Claude Frollo

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Claude Frollo
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame character
ND-de-Paris-L4-Ch1-LesBonnesAmes.png
Claude Frollo, holding a baby Quasimodo. Art by Luc-Olivier Merson.
Created by Victor Hugo
Information
Gender Male
Occupation Archdeacon
Nationality French

Claude Frollo is a fictional character and the main antagonist from Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. He is the Archdeacon of Notre Dame.

In the novel[edit]

In his youth, Claude Frollo was a highly knowledgeable but morose young man who was orphaned along with his infant brother Jehan when their parents died of the plague. His studies led him to become the Archdeacon of Josas, which is his position during the events of the novel. He also has a small fief which brings him a little money, most of which goes to fund his brother's alcoholism.

Frollo has a deeply compassionate side. He rescues Quasimodo, a deformed hunchback child whom he finds abandoned on the cathedral's foundlings bed. He adopts him, raises him like a son, cares for him, and teaches him a sort of sign language when Quasimodo becomes deaf. Frollo is a respected scholar and studies several languages, law, medicine, science and theology. However, he becomes infatuated with alchemy, which leads townspeople to spread the rumor that he is a sorcerer. He also believes strongly in fate. When a visitor to Frollo's quarters sees a fly caught in a web and tries to save the fly, Frollo sharply holds him back, saying, "Do not interfere with the workings of fate!" His dour, prematurely aged appearance (at thirty-six he is already nearly bald), as well as his extreme and irrational fear of women, contribute further to his isolation from society.

Frollo also has strong passions, though he is a celibate due to his station within the church. These passions erupt in him through his contact with the beautiful Gypsy girl Esmeralda, and eventually they prove his undoing. He considers her to be a temptation sent by the Devil to test his faith, and begins by cursing her as a demoness, but finds he cannot resist her, and determines to give in to temptation. Esmeralda, however, is repulsed by his impassioned advances. Frollo orders Quasimodo to abduct her, a crime that Frollo himself instigated out of mad lust for her, and then abandons him when the hunchback is suddenly captured by Captain Phoebus de Chateaupers and his guards. Frollo even ignores the poor hunchback when he sees him being publicly tortured for the crime. When Frollo discovers that Esmeralda is in love with Phoebus, he spies on the meeting between them which Esmeralda has arranged – with Phoebus' consent, as Phoebus only wants one night of passion. As Phoebus and Esmeralda prepare to copulate, Frollo, in a jealous rage, stabs Phoebus, and kisses Esmeralda when she faints. He does not attempt to intercede when she is turned over to the magistrate on charges of witchcraft and murder, however, but he stabs himself during her torture and shows her the wound as a proof of his love for her. She is unmoved however, as she is still in love with Phoebus, even after discovering the truth about his infatuation with her, and shortly before her execution he comes completely undone and leaves Paris in a feverish madness, not realizing that his adopted son, Quasimodo, has rescued her from the gallows. When he returns to the news that Esmeralda is still alive, he quickly becomes as jealous of Quasimodo as he was of Phoebus; the thought drives him to further insanity. Frollo later attempts to rape her at her sanctuary in the cathedral, only to be brutally beaten and nearly killed by Quasimodo, who doesn't realize who he is until he staggers into the moonlight. Frollo has had enough, and decides to rid himself of Esmeralda by handing her over to the authorities.

Frollo's time comes when a group of scoundrels, enraged by news that the French monarchy has ordered Esmeralda to be taken from the cathedral and hanged within three days, arms themselves to assault Notre Dame Cathedral. While Quasimodo is busy fighting off the scoundrels, Pierre Gringoire, Esmeralda's husband – whom she only married to save his life – and a hooded figure sneak into the Cathedral and convince Esmeralda to sneak out with them. The man's face is hidden behind a hood, leaving Esmeralda to guess his identity. They flee to a boat on the Seine River, then separate when they head to shore, with Gringoire taking her goat, Djali, and leaving Esmeralda with the unknown man. The hooded figure drags Esmeralda to a nearby gallows and identifies himself as Frollo by removing his hood.

Frollo issues Esmeralda his final ultimatum: either she must accept his love, or he shall hand her over to the authorities. In fact, she refuses to reciprocate, so Frollo leaves Esmeralda to a recluse to hold her for the royal soldiers coming to hang her and goes back to Notre Dame Cathedral. He then walks up to one of the cathedral's towers to watch the girl being hanged, unaware that Quasimodo has spotted him and followed him upstairs. He watches calmly while Esmeralda is taken to the gallows; then when the girl is actually hanged he bursts into an evil laugh – perhaps he is glad to have her out of his life, or perhaps he sees it as retribution for her rejection of him. This is the last that is seen of Esmeralda.

When Quasimodo sees what Frollo has done to Esmeralda's hanging, he becomes enraged and pushes him off the balustrade. A gargoyle stops his fall, and he cries out to Quasimodo for help, but Quasimodo remains silent. Then Frollo falls down off the cathedral, colliding with the roof of a house. He slides down the roof, hits the pavement of the town square, and dies.

