Quasimodo has lived at Notre-Dame Cathedral since he was abandoned as an infant and adopted by the archdeacon, Claude Frollo. He is deaf and disfigured, reviled by the public for his appearance. Yet he has a kind and compassionate soul and a deep loyalty to the church.
Claude Frollo is the antagonist of many characters in the novel. Though he is smart and shows some compassion toward Quasimodo and toward his brother, Jehan, his obsession with Esmeralda tortures him to the point of madness, and he lets nothing and no one stand in his way.
Esmeralda is a gypsy dancer whose beauty dazzles nearly everyone she meets. She performs with her clever goat, Djali, whom she loves dearly. Kidnapped as a baby, she yearns to be reunited with her parents. She has a kind and compassionate soul yet is blinded by her love for Phoebus. Pursued by an obsessive priest, she is sentenced to death for a crime she did not commit, rescued from Quasimodo, and then led back to her death by the cruel priest.
After his play flops, poet and philosopher Pierre Gringoire finds himself wandering the Paris streets, following the beautiful Esmeralda out of instinct. His meanderings lead him into the Court of Miracles, where he is accosted by thieves and becomes a truant himself. After Esmeralda saves his life, they are forced into a platonic marriage. Easily manipulated, Pierre Gringoire helps Claude Frollo kidnap Esmeralda, believing he is helping to rescue her. Pierre Gringoire leaves her with Claude Frollo, who turns Esmeralda in to the police for execution.
Phoebus de Châteaupers
Phoebus saves Esmeralda from being kidnapped by Quasimodo and Claude Frollo, and she falls deeply in love with him as a result. Phoebus is engaged to Fleur-de-Lys de Gondelaurier but does not care for her. When Esmeralda is wrongly arrested for attempting to murder Phoebus, he does not tell the truth or try to help her. He indifferently goes back to his own life and leaves Esmeralda to die unjustly.
The Recluse is known by a few different names—Sister Gudule, the Sachette, and Paquette la Chantefleurie. Esmeralda was stolen from her as a baby by gypsies, and the Recluse has mourned in self-imposed exile ever since. She doesn't realize that the grown-up Esmeralda is her daughter until they are reunited just before she is hanged. The Recluse dies trying to protect her daughter from the executioner.
Jehan Frollo has been spoiled all his life by his older brother, Claude Frollo, and he is lazy and greedy as a result. He constantly gets in trouble, stirs up crowds, and asks Claude Frollo for money whenever he runs out. He eventually gives up his studies to join the truants and live a life of debauchery. He storms Notre-Dame Cathedral with the truants, and Quasimodo, not recognizing Jehan, throws him from the church to his death.