Filmsite Movie Review
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Esmeralda's Sanctuary in the Notre Dame Cathedral:

The kindly Archdeacon accepted the gypsy girl Esmeralda without prejudice and personally offered her safe haven in Notre Dame: "That's not your fault. It's an act of God. Take her to the bell tower. Quasimodo will look after her." At the same moment, Frollo entered the church with Quasimodo following behind. He implored his white-gowned brother to prevent Quasimodo from ever leaving the cathedral again to be humiliated:

Chief Justice Jean Frollo: "He made a spectacle of himself before the king and all the people...You must impress upon him, again. He must have nothing to do with anybody outside the church."
Archdeacon Claude Frollo: "But you have more influence over him than I. He's your foundling, Jean. You picked him up on the church steps, not I. Ever since he was a child, he has looked to you as his protector."

The bellringer returned to the tower and rang the bell to signal a call of worship. In another area of the cathedral, as one of the priests led Esmeralda to Quasimodo, he explained a statue of the Virgin Mary to her as 'The Mother of God' - "If we open our hearts to her with faith, she comforts us." Esmeralda was encouraged to kneel down and pray to a candle-lit altar below the statue of the Virgin Mary. There, she delivered a selfless heart-felt prayer to help her endangered people:

"I've never prayed before, but the priest told me you help all those who are in need....Take all I have but please help my people. They are in great need, in great danger."

Others asked for more self-oriented needs: ("Give me security. Give me happiness. Give me always a good home. Give me a rich husband. Give me beauty. Give me a rich harvest. Give me prosperity. Give me happiness").

Justice Frollo's Bigoted Bias Toward Gypsies - And Lustful Desire for Esmeralda:

Behind her, the black-cloaked Justice Frollo confronted her, and prohibited her from prayer after labeling her a bewitching "heathen" and the devil's representative on Earth. She responded: "Who are you? You're not a priest. And yet you look like one." He chafed at her words and ordered her to leave - while attempting to deny the lustful feelings he had developed for her:

"I am what I wish to be. Get up and leave this church. You desecrate the very stones on which you kneel...First you dance publicly without shame, awakening in every man the weak and sinful desire to look at you."

Justice Frollo exhibited bias toward her "evil" and persecuted gypsy race and grabbed at Esmeralda. She noticed a conspicuous "mark of the devil" on his hand, and then begged for forgiveness from the Virgin Mary when he prejudicially ordered her to be hanged as a witch. During his condemnation of her, he was truly bewitched and stared down at her breasts - caught in her trance:

Frollo: "You witch! For saying that, I shall have you hanged."
Esmeralda: "Now I know who you are. (To the Virgin Mary) Mother of God, don't let him hang me. Protect me. Protect me."

Frollo: "Praying won't help you. You come from an evil race."
Esmeralda: "You don't know anything about my people."
Frollo: "Honest people don't live by witchcraft and magic."
Esmeralda: "If we really had the power of magic, do you think we'd choose to be outcasts, to be poor and persecuted, always? Surely, we'd use it for our own benefit."
Frollo: "All gypsies should be destroyed by fire and sword."
Esmeralda: "You mustn't talk like that in here. The Mother of God is listening. I'm a heathen, yet I could be here all my life and never have an evil thought. Never speak, just be here."

She revealed that she was an innocent child of nature when she praised the beautiful stainglass windows above them, letting in sunlight that bathed them in its glow as if they were in an enchanted forest:

"That window up there, glowing in red and blue with the setting sun breaking through and how the light floats around the tall columns. They're like the high pines in the forest. It is so quiet and peaceful here. Almost quieter than in the woods where the birds chatter and sing when I come. You know, the birds and deer eat out of my hand. They're not shy at all when you are kind to them."

When Frollo claimed that he also loved animals (especially cats), she was astonished, and believed it was possible that he could assist her in beseeching the King to treat her people with less hatred: "Then you cannot hate as much as you pretend to. Somewhere in your heart there must be love. I know, I see it in your eyes. God has shown me the goodness in you. Surely, he'll show me a way to help my people. (praying) Mother of God, you know how gypsies are cruelly driven from country to country. So, you see, I have to speak to the king. If he is kind, he will do something to help my people. Please, do make him listen to me." Nearby where the King was praying, he responded to her: "He will."

When they were in the company of King Louis XI, Esmeralda begged him to stop the persecution of her unfairly maligned gypsy people. She defended her people's thievery only because they were hungry. After looking kindly upon her, the King promised to review her request and to consider her plight. He would respond to her sometime in the future, but in the meantime, he granted her the church's 'sanctuary' protection.

