Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 711
Quasimodo (kah-zee-MOH-doh), a bellringer abandoned in infancy at Notre Dame Cathedral on Quasimodo Sunday, 1476, and now deaf from the din of the bells he rings. He is also unspeakably ugly, with tusk-like teeth and a wen over one eye, bristling red hair and eyebrows, and a snoutlike nose. Because of his horrible appearance, the Paris crowd selects him King of Fools for the Epiphany celebrations of 1482. During the carnival, he sees Esmeralda, the gypsy who dances before him. When he is later pilloried and beaten, she brings him a drink. From then on, he is her devoted slave and on several occasions saves her from Archdeacon Frollo, his benefactor. When she is hanged through Frollo’s scheming, he hurls the priest from the bell tower, then weeps at the death of the only two people he has ever loved. Years later, when the vault of Montfaucon, burial place of criminals, is opened, a skeleton of a woman in white is found in the arms of a misshapen man with a crooked spine. The bones disintegrate into dust when touched.
Esmeralda (ehz-meh-RAHL-dah), a lovely and kindhearted gypsy who possesses an amulet by which she hopes to find her family. She and her goat Djali dance to earn their living. Attracted to Captain Phoebus after he saves her from kidnapping, she agrees to a rendezvous in a house on the Pont St. Michel. There the officer is stabbed by Frollo, but Esmeralda is accused of the crime. Under torture, she confesses to everything and is sentenced to be hanged. With Quasimodo’s help, however, she escapes while confessing to Frollo and takes sanctuary in the church. Gringoire deceives her into leaving when the mob attacks Notre Dame. For a time, she hides in the cell of a madwoman, in reality her mother from whom the gypsies had stolen her. Soldiers of Captain Phoebus’ company find her there. Clothed in white, she is hanged at dawn.
Pierre Gringoire (pyehr green-GWAHR), a penniless and stupid Parisian poet who falls in love with Esmeralda. He writes a play to entertain the Flemish ambassadors at the Palace of Justice. Captured later by thugs and threatened with hanging, he is freed when Esmeralda promises to marry him, but the marriage is never consummated. At Frollo’s bidding, Gringoire tempts the girl from her sanctuary, and she is captured.
Captain Phoebus de Châteaupers
Captain Phoebus de Châteaupers (fay-BEWS deh shah-toh-PEHR), loved by Esmeralda. He reveals to Frollo his rendezvous with her and is stabbed by the jealous priest. When Esmeralda is accused of the crime, Phoebus allows her be tried for his murder because he is fearful for his reputation if he appears. Soon he forgets the gypsy and marries his cousin, Fleur-de-Lys.
Claude Frollo (klohd froh-YOH), the archdeacon of Notre Dame, once an upright priest but now a student of alchemy and necromancy as well as a pursuer of women. Determined to possess Esmeralda, he sends Quasimodo in disguise to seize her. Her rescue by Captain Phoebus makes him try to kill the officer. When Esmeralda is accused of the crime, he offers to save her if she will give herself to him. Failing to possess her, he shakes with evil laughter as he looks down from Notre Dame at her hanging in the Place de Gréve. He is found by Quasimodo and hurled to his death on the pavement below.
The Dauphin Charles
The Dauphin Charles (doh-FAH[N] shahrl), of France, whose marriage to Margaret of Flanders occasions the celebration at the beginning of the novel.
Charles, cardinal de Bourbon, who provides the dramatic entertainment for the visiting Flemish guests.
Tristan (trees-TAHN), who directs Captain Phoebus’ soldiers in search of Esmeralda.
Jacques Charmolue (zhahk shahr-moh-LEW), the king’s attorney in the ecclesiastical court that tries Esmeralda for witchcraft.
Philippe Lheulier (fee-LEEP lewl-YAY), the king’s advocate extraordinary, who accuses her.
Gudule (gew-DEWL), an ex-prostitute whose daughter Agnes had been stolen by gypsies. She has gone mad and for fifteen years has lived in a cell. She fondles constantly a shoe that her baby had worn. When Esmeralda takes refuge there, she produces its companion, and mother and daughter are briefly reunited.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1616
Coictier is the king’s physician who accompanies the king to visit Frollo to ask him about his medical knowledge.
