Pierre Gringoire

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Pierre Gringoire (1475? - 1538) was a popular French poet and playwright.[1] He was born in Normandy, at Thury-Harcourt, but the exact date and place of his death are unknown. His first work was Le Chasteau de Labour (1499), an allegorical poem.

From 1506 to 1512, he worked as an actor-manager and playwright in Paris. He is best known for the satirical plays he wrote during this period for the Confrérie des Enfants Sans Souci or Sots, a famous comedic acting troupe. While in Paris he became a favorite of Louis XII, who employed the troupe to poke fun at the papacy. Tension between France and Rome was building during this period, eventually resulting in the Italian Wars and the formation of the Catholic League in 1511. Gringoire wrote several scathing indictments of Pope Julius II, for example, La Chasse du cerf des cerfs (1510) and the trilogy, Le Jeu du Prince des Sots et Mère Sotte.

Following his Parisian period, he wrote a mystery play about Louis IX, Vie Monseigneur Sainct Loys par personnaiges (1514) for the Paris guild of masons and carpenters. Some scholars consider this to be his masterpiece.

Personal life[edit]

After Francis I took the throne, he put severe restrictions on plays and playwrights in place. Gringoire moved to Lorraine in 1518, where he married Catherine Roger.


Despite the various works in which he attacked the papacy, Gringoire was a devout Catholic. One of his later works, Blazon des hérétiques (1524) attacks heretics and leaders of the Protestant Reformation, up to and including Martin Luther.

In popular culture[edit]

A loosely fictionalized vision of Gringoire appears as a main character in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. He is probably best known from Hugo's book, in which he was inspired by and bears some resemblance to the historical Gringoire.[2] He did not appear in Disney's 1996 animated film adaptation or its 2002 straight-to-video sequel. In the first film, his character is combined with the character of Captain Phoebus.

Gringoire is also the main character in the short drama Gringoire (1866) by Théodore de Banville.

In Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame[edit]

During the Feast of Fools, on which the story begins, a crowd of people arrive at the Grand Hall of the Palace of Justice where Gringoire introduces them to a play written by him, but is soon interrupted by Clopin Trouillefou, the King of Truands. When the crowd leaves the play and celebrate the crowning of Quasimodo as the Pope of Fools, Gringoire felt disappointed. Later, when he sees Esmeralda dancing near the fire, he forgot about his failed play and fell in love with her.

Later that night, Gringoire follows Esmeralda walking in the night, until he witnesses Quasimodo attempting to kidnap her under Archdeacon Claude Frollo's orders, followed by her being saved and the hunchback being captured by Captain Phoebus and his guards. Later, he sees some Truands come toward him and accidentally trespasses the Court of Miracles, the home of the Truands. Clopin accuses him of entering the Court without permission, and gives him a test in order to save his life: to reach a purse from a pocket without making the little bells sound. When Gringoire fails the test, he is about to be hanged under Clopin's orders until Clopin gives another him another option to save his life: to marry a Gypsy woman present in the Court. Esmeralda comes to Gringoire's rescue and accepts him as her husband.