phoebus. Esmeralda faints and wakes up to find herself arrested for murder.
The chapter is noted for a heated encounter between Claude Frollo, who is struggling with his lust over Esmeralda, and Jehan, who wants Claude to loan him money to pay for his debaucheries.
Although it turns out the stabbing is not fatal, Esmeralda is brought to trial and convicted for Phoebus' attempted murder. The author mocks the Parisian justice system for their blindness. Frollo visits her in the dungeon and offers salvation in return for giving herself to him - a proposition which she vehemently rejects. In the meanwhile, Phoebus does nothing to help Esmeralda. Just before she is about to be hanged, Quasimodo dramatically storms down from the cathedral, takes her and runs back in, leading her to a sanctuary where the law cannot touch her.
While Frollo is close to a breakdown because of his obsession with Esmeralda, she is living in sanctuary in the cathedral tower. She is grateful to Quasimodo for saving her and taking care of her, but is unable to get past his monstrous appearance. Quasimodo even attempts to get Phoebus to meet her, but the fickle captain refuses to go. After Frollo finds out about where Esmeralda's room is, there is a confrontation between him, Quasimodo and Esmeralda and for the first time, there is contention between Frollo and his adopted son.
Claude Frollo meets with Gringoire and informs Esmeralda's husband that the Parlement of Paris has voted to strip her of her sanctuary and send her to the gallows within three days' time. In an attempt to save Esmeralda from the Parlement, Gringoire reports the bad news to the thief clans of Paris, based in the Court of Miracles, who organize an assault on the cathedral. This leads to an enormous riot with many casualties (including Jehan), as Quasimodo defends the cathedral by flinging down stones, timber, and molten lead. Gringoire is almost arrested and put to death by the king in the commotion but escapes. The mob storms the building, only to be forced to retreat when the King's troops arrive on the scene and defeat the mob in a very bloody battle. Quasimodo finds Esmeralda's cell empty, Gringoire and Frollo having taken her away.
Esmeralda escapes with Gringoire and Frollo follows, hiding himself till Gringoire slips away. Frollo again pleads with Esmeralda and when she rejects him, he turns her over to the recluse in the cell. Paquette seizes Esmeralda, raising a cry for her to be hanged. Moments later, she realizes that Esmeralda is actually her long-lost daughter - but it is too late for them to reconcile as the guards arrive and wrench them apart. Phoebus witnesses part of the struggle, but does nothing. From the cathedral, Quasimodo sees Esmeralda hanged. He sees Frollo laughing maniacally at the scene, realizes that he was the catalyst of the whole plot, and pushes the mad priest off a balcony to his death. Quasimodo, overcome by grief, entombs himself with Esmeralda, and that is where his skeleton is found.
Thematic concerns Edit
As stated by many critics and scholars, the Cathedral of Notre Dame appears to be the main setting, which is almost elevated to the status of a character. Indeed, the original French title of the book, Notre-Dame de Paris (literally, Our Lady of Paris) shows that the cathedral (and not Quasimodo) is the subject of the story. The book portrays the Gothic era as one of extremes of architecture, passion, and religion; which, despite being the cause of many problems, are seen by Hugo to be more authentic than the sentiments of his time. Like many of his other works, Hugo is also very concerned with social justice, and his descriptions of religious fanaticism are also examined.
Many film adaptations of the novel have simplified the thematic and historical concerns greatly, leading to the most important theme being the mistreatment of Quasimodo for his ugliness, and the moral that one shouldn't judge people by their looks. However, this is a very small part of Hugo's novel (especially as Quasimodo is much less sympathetic than he is in many film adaptations).
Reception of the work Edit
The title given in some English translations has led some people to believe the primary character of the drama was the hunchback, Quasimodo. However, this was not the author's intent. The author felt the primary character was the Notre Dame de Paris itself, the Cathedral. The human drama within the novel revolves around the gypsy Esmeralda, and which of several suitors she will choose. Other notable characters include the philosophical poet Gringoire, Claude Frollo the lust-haunted priest, and the soldier Phoebus. Generally, most readers consider Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and Claude Frollo to be the story's three major characters.
The story has been adapted to the screen a number of times, including:
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), silent film starring Lon Chaney, Sr. as Quasimodo
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956), starring Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1982), starring Anthony Hopkins as Quasimodo
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), animated film starring Tom Hulce as the voice of Quasimodo
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