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The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

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Title: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame  
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Subject: Esméralda (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), Victor Hugo, Claude Frollo, The Darling of Paris, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (musical)
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The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Illustration from
Victor Hugo et son temps (1881)
Author Victor Hugo
Original title Notre-Dame de Paris
Translator Frederic Shoberl (English)
Illustrator Luc-Olivier Merson (original)
Country France
Language French
Genre Romanticism, Gothic fiction
Publisher Gosselin
Publication date
14 January 1831

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris) is a French Romantic/Gothic novel by Victor Hugo published in 1831. The title refers to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, on which the story is centered.


Victor Hugo began writing The Hunchback of Notre-Dame in 1829, largely to make his contemporaries more aware of the value of the Gothic architecture, which was neglected and often destroyed to be replaced by new buildings, or defaced by replacement of parts of buildings in a newer style. For instance, the medieval stained glass panels of Notre-Dame de Paris had been replaced by white glass to let more light into the church.[1] This explains the large descriptive sections of the book, which far exceed the requirements of the story. A few years earlier, Hugo had already published a paper entitled Guerre aux Démolisseurs (War to the Demolishers) specifically aimed at saving Paris' medieval architecture.[2] The agreement with his original publisher, Gosselin, was that the book would be finished that same year, but Hugo was constantly delayed due to the demands of other projects. In the summer of 1830 Gosselin demanded that Hugo complete the book by February 1831. Beginning in September 1830, Hugo worked nonstop on the project thereafter. The book was finished six months later.


The story begins on Epiphany (6 January), 1482, the day of the Feast of Fools in Paris, France. Quasimodo, a deformed hunchback who is the bell-ringer of Notre Dame, is introduced by his crowning as the Pope of Fools.

Esmeralda, a beautiful Gypsy street dancer with a kind and generous heart, captures the hearts of many men, including those of Captain Phoebus and Pierre Gringoire, a poor street poet, but especially Quasimodo and his adoptive father, Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame. Frollo is torn between his obsessive lust and the rules of the church. He orders Quasimodo to kidnap her, but the hunchback is captured by Phoebus and his guards, who save Esmeralda.

The following day, Quasimodo is sentenced to be flogged and turned on the pillory for one hour, followed by another hour's public exposure. He calls for water. Esmeralda, seeing his thirst, approaches the public stocks and offers him a drink of water. It saves him, and she captures his heart.

Esmeralda is later charged with the attempted murder of Phoebus, whom Frollo actually attempted to kill in jealousy after seeing him trying to seduce Esmeralda, and is tortured and sentenced to death by hanging. As she is being led to the gallows, Quasimodo swings down by the bell rope of Notre Dame and carries her off to the cathedral under the law of sanctuary, temporarily protecting her from arrest.

Frollo later informs Gringoire that the Court of Parliament has voted to remove Esmeralda's right to sanctuary so she can no longer seek shelter in the church and will be taken from the church and killed. Clopin, the king of the Truands (criminals of Paris), hears the news from Gringoire and rallies the Truands to charge the cathedral and rescue Esmeralda.

When Quasimodo sees the Truands, he assumes they are there to hurt Esmeralda, so he drives them off. Likewise, he thinks the King's men want to rescue her, and tries to help them find her. She is rescued by Frollo and her phony husband Gringoire. But after yet another failed attempt to win her love, Frollo betrays Esmeralda by handing her to the troops and watches while she is being hanged.

When Frollo laughs during Esmeralda's hanging, Quasimodo pushes him from the heights of Notre Dame to his death. Quasimodo later goes to Montfaucon, a huge graveyard in Paris where the bodies of the condemned are dumped, where he stays with Esmeralda's dead body and dies of starvation. About eighteen months later, the tomb is opened, and the skeletons are found. As someone tries to separate them, Quasimodo's bones turn to dust.


