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The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Study Guide

Victor Hugo

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame | Book 7, Chapters 1–8 | Summary



Several weeks later, a group of girls can be seen across from Notre-Dame Cathedral in an ornate house. They laugh and talk while they work on needlepoint. One of the girls, Demoiselle Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier, is engaged to be married to a young man named Phoebus, who is also on the balcony. He does not appear to be in love with his betrothed. While Fleur-de-Lys's mother doesn't seem to pick up on that fact, Fleur-de-Lys seems to understand that he doesn't have feelings for her.

Outside on the street, the girls hear the sound of Esmeralda's tambourine, and they run to the balcony to watch her dance in the street. Fleur-de-Lys asks Phoebus if Esmeralda is the same gypsy girl he rescued from being kidnapped by Quasimodo, and he recognizes Esmeralda immediately because of her goat companion, Djali. One of the other girls notices a man in black at the top of the Notre-Dame Cathedral tower who is watching Esmeralda intently, and Fleur-de-Lys recognizes him as the archdeacon Claude Frollo.

Fleur-de-Lys asks Phoebus to invite Esmeralda up. He calls down to her, and she recognizes him as the officer who rescued her and who she fell in love with in that moment. When she comes upstairs, the girls are in awe of her because of her uncommon beauty, but they also feel intimidated by her, sensing she is a threat to them in their bid for Phoebus's attention. Phoebus relaxes around Esmeralda, which makes Fleur-de-Lys jealous. The other girls begin to make fun of her clothes. Esmeralda doesn't react but gazes tenderly at Phoebus instead.

Esmeralda's goat enters the apartment, distracting the girls who want it to perform. Fleur-de-Lys notices the leather sachet hanging from the goat's neck, and she asks Esmeralda what it contains, but Esmeralda tells her it is her secret. Phoebus implores Esmeralda to stay, and while she is distracted, Fleur-de-Lys's friend empties the sachet, which has blocks inside with letters of the alphabet painted on them. The clever goat arranges them into the name P-h-o-e-b-u-s—a trick Esmeralda taught the goat. Fleur-de-Lys faints, and Esmeralda runs out with Djali. Phoebus follows her, and Chapter 1 ends.

Chapter 2 circles back to the north tower of Notre-Dame, where Claude watches Esmeralda intently from his vantage point. He notices a man in the crowd who seems to be her companion and grows curious, making his way down to the square to investigate. He passes Quasimodo, who is also gazing at Esmeralda down below. Down in the square, Claude recognizes Esmeralda's companion to be none other than Pierre Gringoire, the director of the mystery play. Claude asks Pierre how he has come to be a street performer, and Pierre tells him he is just trying to make a living. Claude also asks him how he has come to know Esmeralda, and Pierre reveals that they are husband and wife. Claude grows agitated with him at this information, and Pierre tells him that they have not consummated their marriage due to a superstition that Esmeralda believes. She must remain virtuous in order to be reunited with her parents. She wears an amulet around her neck to remind her of the prophecy.

Chapter 4 begins a few weeks later, when Jehan sets out to visit his brother, Claude Frollo, at the church. When he arrives, Claude is in his secret room in the tower that no one is ever allowed to enter. Jehan is excited by the prospect of catching his brother in the secret room. Jehan has heard many rumors about Claude practicing sorcery. Jehan enters the tower and spies on Claude, who is talking aloud to himself, clearly preoccupied by thoughts of Esmeralda. Jehan is surprised to see Claude behaving so emotionally because he has only ever witnessed his brother's "austere and icy exterior." Jehan then pretends he is entering the room for the first time. Claude launches into a disapproving lecture about Jehan's recent behavior, even though Jehan tries to impress him with his scholarly knowledge in order to squeeze money from him. The brothers bicker back and forth until another visitor arrives, and Claude demands Jehan hide under the stove and promise to "never speak about what [he's] seen and heard here." The visitor is revealed in Chapter 5. He is Maître Jacques Charmolue, and it becomes clear that he and Claude are practicing sorcery together, working on experiments to make gold. Charmolue and Claude are in cahoots politically. They are both on the Ecclesiastical Court, and Claude has asked Charmolue to arrest Esmeralda for witchcraft. But right now, he wants Charmolue to hold off on their plan. While they discuss the magician they are torturing, Marc Cenaine, really to wheedle his magic secrets, Claude becomes fixated on watching a spider in the window kill a fly. He sees himself as the spider and Esmeralda as the fly, and he believes they share the same fate as the insects. Claude and Charmolue leave the tower, and Jehan follows not long after.