Coppenole is a hosier who travels with the royal party from Brussels. Although he is a mere maker of hoses, he is announced as if he too were royalty. Coppenole has a way with the crowds in the opening of the novel, giving the reader a contrast between how the populace related to royalty and how royalty related to them, emphasizing the gap between them. Coppenole is the bridge. It is Coppenole who also suggests the election of the pope of fools, which introduces Quasimodo.
Robert d’Estouteville is the provost of Paris and presides over the trial of Quasimodo, finally sentencing him to a severe public beating.
Demoiselle Fleur de Lys
Demoiselle Fleur de Lys is the betrothed of Captain Phoebus. When she notices that Phoebus is interest in La Esmeralda’s dancing, she suggests that he invite La Esmeralda to the party they are going to. At the party, La Esmeralda becomes the center of attraction with all the men, making all the women jealous.
Florian, the king’s auditor, is deaf like Quasimodo. The crowd finds the shared deafness hilarious, which makes Florian indignant. When he demonstrates his annoyance, Provost d’Estouteville blames Quasimodo and sentences him to a beating.
Claude Frollo is the priest (later becoming the archdeacon at Notre Dame) who adopts Quasimodo. He starts off a somewhat softhearted individual who not only cares for Quasimodo but also Frollo’s orphaned younger brother Jehan. But as time passes Frollo’s heart hardens, and his pursuit of knowledge does not completely fulfill him. He is somewhat an outcast himself, having spent most of his youth studying. His adoption of Quasimodo draws him further away from other people, who think Quasimodo is related to the devil.
Frollo finds himself distracted by his lust for La Esmeralda. He has Quasimodo kidnap La Esmeralda in a desperate attempt to conquer her. Then he demonstrates his lack of morals when he allows the authorities to punish Quasimodo for the crime that Frollo technically perpetrated. When Frollo realizes that no matter what he does, he cannot possess La Esmeralda because the only man she wants is Phoebus, Frollo stabs Phoebus and allows, once again, someone else to be punished for his crime; this time it is La Esmeralda who must suffer. After Quasimodo helps La Esmeralda escape from being hanged, Frollo employs Gringoire to help him take La Esmeralda away from Quasimodo’s protection. Frollo then turns La Esmeralda over to the king’s authorities and laughs when La Esmeralda is hanged. This outrages Quasimodo, who then throws Frollo out of the tower. The character of Frollo is the most complex, filled with contradictions. He raises orphans but allows others to be punished for his crimes. He is a priest, who should be committed to purity and devotion, but he lusts after La Esmeralda and is the cause of her death.
Jehan is the younger brother of Claude Frollo. Upon their parents’ deaths, Claude takes upon himself the raising of his younger orphaned brother, hoping that Jehan will become scholarly. Jehan does not, thus disappointing his brother. Jehan lives with the gypsies and constantly begs for money from his brother. However, his brother’s caring for Jehan represents the softer side of Claude.
Gringoire is a poet and dramatist, who was orphaned and later educated by Claude Frollo. It is with Gringoire’s play that Hugo opens his story. Gringoire is not a successful playwright by any means. His play is scarcely even listened to. He wanders the streets in search of food and a place to sleep and ends up in a sanctuary of gypsies, who threaten to kill him unless one of the females agrees to marry him. La Esmeralda comes to Gringoire’s rescue but after the marriage ceremony is performed lets Gringoire know that their relationship will never amount to more than that of brother and sister.
See Paquette La Chantfleurie
Pacquette La Chantfleurie
Pacquette, as a young mother, has her baby stolen from her. In her baby’s place, she is given Quasimodo, whom she abandons in the church. Pacquette’s baby was stolen from her by a band of gypsies, and she finds out toward the end of the novel that her baby is none other than La Esmeralda. Pacquette’s sorrow drives her crazy, and she is locked up in Rolande’s Tower where she takes the name Sister Gudule. Later, Frollo locks La Esmeralda in the same cell in Rolande’s Tower with Pacquette. While they share the cell, Pacquette and La Esmeralda discover they are mother and daughter. When the soldiers come to take La Esmeralda away, Pacquette fights to keep her daughter with her. In the process, one of the soldiers knocks her away, killing her.