  • Quasimodo is the bell-ringer of Notre Dame and a barely verbal hunchback. Ringing the church bells has made him deaf. Abandoned as a baby, he was adopted by Claude Frollo. Quasimodo's life within the confines of the cathedral and his only two outlets — ringing the bells and his love and devotion for Frollo — are described. He ventures outside the Cathedral rarely, since people despise and shun him for his appearance. The notable occasions when he does leave are his taking part in the Festival of Fools — during which he is elected the Pope of Fools due to his perfect hideousness — and his subsequent attempt to kidnap Esmeralda, his rescue of Esmeralda from the gallows, his attempt to bring Phoebus to Esmeralda, and his final abandonment of the cathedral at the end of the novel. It is revealed in the story that the baby Quasimodo was left by the Gypsies in place of Esmeralda, whom they abducted.
  • Esmeralda (born Agnes) is a beautiful young gypsy street dancer who is naturally compassionate and kind. She is the center of the human drama within the story. A popular focus of the citizens' attentions, she experiences their changeable attitudes, being first adored as an entertainer, then hated as a witch, before being lauded again for her dramatic rescue by Quasimodo. When the King finally decides to put her to death, he does so in the belief that the Parisian mob wants her dead. She is loved by both Quasimodo and Claude Frollo, but falls deeply in love with Captain Phoebus, a handsome soldier who she believes will rightly protect her but who simply wants to seduce her. She is one of the few characters to show the Quasimodo a moment of human kindness, as shown when she gives him water after the hunchback's flogging.
  • Claude Frollo, the novel's main antagonist, is the Archdeacon of Notre Dame. His dour attitude and his alchemical experiments have alienated him from the Parisians, who believe him a sorcerer. His parents having died of plague when he was a young man, he is without family save for Quasimodo, for whom he cares, and his spoiled brother Jehan, whom he attempts to reform towards a better life. Frollo's numerous sins include lechery, failed alchemy and other listed vices. His mad attraction to Esmeralda sets off a chain of events, including her attempted abduction and Frollo almost murdering Phoebus in a jealous rage, leading to Esmeralda's execution.
  • Jehan Frollo is Claude Frollo's over-indulged younger brother. He is a troublemaker and a student at the university. He is dependent on his brother for money, which he then proceeds to squander on alcohol. Quasimodo kills him during the attack on the cathedral. He briefly enters the cathedral by ascending one of the towers with a borrowed ladder, but Quasimodo sees him and throws him down to his death.
  • Phoebus de Chateaupers is the Captain of the King's Archers. After he saves Esmeralda from abduction, she becomes infatuated with him, and he is intrigued by her. Already betrothed to the beautiful but spiteful Fleur-de-Lys, he wants to lie with Esmeralda nonetheless but is prevented when Frollo stabs him. Phoebus survives but Esmeralda is taken to be the attempted assassin by all, including Phoebus himself.
  • Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier is a beautiful and wealthy socialite engaged to Phoebus. Phoebus's attentions to Esmeralda make her insecure and jealous, and she and her friends respond by treating Esmeralda with contempt and spite. Fleur-de-Lys later neglects to inform Phoebus that Esmeralda has not been executed, which serves to deprive the pair of any further contact—though as Phoebus no longer loves Esmeralda by this time, this does not matter. The novel ends with their wedding.
  • Pierre Gringoire, the novel's protagonist, is a struggling poet. He mistakenly finds his way into the "Court of Miracles", the domain of the Truands. In order to preserve the secrecy, Gringoire must either be killed by hanging, or marry a Gypsy. Although Esmeralda does not love him, and in fact believes him a coward rather than a true man — unlike Phoebus, he failed in his attempt to rescue her from Quasimodo — she takes pity on his plight and marries him. But, because she is already in love with Phoebus, much to his disappointment, she will not let him touch her.
  • Sister Gudule, formerly named Paquette la Chantefleurie, is an anchoress, who lives in seclusion in an exposed cell in central Paris. She is tormented by the loss of her daughter Agnes, whom she believes to have been cannibalised by Gypsies as a baby, and devotes her life to mourning her. Her long-lost daughter turns out to be Esmeralda.
  • Louis XI is the King of France. Appears briefly when he is brought the news of the rioting at Notre Dame. He orders his guard to kill the rioters, and also the "witch" Esmeralda.
  • Tristan l'Hermite is a friend of King Louis XI. He leads the band that goes to capture Esmeralda.
  • Henriet Cousin is the city executioner, who hangs Esmeralda.
  • Florian Barbedienne is the judge who sentences Quasimodo to be tortured. He is also deaf.
  • Jacques Charmolue is Frollo's friend in charge of torturing prisoners. He gets Esmeralda to falsely confess to killing Phoebus. He then has her imprisoned.
  • Clopin Trouillefou is the King of Truands. He rallies the Court of Miracles to rescue Esmeralda from Notre Dame after the idea is suggested by Gringoire. He is eventually killed during the attack by the King's soldiers.
  • Pierrat Torterue is the torturer who tortures Esmeralda after her interrogation. He hurts Esmeralda so badly she falsely confesses, sealing her own fate. He was also the official who administered the savage flogging awarded to Quasimodo by Barbedienne.