Adaptations[edit]

Victor Hugo's novel has been adapted to film on numerous occasions. In the 1923 silent film version, Frollo is not the villain at all; instead, he is a good archdeacon, and the villain of the film is actually his younger brother Jehan. The 1939 sound film version also made Claude the good archdeacon and Jehan the villain, with the sole exception that Jehan is a judge. This version of the story is said to be what most influenced the 1996 Disney adaptation, which had the same conditions aside from the name change: Claude Frollo is a judge rather than an archdeacon, the Archdeacon is a separate character entirely, and the character of Jehan is omitted. Actor Tony Jay stated that he knew the part of Frollo especially from the 1939 film. Many conclude that such changes were made to avoid a negative reaction from religious organizations. Typically, the adaptations omit Frollo's capacity for compassion, adding a selfish interpretation to his adoption of Quasimodo that is not present in the original novel.

Actor Version Character
Victor Hugo's novel Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Walter Law 1917 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Annesley Healy 1922 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Brandon Hurst 1923 adaptation Jehan Frollo
Sir Cedric Hardwicke 1939 adaptation Judge Jehan Frollo
Alain Cuny 1956 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
James Maxwell (voice) 1966 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Kenneth Haigh 1977 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Derek Jacobi 1982 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Ron Haddrick (voice) 1986 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Vlasta Vrána (voice) 1995 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Tony Jay (voice) 1996 Disney adaptation Judge Claude Frollo
Richard Harris 1997 adaptation Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Daniel Lavoie 1997-2002, musical Archdeacon Claude Frollo
Richard Berry 1999 parody Serge Frollo

Disney version[edit]

Judge Claude Frollo
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First appearance

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (mentioned)
Created by Kathy Zielinski
Dominique Monféry
Voiced by Tony Jay (film)
Corey Burton (Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance)

In the original film[edit]

An adaptation of the character, Judge Claude Frollo is the main antagonist in Disney's animated film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). Frollo was animated by Kathy Zielinski and Dominique Monféry, and was voiced by Tony Jay, whom directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale chose for the role based on his brief appearance in their previous film, Beauty and the Beast (1991). Although he is based on Hugo's Frollo from the novel, Disney's Frollo is inspired by Cedric Hardwicke's Jehan Frollo from the 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Like Hardwicke's Frollo, and unlike Hugo's, Disney's Frollo is a cold justice minister instead of an archdeacon, and like both versions, he is racist towards the gypsies because he sees them as "impure commoners". In the Disney film, however, he is genocidal towards them and wants nothing more than to wipe them out of Paris. Also, much like Hardwicke's Frollo, Disney's Frollo is depicted as the ruler of Paris and effectively above every law in the city outside of the Cathedral. However, in the Disney version, he has his very own army of thugs who dress up as soldiers to enforce his will, and lacks much of the original character's compassion and deep emotion, becoming more of an evil villain than a tragic anti-hero. Regardless, as in the novel and 1939 film, he still has lustful feelings for Esmeralda, and plans to have her executed if she refuses to love him. In the Disney film, he is presented as a vindictive, coldly intelligent, and arrogant sadist. Also, a little like in the novel version but much like in the 1939 film version, Disney's Frollo has little to no compassion or understanding for anyone or anything except himself. However, much like in both versions, is also perceived as a tragic figure, tormented by his maddening self-righteousness and narrow views. The opening song notes that he "longs to purge the world of vice sin" and sees "corruption everywhere" except in himself. Frollo is also symbolic of religious hypocrisy, which was also an enduring theme in the novel. (According to the Archdeacon, "it would be unwise to arouse Frollo's anger further.") Despite these changes to the character, the Disney version has been universally acclaimed, and has often been called one of the greatest of all Disney villains, and often is considered one of, if not the darkest.[1][2][3][4] Frollo's complex characterization and darker role in the story lead to many agreeing that if the rest of the film was darker like Frollo's role in the film, the film itself would've been substantially better in comparison.

Frollo first appeared in the film, where his guards caught several gypsies entering Paris. After having the gypsy men chained and taken away, Frollo chases a gypsy woman, believing her to be hiding stolen goods. They arrive at Notre Dame, where he snatches the bundle from the woman and kicks her down the steps, which kills her. Frollo discovers that the "stolen goods" is actually the woman's hideously deformed baby son. Believing the boy to be an unholy demon, Frollo attempts to drown the infant in a well, but is stopped by the Archdeacon, who berates him for murdering an innocent woman on the steps of Notre Dame. As the Archdeacon takes the gypsy woman's body to have her buried in peace, he demands Frollo must raise the baby as his own son as penance. Fearing for his own damnation, Frollo reluctantly agrees, hoping to somehow use the child to further his own purposes. Naming the boy Quasimodo, Frollo raises him within the towers of Notre Dame, attempting to "protect" him from the outside world and convincing him that he is a monster and will never be accepted by society. He also lies to him about his mother, claiming that she abandoned him when he was a baby (which happened in the novel).