The Flight of Esmeralda, the Arrest of Quasimodo, and Her Rescue by Captain Phoebus:

As Frollo led her to accommodations high above Paris within the bell-tower where she would be watched over by the bellinger, she caught a second glimpse of Quasimodo. Frightened by his grotesque appearance, she fled from the harmless yet grotesque figure. Frollo ordered the hunchback to chase after her down a spiral staircase and through the dark alleyways and shadowy areas of cathedral, to abduct and capture her. Knowing the catacombs of the church very well, Quasimodo was able to easily find her and seize her just outside of the cathedral, where he held her on his shoulders against her will, as she screamed: "You beast, you monster! Let me go! What have I done?"

Gringoire, who witnessed the incident, also cried out: "Devil! You, unholy monster! Let her go!...There, it's the Hunchback! There, the Gypsy dancer, he's running away with her. Save her, save her!" His distress calls alerted a soldier named Captain Phoebus (Alan Marshal) with his guards to race to the rescue. Due to their combined efforts, Quasimodo was captured, restrained and arrested for the alleged attack, and Esmeralda was saved. (The gypsy girl was immediately smitten by the dashing Captain on horseback and they would soon develop a romantic relationship with each other. Phoebus told her that he would surely remember her name: "I'll remember it, and I'll see you again"). As Quasimodo was dragged away, Gringoire took credit for the capture and told Phoebus about his daring and protective love for the gypsy girl: "I would arouse all Paris against such monsters."

Gringoire's and Esmeralda's Trespass into a Parisian Slum Area - The Court of Miracles - and Gringoire's Trial and Marriage

However, the intellectualized poet Gringoire didn't realize that during the pursuit, he had trespassed into a restricted, underworld slum area of Paris - the Court of Miracles (Cour des Miracles) - where unemployed migrants, illegal gypsies, pickpockets, and beggars had settled. From the darkness, Gringoire was surrounded by gaunt and deformed beggars reaching out to him. Shortly later, he was seized and had a burlap bag placed over his head.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the night, Esmeralda also found herself assailed by female prostitutes and beggars in the same slum area, who welcomed her and treated her as one of their own: "Esmeralda, you belong to us now." The 'King' of Beggars Clopin, holding court, gave her a "kiss of initiation" on the forehead, and urged her to seek refuge with them: "Many of our tribe have found this a haven. You, too, will find peace and a home here." Clopin was distracted and revealed his ruthless side when he accused one of the beggars of refusing to pay his "daily share" into the common fund. He counted to three to give the offender time to reconsider his obligation - and then stabbed him to death at the exact moment he counted "Three."

Gringoire was brought before Clopin, and charged with the crime of being "uninvited" as a spy, and for discovering the secret location of the beggars' camp, the Court of Miracles. The accused introduced himself as: "Maitre Gringoire, doctor of the seven liberal arts" and as a poet. He realized that many of the beggars were feigning their infirmities there: ("Where the blind can see and the lame walk"). During a short trial in a Court of Beggars, led by Clopin, Gringoire was threatened with hanging: ("Anyone caught here who's not a beggar or a thief, must hang"). The chivalrous Gringoire vainly defended himself and pleaded to Clopin for his life - promising to make him a legend - and claiming that he was one of them:

"What a pity. My ballad could make you immortal...I intended to write a poem in your honor, to glorify your reign...Keep me alive and you will live in history....Besides, I belong here naturally. Being a poet, I'm already a vagabond, and I can learn quickly to be a thief. And I will amuse you with such rhyming eloquence as you've never dreamed of."

Gringoire was allowed a single ordeal test of his pickpocketing ability - to steal a purse out of the pocket of a "bellboy" dummy suspended in front of him - without jingling a single bell. The poet stood on a three-legged wooden stool - and failed miserably when the stool collapsed and he grabbed onto the dummy while falling to the ground. Unsuccessful, Gringoire was conclusively sentenced to be hanged, although one of Clopin's wenches suggested a reprieve: "Why not give him a chance to marry one of the girls?" Clopin agreed and began to advertise his availability: "Poet for sale!" - and naturally, Gringoire thought it was a "charming idea." At the last moment, he was saved from death by Esmeralda who agreed to marry him: ("I'll take him"), although she was really in love with Phoebus, the Captain of the King's archers. The two drank from a wedding cup and then smashed it to symbolize their marriage, before they were escorted to "the bridal chamber" in a celebratory parade for their wedding night. The hangman was distraught: "And he had such a nice neck."