Major themes

The novel's original French title, Notre-Dame de Paris (the formal title of the Cathedral) indicates that the Cathedral itself is the most significant aspect of the novel, both the main setting and the focus of the story's themes. With the notable exception of Phoebus and Esmeralda's meeting, almost every major event in the novel takes place within, atop, and around the outside of the cathedral, and also can be witnessed by a character standing within, atop, and around the outside of the cathedral. The Cathedral had fallen into disrepair at the time of writing, which Hugo wanted to point out. The book portrays the Gothic era as one of the extremes of architecture, passion, and religion. The theme of determinism (fate and destiny) is explored as well as revolution and social strife.[3]

The severe distinction of the social classes is shown by the relationships of Quasimodo and Esmeralda with higher-caste people in the book. Readers can also see a variety of modern themes emanating from the work including nuanced views on gender dynamics. For example, Phoebus objectifies Esmeralda as a sexual object. And, while Esmeralda is frequently cited as a paragon of purity — this is certainly how Quasimodo sees her — she is nonetheless seen to create her own objectification of the archer captain, Phoebus, that is at odds with readers' informed view of the man.

In the novel, Hugo introduces one of several themes in the preface and the first story of book one, titled “The Grand Hall.” This theme is the exploration of cultural evolution and how mankind has been able to almost seamlessly transmit its ideas from one era to another through literature, architecture, and art. Hugo explores the cultural evolution not only between medieval and modern France but also the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome, and he continues to elaborate on this theme throughout the entirety of the first book.

Another important theme in the novel is that a person cannot be judged by their looks or appearance. Since Frollo is a priest, a person would normally assume him to be a kind and righteous man. In truth, he is despicably cruel, manipulative, and evil. In contrast, most people judged Quasimodo to be the devil because of his disfigured outward appearance. Inside, however, he is filled with love and kindness. Esmeralda is also misjudged; because she is a gypsy, the people of Paris believe she is evil; but like Quasimodo, she is filled with love and kindness. Phoebus is good looking and handsome, but he is vain, selfish, villainous, and untrustworthy.

Before his story begins, Hugo establishes the theme of cultural evolution in the preface of the novel. Hugo writes that he had found the word "ANANKH" chiseled into the stone, but that it was later whitewashed over or scraped away. He continues, "These Greek capitals, black with age, and quite deeply graven in the stone, with I know not what signs peculiar to Gothic calligraphy imprinted upon their forms and upon their attitudes, as though with the purpose of revealing that it had been a hand of the Middle Ages which had inscribed them there, and especially the fatal and melancholy meaning contained in them, struck the author deeply." In chapter IV it is revealed that the word means "Fate."