Twenty years later, Frollo appoints a new Captain of the Guard, Phoebus, in the Palace of Justice since his last one was "a bit of a disappointment" to him. He hopes to clear the gypsies out of Paris with Phoebus' help and go to Heaven when he dies. While attending the annual Festival of Fools, Frollo discovers a Gypsy dancer named Esmeralda, who attracts him with her beauty. Shortly afterwards, he discovers that Quasimodo left the bell tower and joined the Festival and was crowned the King of Fools. Frollo refuses to help Quasimodo when he is being publicly humiliated by the crowd in order to teach him a lesson; he even refuses Phoebus' permission to stop it, and is enraged when a defiant Esmeralda decides to assist him instead. Esmeralda ridicules and humiliates Frollo before claiming sanctuary within Notre Dame. That evening in the Palace of Justice, Frollo is disturbed by his attraction to Esmeralda which he believes is turning him to sin and pleas the Virgin Mary to protect him from her "spell" and to let Esmeralda taste the fires of Hell. Upon learning from one of his guards that Esmeralda has escaped the cathedral, Frollo is enraged and begins a ruthless campaign to find her, burning down the houses of those that would shelter gypsies and interrogating the gypsies that were captured, something which greatly disturbs Phoebus. It is not until Frollo attempts to execute an innocent family whom he suspects of collaborating with gypsies, which finally causes Phoebus to defy him and rescue the family; Frollo declares Phoebus a traitor and attempts to execute him, but he is eventually rescued by Esmeralda after being left for dead.

Realizing Quasimodo assisted Esmeralda, Frollo convinces him that the Court of Miracles has been found and will eventually be attacked at dawn with a thousand men. A misled Quasimodo accompanies Phoebus to the Court to warn Esmeralda, and Frollo and his army of thugs follow and arrest the gypsies. Frollo sees that Phoebus has survived and intends to "remedy it". After having Esmeralda, Phoebus, and the gypsies confined in cages, Frollo gets Quasimodo chained up to the tower, and starts his executions of the gypsies near the cathedral. The citizens of Paris angrily disapprove of this and demand of the gypsies' release, but the guards hold them back. Frollo starts off sentencing Esmeralda to execution, though he gives her a chance to live by becoming his mistress. She refuses to become Frollo's mistress — by spitting in his face — and is prepared to burn to death, but Quasimodo breaks free from his chains, rescues her after she passes out, and brings her to the cathedral, declaring sanctuary, much to the citizens' delight. Losing what's left of his sanity, Frollo orders his soldiers to seize the cathedral by force, which then finally allowed Phoebus to free himself and incite the citizens to fight back against Frollo's tyranny.

The citizens free the gypsies, and they both fight against Frollo's soldiers until Quasimodo pours molten copper from the cathedral into the streets, forcing everyone (including the soldiers) to scatter away. Despite Quasimodo's efforts, Frollo gains entrance to the interior of the cathedral, directly defying the Archdeacon and flinging him down a flight of stairs. He attempts to kill Quasimodo, resulting in a violent struggle in which Quasimodo throws Frollo to the floor and openly rejects everything that Frollo raised him to believe, but Esmeralda awakens, and Quasimodo rushes her to safety. Frollo chases them onto a balcony overlooking the city, where he and Quasimodo begin to fight.

In his rage, Frollo finally admits that he killed Quasimodo's mother who was trying to save him. He declares that he will now kill Quasimodo himself as he "should have done" twenty years ago. Frollo subsequently uses his cape to knock Quasimodo off of the balcony, but Quasimodo manages to hold on and ends up pulling Frollo along with him (but is unwilling to let him fall). Frollo dangles momentarily for his life, but he is soon able to climb on a gargoyle in perfect position to kill Esmeralda, who is attempting to save Quasimodo. Frollo raises his sword and maniacally quotes the Bible:

"And He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit!"

Ironically, the gargoyle that he is standing on starts to break and he falls, clinging on for dear life and dropping his sword. In his last moments, the face of the gargoyle comes to life and demonically roars at Frollo, terrifying him as the gargoyle breaks off completely from the balcony and sends him falling to his death into the lake of molten copper created by Quasimodo, clearly meant to symbolize that his soul is now trapped in eternal damnation in the Satanic fires of Hell for all eternity as punishment for his unholy actions and behavior as well as his tyranny ending once and for all. Afterwards, the French army arrives and either kills or arrests the remainder of Frollo's thugs, some of whom reform and rejoin the Guard.

Mentioned in the sequel[edit]

In the sequel The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Frollo and his attitude towards gypsies are alluded to when Sarousch (a gypsy master criminal and the main antagonist of the sequel) reminds Madellaine that when he caught her stealing food from him when she was little, he took her in instead of handing her to the authorities. This implies that Sarousch was aware of Frollo's prejudice towards gypsies and deliberately avoided targeting Paris while Frollo was alive. He is also referenced when Clopin announces Esmeralda's dancing performance, and jokingly tells a young boy that she just "might steal your heart," using a puppet that looked a lot like Frollo, referencing Frollo's lust for Esmeralda. Also, when Madellaine (who was Sarousch's assistant until she fell in love with Quasimodo) tries to convince him to trust her into helping him stop Sarousch, Quasimodo coldly replies "I already made that mistake", possibly referring to how Frollo deceived Quasimodo for twenty years into loyalty to the former.

Other appearances[edit]

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References[edit]

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