Gringoire's and Esmeralda's First Night Together - Married:

As they built a fire together in the private but dark bridal room, the idealist-minded Gringoire waxed poetic about the myth of the god Prometheus. He felt vindicated, although he saw that she appeared saddened when he referred to Phoebus, the King of Day. [Note: In Greek myth, Phoebus (or Apollo) was the God of the Sun.]:

"It was a man who first brought it (fire) to earth. (Prometheus)...stole it from heaven by holding a rod to the sun until it burned into flames. He created creatures out of clay and blew his breath into them and they came to life. Then, they too, could make fires to warm their bodies....Oh, Esmeralda, I feel as if - How can I tell you how I feel? This day, first the people ridiculed me. Then I found you, then I lost you. And now here we are together - married. For such a miracle, I waited through the dark and endless night. When before, my days I hated. Now I welcome Phoebus light. Phoebus - King of Day."

She expressed hurt and asked: "Who is Phoebus?", and then admitted that she was desperately in love with the very human Phoebus: "I love a man named Phoebus" - the Captain who had saved her from the Hunchback. Gringoire realized that she could never love him, and only married him out of pity, but that they could still be good friends:

Gringoire: "So you don't love me. It was nothing but pity, pity, pity."
Esmeralda: "I'm sorry if I hurt you."
Gringoire: "Well, since you won't have me, have me as your husband, maybe you'll have me for your friend."
Esmeralda: "My friend?"
Gringoire: "Do you know what friendship is?"
Esmeralda: "Like brother and sister, like two petals on the same flower."
Gringoire: "And love?"
Esmeralda: "That's to be two, and at the same time, one."
Gringoire: "I love you, Esmeralda, so I am ready to live with you as it shall please you, as husband and wife, if you think good, or as brother and sister, if you like it better. I'm enough of a philosopher to hold everything in the proper equilibrium...the proper balance."

As she playfully showed him how to juggle or balance a chair leg on her chin, she also took the opportunity to sneak away.

Frollo's Search for Both Esmeralda and Quasimodo:

At the same time, because of his insane obsession with Esmeralda, Frollo had issued a selective order for his royal guards to arrest all of the illegal gypsy girls in Paris - and guards had begun to descend on the Court of Miracles ("Round them up!"). The next morning after inspecting all of the female prisoners, Frollo released them when Esmeralda was not among them. Frollo was also determined to locate where Quasimodo was behind held in prison.

Meanwhile, Quasimodo was brought from jail to appear before an elderly, senile and equally-deaf judge (Otto Hoffman), who accused the bellringer of various crimes: "You are accused of disturbing the peace, abducting a woman and resisting the king's guards." The judge quickly ruled that the deaf Quasimodo, who had blurted out his name, age, and occupation, was determined to be "guilty." For his "insolence" of being deaf, he was ordered to be whipped and then to spend an hour on the pillory: ("50 strokes with the cat-o'-nine-tails for his attack upon a woman" and then "exposed for one full hour to public disgrace").

The Bellringer's Scourging and Pillory in the Public Square:

The crowd booed the announcement of Quasimodo's sentence as he was secured on the platform. Some lower-class workers decried the mean treatment: "It's a shame, flogging that cripple. Poor wretch." Ironically, Quasimodo had been honored and crowned as the King of Fools on the same platform the day before. During the whipping and public scourging on the rack with the crowd's rude and mocking humiliation, the bellringer's back was stripped bare and he endured fifty lashes. Watching the brutal spectacle, Clopin told Gringoire that to avoid whippings as a beggar, he had bought protection from the nobility: ("The guardians of the old and holy traditions"). He also explained how he had united the lower-class poor of the city and brought together the have-nots to form the corrupt and powerful Beggar's Guild - and that they were at least morally equivalent to the well-to-do ruling class' thievery and indifference to the poor's plight:

Clopin: "True, we're not great thieves like nobles. Our robberies are petty compared to the wholesale plunder of the nation."
Gringoire: "I wonder if the moral difference isn't in our favor."
Clopin: "Right. Some day you and I will write a book on the truth of beggary."
Gringoire: "We will, but right now, we've got to do something to stop the whipping of that poor devil."