In the preface, it is obvious that Hugo is already recognizing the cultural similarities between ancient and modern times. Hugo states that the ideas represented in the epochs and legends of ancient Greece are so similar to the ideas of the medieval world that it almost seems as if the ancient scribes were actually written by a medieval man himself. Hugo implies that the reason the two eras’ ideas are so similar is their transmission from one era to another through literature and the written word. In ancient Greece, epochs and legends were often inscribed on stone tablets. Since these ancient scribes have been passed down from generation to generation, they have become a very strong influence in the medieval world, a time in which ancient European works were celebrated and cherished. Also, the idea of printing literature on a medium for one to read was transmitted through both eras. However, instead of being inscribed on stone tablets, literature was printed of paper and parchment starting in the medieval era.

In this example, Hugo describes the importance of architecture and how it is an indication of a society’s values and ideals. The ornate and illustrious architecture that lies in ruins in Paris indicates the society’s dying passion for enrichment, art, and beauty. This passion is regenerated during the Renaissance, in which ancient art and lifestyles were revered. Again, Hugo gives credit to the more ancient societies for this inherent passion. Hugo states that although the original structures and buildings of ancient France may be decrepit or in ruins, it is their architectural beauty that inspired the gothic style of the medieval era. Hugo acknowledges this inspiration when he states: “The word Gothic, in the sense in which it is generally employed, is wholly unsuitable, but wholly consecrated. Hence we accept it and we adopt it, like all the rest of the world, to characterize the architecture of the second half of the Middle Ages, where the ogive is the principle which succeeds the architecture of the first period, of which the semi-circle is the father.”

The theme of Book One of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was cultural evolution. Hugo wants to show how people of the world can show their ideals and those from earlier eras through literature and technology. Hugo continues to strengthen the idea of cultural evolution between eras of time. Hugo argues that there is another way in which ideas are passed on between different cultures and eras, and it is through architecture or literature. Setting and architecture are very prominent in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hugo often goes into great detail describing the buildings and monuments of medieval Paris. Hugo relates these structures and their architectures back to their gothic roots, which date back to ancient times. In one lengthy description, Hugo states: “...very little remains of that first dwelling of the kings of France...What has time, what have men done with these marvels? What have they given us in return for all this Gallic history, for all this Gothic art? The heavy flattened arches of M. de Brosse, that awkward architect of the Saint-Gervais portal. So much for art; and, as for history, we have the gossiping reminiscences of the great pillar, still ringing with the tattle of the Patru.” Throughout the entirety of the Book One, Hugo puts great emphasis on the transmission of ideas from one era to another through literature, architecture, and art. Hugo had a passion for the Gothic architecture of medieval France and therefore he establishes an emotionally nostalgic tone toward Gothic art that is apparent throughout the novel.

In Book Two of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo spotlights many forms of loyalty. Quasimodo displays incredible devotion to the priest in Chapter Three; he “remain[s] on his knees, with head bent and hands clasped” in front of the priest. In Chapter Four, the police squad represents allegiance to the king when its members make their rounds in the streets of Paris. During these patrols, they surround Quasimodo and rescue the gypsy who had become his prey. The gypsy’s goat is also a symbol of loyalty. It continues to follow her steadfastly, even when Quasimodo has her captive and when the gypsy flees from the squad. The three knaves take Gringoire to their ‘king,’ a beggar to whom they remain unbelievably subservient. Esmeralda shows commitment to mankind when she marries Gringoire for the sole purpose of saving his life; even though she does not love him, she wants him to survive. Gringoire is so dedicated to poetry and philosophy that the very mention of “perhaps” or a mysterious notion is enough to give him a surge of courage or curiosity, respectively. He gives Frollo credit for all of his intelligence and success and stays loyal to him by making verbal tribute to him when he says, “It is to him that I to-day owe it that I am a veritable man of letters.” Loyalty is a crucial topic in Hugo’s second book within The Hunchback of Notre Dame and its existence and importance are represented in a variety of ways.