La Esmeralda is the physical antithesis of Quasimodo. She is so beautiful crowds form around her just so they can see her walk by. Despite this physical disparity, La Esmeralda and Quasimodo have much in common. They are both outcasts (Quasimodo because of his physical infirmities and La Esmeralda because of her lack of proper standing in the community) and they both have pure hearts. They are also individuals who reach out to others in time of need. Both are depicted as innocents, people who are filled with complete trust, often even blinded by it.
La Esmeralda, like Quasimodo, knows little of her parentage. She was stolen by Egyptian gypsies when she was a baby. But unlike Quasimodo, La Esmeralda, as she matures into full womanhood, loves to be around people. People respond to her in positive ways. Because of her beauty, men cannot help but want her for their own. Gringoire falls in love with her for her beauty. Frollo and Phoebus lust after her. And Quasimodo falls in love with for her generous heart. But La Esmeralda wants only Phoebus. She thinks only he can give her the love that she craves. After Frollo stabs Phoebus, La Esmeralda is left with his body. When the king’s authorities arrive, she is accused of the crime and sentenced to death. Quasimodo saves her by stealing her away, but Frollo eventually turns her in. She is hanged for the crime. La Esmeralda affects many of the characters in this novel, but her character is not well developed. She enters the story and leaves it unchanged—beautiful and innocent.
King Louis XI
King Louis, the reigning monarch, visits Frollo to find out how much he knows about medicine. After interviewing him, the king is satisfied that Frollo knows what he is talking about and decides to study under him.
Phoebus is the captain of the king’s army, a handsome man who seduces women, including La Esmeralda. In a desperate act of jealousy, Frollo stabs Phoebus, leaving La Esmeralda with the bleeding body and allowing La Esmeralda to be charged with the crime. Unknown to La Esmeralda, Phoebus does not die but actually heals from his wounds and is later responsible for arresting a band of gypsies, which includes La Esmeralda.
Quasimodo is the hunchback, a man so disfigured that many people believe he is no less than the devil. He is abandoned in the church by his mother who cannot confront his ugliness and is taken under the care of Claude Frollo, one of the priests. To keep him busy, Quasimodo (whose name is given him because he is left in the church on Quasimodogeniti Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter), is given the task of ringing the bells of Notre Dame, a task that eventually causes him to go deaf.
Quasimodo is totally devoted to Frollo, the only person who befriends him. Therefore when Frollo asks him to kidnap La Esmeralda, Quasimodo does so without hesitation. He later suffers the punishment for this crime, surprised and totally dejected that Frollo does not come to his aid. When La Esmeralda shows affection toward him, Quasimodo falls madly in love with her and proves that he will do anything for her by saving her from a death sentence for a crime she has not committed. Then he takes her into the cathedral and shelters her. At one point Quasimodo must choose between his first love, Frollo, and his love for La Esmeralda when Frollo attempts to rape her. Quasimodo turns against his first master and saves the woman he loves. In the end, however, Quasimodo is incapable of protecting her. When he realizes that Frollo is the cause of her death, he throws Frollo from one of the cathedral towers. Quasimodo then realizes that the only two people he ever loved are dead, and he dies in the vault of Mountfaucon, holding onto the dead body of La Esmeralda. Quasimodo is the so-called beast in this story but only on a physical level. His beauty lies within, in his love and in his loyalty.
See King Louis XI
Clopin appears in the opening scene of the novel as a beggar who climbs one of the pillars and cries out for alms. He fakes infirmities in order to attract more charity. Later, readers learn that Trouillefou is the leader of the band of gypsies of which La Esmeralda is a member. He calls himself the King of Thunes. Trouillefou in his capacity as leader threatens to kill Gringoire, stating that he can only be saved if a female gypsy agrees to marry him. La Esmeralda accepts the bid.
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