Gringoire proposed seeking out the Chief Justice or notifying his brother the Archdeacon to prevent the unjust punishment. Spectators noted that Quasimodo passively accepted his punishment, without crying out in pain. A female witness explained it away as Satanic: "Those possessed of the devil never do." Another blamed the weak-armed whipper Master Pierrat (Paul Newlan) - and entered into an argument:

Spectator: "It's the whipper's fault."
Spectator 2: "What do you mean?"
Spectator: "Our whipper would make him cry."
Spectator 2: "You mean you have a better whipper in Marseilles than we have in Paris?"

Distressed by the unjust penalty, Gringoire spoke to the Archdeacon in the cathedral and asked: "Isn't there any way to stop the whipping?" The Archdeacon was powerless to stop any injustices occurring physically outside the church: "If he ventures into the world outside, he must accept its laws. If his punishment seems unjust, there is a higher power who watches and avenges." Quasimodo was subjected to further torture on the revolving pillory stand after the harsh lashing, when jeering bystanders threw fruit and other items at him.

Meanwhile, in the Palace of Justice, Chief Justice Frollo had convened a council of the judges regarding the increasing number of incarcerated prisoners for political crimes:

Councillor: "The cellars of the Palace of Justice are overflowing with prisoners. It is the same throughout France. It's not the common thief and murderer, but the thousands, and thousands of heretics, freethinkers and preachers of sedition that are our problem. We have to build more prisons."
Frollo: "It is not more prisons we need, it's more executions. We're far too lenient."

When Frollo was notified that the bellringer had already been sentenced and was at the pillory, he immediately dismissed the council and rushed to the public square. There, Quasimodo was pleading for water when Frollo ride up on horseback. When he saw the hordes of people taunting and laughing at the bellringer, he rode on to avoid being associated with the victim. Clopin and Gringoire watched the despicable Frollo depart with disgust: "I thought he loved the Hunchback." Clopin was opinionated and judgmental: "Never trust a man with pinched nostrils and thin lips."

Esmeralda ran up to Gringoire, informing him that she had snuck through the gates of the city to tell her people that she was promised help from the King for their plight. During Quasimodo's excruciating pleas for water, the radiantly-beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda dared to climb the platform's steps and compassionately offer a drink of water to the deformed hunchback bellringer. In a self-less act of mercy, she opened her flask and extended it toward the hunchback's mouth, who leaned back and shrunk away from her (feeling undeserving). Then, in the extremely touching scene, he surrendered himself to her, opened his mouth, and let her dispense the water, as the crowds were stunned into silence. Afterwards, his head fell forward toward her in supplication. For the remainder of the film, Quasimodo would remain faithful and loyal to her for her unselfish act of kindness.

Frollo offered a frivolous explanation to his gullible Archdeacon brother Claude about being unable to stop Quasimodo's punishment:

Frollo: "Claude, I couldn't prevent it. Before I knew what was happening, he was already sentenced."
Archdeacon: "What do you think, Jean, made Quasimodo pursue the girl? He never did anything like it before. He would not disgrace us unless he was forced to. I know how disappointed you are in him, but we must bear our burden in patience."

When the hour was up, Quasimodo was released from the pillory, and stumbled back to the safety of the cathedral as the crowds separated and fled from his path. Inside, Frollo came upon Quasimodo who was beaming and smiling about Esmeralda: "She gave me water."

The King's Humorous Bathing Scene:

As the King was being bathed in a tub by his physician, an excerpt from Gringoire's book On the Freedom of Thought was read to him by Frollo. When the King complained that his doctor was rubbing his skin too vigorously, the physician suggested that he could be gentler if he bathed more often (at least twice a year). The King resolved that he would agree if it would improve his life-span:

Frollo: "Are we not all God's creatures placed in the center of the universe to rule with love as our Father in Heaven? The time has come to regard our fellow man with respect for only thus will we reach the fulfillment of our destiny."
King: "No wonder Frollo fears the printed book. Imagine all the people reading this."
Physician: "The printing press seems to be a great invention."
King: "It is. I'm glad I'm living in this age of great beginnings. (To the physician) Ouch! You're hurting me. I should have made you my chief torturer."
Physician: "I beg your pardon, sire. I wouldn't have to rub so hard if Your Majesty would bathe more often....Twice a year... Would that make me live longer?...Good, I am determined to live 100 years and more, if your new elixir does what you promise."

They heard the bells of Notre Dame ringing "strangely" and at an unusual hour. Quasimodo was perched on a large wooden plank, joyously pushing the two bells in tandem with his arms - and then with his two feet. Other workers noted his changed mood: "He's getting crazier every day...He's been different ever since that gypsy girl gave him a drink of water...He keeps mumbling her name. Maybe he's in love with her."

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