In Book Three, Chapter One has the theme of change from time. Book Three focuses on the Cathedral Church of Paris, and its appearance as time has worn it. The narrator describes the cathedral as a place once of beauty, now crumbling as time has passed. Stained-glass windows have been replaced with “cold, white panes” and it becomes clear that the narrator looks on the changes of the church sourly (Hugo). Improvements and modifications of the great cathedral have in a sense lessened its internal value. Staircases have been buried under the soil of the bustling city, and statues have been removed. The passing time brought immense change to the church, often in negative ways. Eras have scarred this church in ways that cannot be healed. The narrator describes, “Fashions have wrought more harm than revolutions,” (Hugo). The modifications and alterations to the cathedral are an unfortunate mark of change in time; the main theme of Book Three.

A theme that occurs in the Book Four of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is love. Love can exist in many forms. Love between mother and child, love between one and his hobby, and love between one and an object are relationships that are all present in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Claude Frollo is the priest of Notre Dame. Growing up, he was a very intelligent boy. He was fascinated by science and medicine. He had a love of learning; it was his passion. Later in the story he even turns to science and studying when he feels his life is going downhill. Learning was Frollo’s love until the day his parents died, and he adopted his baby brother, Jehan. Then he realized “that a little brother to love sufficed to fill an entire existence.” Frollo put all of his focus into caring for Jehan, and he loved him unconditionally. He also adopted another child later named Quasimodo, for the very reason that “if he were to die, his dear little Jehan might also be flung miserably on the plank for foundlings,--all this had gone to his heart simultaneously; a great pity had moved in him, and he had carried off the child.” Although the child was hideous and no one else wanted him, Frollo promised to care for him and love him always, as he did with his brother. Quasimodo’s ugliness only strengthened Frollo’s love for him. When the foundling grew up, he was given the position of bell ringer by his master, Frollo. “He loved them [the bells], fondled them, talked to them, understood them.” Quasimodo loved his bells; his most beloved bell was named Marie (the largest one). Quasimodo also loved his father, Frollo. After all, he “had taken him in, had adopted him, had nourished him, had reared him…had finally made him the bellringer.” Even when Frollo was unkind to Quasimodo, he still loved him very much. In Book 4, a love between father and son is seen. Frollo loved both of his adopted “babies” very much, and everyone had objects and hobbies that they loved dearly too; Frollo loved to learn, and Quasimodo loved his cathedral bells.

The theme of Chapters One and Two of Book Five is that the new technologies being created during this time period were going to destroy the knowledge of the past, and hide it forever from the generations to come. France, at the time Hugo was writing this piece, was in a time of rebuilding after the French Revolution. The people began to split into two different parts; one was for the republic of France and the other was against. Many changes were occurring during this time, and people were unsure of where to fall. "The book will kill the edifice," is a quote Hugo bases much of this chapter on. "The press will kill the church." The quote in full means that the printing press, a new invention, will overpower the church. In Hugo's writing he says, "In the first place, it was a priestly thought. It was the affright of the priest in the presence of a new agent, the printing press. It was the terror and dazzled amazement of the men of the sanctuary, in the presence of the luminous press of Gutenberg." The church was afraid that once the printing press was in full swing the people of France would no longer come and listen to the priests, but rely on the paper. The citizens of France begin to change their views and opinions about what they had been taught from previous decades. The printing press was a new advancement for the common people, and having a machine that could print hundreds of copies of the same written work was an amazement. The printing press was going to overthrow the church and its influence in the people's lives. "Printing will kill architecture," was another point that Hugo wrote about. Architecture was a way that people communicated. Hugo says, "...the first and most simple one, no doubt, there was in our opinion another, newer one, a corollary of the first, less easy to perceive and more easy to contest, a view as philosophical and belonging no longer to the priest alone but to the savant and the artist. It was a presentiment that human thought, in changing its form, was about to change its mode of expression; that the dominant idea of each generation would no longer be written with the same matter, and in the same manner;..." Because the priests were high, and mostly in charge of French society, they controlled much of the architecture as well. The priests were able to communicate through the buildings, because many of the edifices in France were religious monuments. The printing press was going to be a new way of communication which would erase the past from present thoughts. The printing press would take over society and the citizens would no longer admire what was once thought of as magnificent art, but disregard it as just another structure in the place where they lived. The major theme that is present in Book Five is that "The printing press destroys architecture". Hugo says that "Architecture is the great book of humanity." Before the printing press ideas were transmitted through architecture since books could not be easily mass-produced and large important buildings are well known. Hugo also states that "Architecture is the hand writing of the human race". So it would be easy to spread an idea by integrating it into the architecture of a building. The invention of the printing press changed that since now books could be easily mass-produced. It is easier to spread ideas through printed text rather than integrating it into the architecture of a building. It is by this principle that Hugo means that the printing press will destroy architecture, since architecture will no longer have the meaning as a major way of construing ideas. Architecture will then only be a form of art and not the sole method of transferring an idea from place to place.