Back in the square, Jehan encounters Phoebus, and Claude overhears them, recognizing Phoebus's name from his conversation with Gringoire about Esmeralda's preoccupation with him. Claude follows them at a distance and overhears Phoebus bragging about how Esmeralda is meeting him for a tryst that evening. Phoebus and Jehan enter a tavern, and Claude disguises himself so he can hover outside and follow them once they leave. He overhears Phoebus say he plans to take Esmeralda to a hotel room. Jehan passes out drunk in a bush, and Claude continues to follow Phoebus, finally approaching him. Phoebus wonders at first if he is being robbed and attempts to dissuade Claude Frollo. Claude startles Phoebus by saying his name and how he knows of his plans with Esmeralda. Then he accuses Phoebus of lying about Esmeralda, offering Phoebus money to prove he is telling the truth by hiding him in a room next to their hotel room so Claude Frollo can see it is truly Esmeralda with Phoebus.

In Chapter 8, Phoebus hides Claude in an adjacent room with a hole in the wall, and Claude watches Phoebus and Esmeralda enter. Esmeralda tells Phoebus she feels what she is doing is wrong but she loves him. Phoebus reassures her he loves her, too, but he can hardly even pronounce her name. Phoebus begins to undress her, but Esmeralda panics when her amulet reminds her she must remain chaste if she is to be reunited with her parents one day. Finally, she relents, longing to feel loved by Phoebus. But then she sees Claude's face and his dagger, for he has broken down the door and begins to stab Phoebus. Esmeralda faints, and when she comes to, Phoebus is dead and Claude is gone. Police now fill the room, accusing her of stabbing Phoebus because Claude's dagger remains.


Esmeralda's interactions with Fleur-de-Lys and her friends reinforces the theme of appearances in the novel, because Fleur-de Lys and her friends are from the upper-class, aristocratic part of society. They use their position and status to try to intimidate Esmeralda, whose beauty they feel threatened by. The only weapon they have to wield is to treat her as an object instead of a real person with feelings, and so they set out to humiliate her.

In many ways, Claude reveals himself to be the silent, all-seeing "eye" of Paris as he spies on Esmeralda from his tower and listens in on Jehan and Phoebus's conversation. This chapter fleshes out Claude's role as the possible villain of the novel, particularly the way in which he hides behind his priesthood in order not to be caught or judged. His attempts to use religious ideologies to get information about Esmeralda out of Pierre shows he is willing to abandon his ideals in order to manipulate people for information. He pretends he is concerned for the state of Pierre's soul, telling him that touching Esmeralda will "make [him] into Satan's vassal," but it becomes clear that Claude, in fact, wants sole possession of Esmeralda.

Jehan's intrusion into Claude's secret tower gives the reader a glimpse into Claude's inner life. It reveals how different he is out of the public eye—he believes in sorcery and fate rather than the God he professes to preach for. His belief that his fate is intertwined with Esmeralda's in the same way a spider's is with a fly's shows he believes it his destiny to be with her no matter what, and therefore he feels justified in doing whatever it takes to "trap" her in his web. His writing the Greek word anatkh on the wall reintroduces the concept of fatality, begun in the novel's preface, and hints that Claude is already plotting a way to get rid of Phoebus. Even though Hugo hints at the workings of sorcery and black magic, every "spell" Claude attempts seems to be a failure—but they add to his sense of mystery and intrigue.

Esmeralda's professed love for Phoebus shows itself to be misguided because he can hardly pronounce her name and is clearly only telling her what she wants to hear so that she will sleep with him. It also reveals how childlike she remains, innocent to Phoebus's true intentions. In many ways, Phoebus is a foil to Quasimodo—he is physically and socially his opposite—full of good looks and charm; but a closer look at his personality reveals Phoebus for the manipulative and cruel man he really is.

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