Esmeralda of Notre-Dame: The Gypsy in Medieval View from Hugo to Disney

  • Allison Craven
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


On the Feast of Fools, 1482, at the Palais de Justice, in Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), the eye of Pierre Gringoire is fixed upon La Esmeralda, whose dancing has captured the restive audience for his mystery play, The Right Judgement of the Virgin Mary. The vision of the dancer closes a prefigurative cycle of supernatural femininities from sainted Virgin to gypsy girl. Later, in a gypsy ritual overseen by Clopin at the Court of Miracles—the countersphere where the gypsies are enumerated as a violent tribe—Esmeralda saves Gringoire’s life by marrying him. But she has also attracted the vengeful lust of Frollo, a witch-hunting priest and alchemist, who directs his servant Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bellringer, to abduct her. Phoebus, the knight, rescues her, and Quasimodo is severely punished on the pillory. During an assignation with Esmeralda, Phoebus is stabbed by Frollo and Esmeralda is arrested, tortured, and wrongly convicted for murder and witchcraft. Quasimodo rescues her from the gallows and takes her to asylum in the cathedral of Notre-Dame, but Frollo pursues her again until she is hanged. The story concludes with Quasimodo’s disappearance from Notre-Dame and the discovery long after of two skeletons in an embrace, in the vault where Esmeralda’s corpse was laid.


Fairy Tale Exotic Dancer Good Girl Hollywood Film Arabian Night 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Tison Pugh and Susan Aronstein 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison Craven

There are no affiliations available

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