One theme that is present throughout literature is that love can have very negative effects on those who are a part of it. This theme is very evident in Book Eleven because all of love's destructive characteristics come to fruition. The unrelenting love that Esmeralda has for Phoebus leads to her death when she can not help but call out to him while she is in hiding from the King’s soldiers, who capture her and take her to the gallows. The madness and moral decline of Frollo brought about by his obsessive love for Esmeralda leads to his death when Quasimodo throws him off of the bell tower when he laughs at the death of Esmeralda. "And with a hurried step - making her hurry too, for he never let go of her arm - he went straight up to the gibbet, and pointing to it, “Choose between us,” he said coolly. She tore herself from his grasp, fell at the foot of the gibbet, and clasped that dismal supporter; then she half turned her beautiful head, and looked at the priest over her shoulder. She had the air of a Madonna at the foot of the cross. The priest had remained quite still, his finger still raised to the gibbet, and his gesture unchanged, like a statue. At length the gypsy girl said to him, 'It is less horrible to me than you are'." This excerpt from the novel exemplifies the desperation that Frollo has in his love for Esmeralda and the passionate feelings for Phoebus that Esmeralda has, because she would rather die than be with someone else. Another example of love being detrimental to those involved is in the love that Quasimodo has for Esmeralda. This can be seen when he says, “Oh - all that I’ve ever loved!” after seeing the body of Frollo on the ground below the tower and the body of Esmeralda hanging in the distance. This quote helps to show that all of the love in his life has been taken from him. This deadly potential that love can have then catches up with him when his pure yet obsessive love for Esmeralda leads him to take his own life by joining her in her grave and starving himself to death rather than continuing to live without his love.


Architecture is a major concern of Hugo's in Notre-Dame de Paris, not just as embodied in the cathedral itself, but as representing throughout Paris and the rest of Europe an artistic genre which, Hugo argued, was about to disappear with the arrival of the printing press. Claude Frollo's portentous phrase, ‘Ceci tuera cela’ ("This will kill that", as he looks from a printed book to the cathedral building), sums up this thesis, which is expounded on in Book V, chapter 2. Hugo writes that ‘quiconque naissait poète se faisait architecte’ ("whoever was born a poet became an architect"), arguing that while the written word was heavily censored and difficult to reproduce, architecture was extremely prominent and enjoyed considerable freedom.

Il existe à cette époque, pour la pensée écrite en pierre, un privilège tout-à-fait comparable à notre liberté actuelle de la presse. C'est la liberté de l'architecture.
There exists in this era, for thoughts written in stone, a privilege absolutely comparable to our current freedom of the press. It is the freedom of architecture.
—Book V, Chapter 2

With the recent introduction of the printing press, it became possible to reproduce one's ideas much more easily on paper, and Hugo considered this period to represent the last flowering of architecture as a great artistic form. As with many of his books, Hugo was interested in a time which seemed to him to be on the cusp between two types of society.[4]

The major theme of the third book is that over time the cathedral has been repaired, but the repairs and additions have made the cathedral worse: "And who put the cold, white panes in the place of those windows" and "...who substituted for the ancient Gothic altar, splendidly encumbered with shrines and reliquaries, that heavy marble sarcophagus, with angels' heads and clouds" are a few examples of this. This chapter also discusses how, after repairs to the cathedral after the French Revolution, there was not a significant style in what was added. It seems as if the new architecture is actually now uglier and worse than it was before the repairing.

Literary significance and reception

Hugo introduced with this work the concept of the novel as Epic Theatre. A giant epic about the history of a whole people, incarnated in the figure of the great cathedral as witness and silent protagonist of that history. The whole idea of time and life as an ongoing, organic panorama centered on dozens of characters caught in the middle of that history. It is the first novel to have beggars as protagonists.

Notre Dame de Paris was the first work of fiction to encompass the whole of life, from the King of France to Paris sewer rats, in a manner later co-opted by Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert and many others, including Charles Dickens. The enormous popularity of the book in France spurred the nascent historical preservation movement in that country and strongly encouraged Gothic revival architecture. Ultimately it led to major renovations at Notre-Dame in the 19th century led by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Much of the cathedral's present appearance is a result of this renovation.

Allusions and references

Allusions to actual history, geography and current science

In The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo makes frequent reference to the architecture of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. He also mentions the invention of the printing press, when the bookmaker near the beginning of the work speaks of "the German pest."

In 2010, British archivist Adrian Glew discovered references to a real-life hunchback who was a foreman of a government sculpting studio in Paris in the 1820s who worked on post-Revolution restorations to the Cathedral.[5]

Allusions in other works

The name Quasimodo has become synonymous with "a courageous heart beneath a grotesque exterior."[6]

Drama adaptations

To date, all of the film and TV adaptations have strayed somewhat from the original plot, some going as far as to give it a happy ending, as in the classic 1939 film starring Charles Laughton as Quasimodo and Maureen O'Hara as Esmeralda (although Quasimodo loses her to Gringoire in this version). The 1956 French film, starring Anthony Quinn and Gina Lollobrigida, is one of the few versions to end almost exactly like the novel, although it changes other sections of the story. Unlike most adaptations, the 1996 Disney version has an ending that is inspired by an opera created by Hugo himself.




  • In 1977, an adaptation by Ken Hill was commissioned and staged by the National Theatre in London.
  • In 2010, an adaptation by Pip Utton was staged at The Pleasance as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
  • In 2012, an adaptation by Belt Up Theatre was staged in Selby Abbey.
  • In 2013, an adaptation by James Villafuerte was staged in Tanghalang Pasigueño Villa Teatro
  • In 2013, an English adaptation of Der Glöckner von Notre Dame by The King's Academy Fine Arts Department was staged in The King's Academy Sports & Fine Arts Center
  • In 2014, a musical adaptation of the novel using songs from the Disney film and Der Glöckner von Notre Dame opened at La Jolla Playhouse, produced in association with Paper Mill Playhouse by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Group.[8]


Musical theatre

  • La Esmeralda, opera by Louise Bertin (1836), libretto by Victor Hugo.
  • Esmeralda, opera by Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1847) based on the Victor Hugo novel.
  • Esmeralda, opera by Arthur Goring Thomas (1883), also based on the same Victor Hugo novel.
  • Notre Dame, romantic Opera in two acts by Franz Schmidt, text after Victor Hugo by Schmidt and Leopold Wilk; composed: 1902-4, 1st perf.: Vienna 1914.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1993), an Off Broadway musical with music by Byron Janis, lyrics by Hal Hackady and book by Anthony Scully.[9]
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1993), a dramatic sung-through musical with book and lyrics by Gary Sullivan and music by John Trent Wallace.[10] After a production at the Mermaid Theatre in London it was published by Samuel French Ltd in 1997 and has received several UK productions as well as productions in New Zealand and Australia. In 2010 it was re-written as a conventional musical, with the new title Notre Dame.[11]
  • El Jorobado de París (1993), an Argentinian sung-through musical with book and lyrics by Pepe Cibrián Campoy and music by Ángel Mahler. Two revised versions opened in 1995 and 2006.
  • In 1998, Notre-Dame de Paris opened in Paris and became an instant success. It is considered the most successful adaptation of any novel except for "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Misérables." It was also adapted for the stage by Nicholas DeBaubien.[12]
  • From 1999 to 2002, the Disney film was adapted into a darker, more Gothic musical production called Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (translated in English as The Bellringer of Notre Dame), re-written and directed by James Lapine and produced by the Disney theatrical branch, in Berlin. A cast recording was also recorded in German.[13] There has been discussion of an American revival of the musical.
  • A rock musical version was released in Seattle, Washington in 1998 titled "Hunchback" with music and script by C. Rainey Lewis.[14]
  • A musical version, scored by Dennis DeYoung, opened in Chicago at the Bailiwick Repertory in the summer of 2008.[15]
  • A re-adaptation of the piece entitled "Our Lady of Paris" with music and lyrics by David Levinson and book by Stacey Weingarten was produced in a reading format in Manhattan. It re-sets the action to 1954 at the beginning of the French Algerian conflict. Directed by Donna Drake, Music Directed by Mark Hartman, starring Michael Barr, Matt Doyle, Adam Halpin, Sevan Greene, Nadine Malouf, Megan Reinking and Price Waldman. After the first reading the piece underwent revisions; a second reading was produced in January 2011 under the musical's new title, Les Enfants de Paris.
  • Notre-Dame de Paris is an operatic melodrama by Zigmars Liepiņš based on the novel.


The ballerina Virginia Zucchi in the ballet La Esmeralda. St. Petersburg, 1886


The book was twice adapted and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 as its Classic Serial:

  • in 5 parts from 6 January to 3 February 1989, with Jack Klaff as Quasimodo
  • in 2 parts on 30 November and 7 December 2008, with deaf actor David Bower playing Quasimodo.

Video games

  • Hunchback, a 1983 arcade video game an arcade game developed by Century Electronics, starring Quasimodo.

Translation history

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame has been translated into English many times. Translations are often reprinted in various imprints. Some translations have been revised over time.

  • 1833. Translated by Frederic Shoberl as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Later revisions.
  • 1833. Translated by William Hazlitt as Notre Dame: A Tale of the Ancien Regime. Later revisions.
  • 1888. Translated by Isabel F. Hapgood as Notre-Dame de Paris.
  • 1895. Translated by M.W. Artois et al., part of the 28-vol The Novels of Victor Hugo, re-printed in the 20th century under other titles.
  • 1956. Translated by Lowell Bair, for Bantam Books and included in Bantam Classics
  • 1964. Translated by Walter J. Cobb. In multiple editions, see for example Signet Classics ISBN 0-451-52788-7
  • 1978. Translated by John Sturrock. In multiple editions, see for example Penguin Classics ISBN 0-14-044353-3
  • 1993. Translated by Alban J. Krailsheimer as Notre-Dame de Paris. See Oxford World's Classics ISBN 978-0-19-955580-2
  • 2002. Revised translation by Catherine Liu of an anonymous 19th century translation. See Modern Library Classics ISBN 0-679-64257-9
  • 2006. Translated by Mary Grace M. Ada as Notre-Dame de Paris. See Oxford World's Classics ISBN 978-0-19-955580-2



  1. ^  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ "". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "". 26 January 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Real-life Quasimodo uncovered in Tate archives", Roya Nikkhah, The Daily Telegraph, 15 August 2010
  6. ^ Webber, Elizabeth; Mike Feinsilber (1999). Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions.  
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Know Before You Go: The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "". 5 December 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Mainstage 1997 – Nicholas De Beabien's The Hunchback of Notre Dame,
  13. ^ Collins, Suzanne. "". Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "Hunchback". Hunchback. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 
  15. ^ "Hunchback of Notre Dame Musical By Styx Front-Man to Play Chicago's Bailiwick". Playbill. Retrieved 31 May 2011. 


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