Quasimodo is one of the main characters in the 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris) by the French writer Victor Hugo. He is often considered a monster due to his horrific appearance. However, unlike other famous monsters from literature and movies, such as Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, Mr. Hyde, the Phantom of the Opera and the Invisible Man, Quasimodo is not evil or wicked. Although his master Archdeacon Frollo forces him to carry out crimes, Quasimodo is essentially a kind-hearted person.
The character's name can be considered a pun. In Latin, "quasi" means "almost" and "modo" means "the standard measure", "almost the standard measure" could be taken as meaning "almost like a normal person". However, this is not the explanation given for his name in the novel.
A hunchbacked stonemason, who was shunned by the other workers, is known to have worked at Notre Dame cathedral during the 1820s. Victor Hugo is likely to have known of the man and to have partially based the character of Quasimodo on him.
In the novel
In the novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo is described as having a severe hunched back and a large wart that completely covers his left eye. He is abandoned as a baby and left at Notre Dame cathedral's foundlings' bed, where orphans and unwanted children are left to be adopted by others. He takes his name from the day on which he is found, Quasimodo Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. He is adopted by Archdeacon Frollo and grows up to be the cathedral's bell ringer. As a result of the bell ringing, he becomes almost completely deaf.
Quasimodo is feared and hated by the people of Paris but he often accompanies Archdeacon Frollo when he walks around the city. The archdeacon commands Quasimodo to kidnap the gypsy girl Esmeralda. He is captured in the attempt by Captain Phoebus de Chateaupers and sentenced to be publicly whipped and left on the pilory. During his punishment he calls out for water. Esmeralda eventually gives some water to him. Quasimodo falls in love with her at that moment.
Esmeralda is later falsely accused of witchcraft and the attempted murder of Captain Phoebus. She is found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. While she is being forced to pray in front of the cathedral before being led to the gallows, Quasimodo climbs down on a rope, takes her inside the cathedral and shouts "Sanctuary!' to the crowd outside.
Although Esmeralda comes to appreciate Quasimodo's kindness, she never loves him. Esmeralda always finding Quasimodo physically repulsive and remains infatuated with the handsome Captain Phoebus. Quasimodo tries to show Esmeralda the difference between himself and the captain. He shows her a beautiful crystal vase which is broken and contains withered dry flowers, representing Phoebus, and a simple pot with beautiful flowers in it, representing himself. However, Esmeralda takes the withered dry flowers and clutches them passionately to her chest. Nevertheless, Quasimodo remains highly protective of Esmeralda.
A mob storms the cathedral. Quasimodo does not realise that they intend to rescue Esmeralda and tries to prevent them from entering. Esmeralda is eventually lured outside by Archdeacon Frollo. She is handed over to the authorities and hanged.
Quasimodo learns of Esmeralda's death. He goes to Montflaucon cemetery, where the bodies of all people executed in Paris were dumped. He finds Esmeralda's body and embraces it, staying with it always, neither eating nor drinking, until he starves to death. Some time later, workmen find the two skeletons locked together. When they attempt to separate them, the bones crumble into dust.
There have been many stage, radio, television and movie adaptations of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Actors who have played Quasimodo include Lon Chaney (1923), Charles Laughton (1939), Anthony Quin (1956) and Anthony Hopkins (1982). The character was voiced by Tom Hulce in the 1996 Disney animated version.
Some adaptations have been more faithful to the novel than others. The 1939 movie version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Charles Laughton gives the story a relatively happy ending. The evil Frollo is killed, Esmeralda is saved from hanging and finds happiness with her true love. However, Quasimodo is left alone and unloved, lamenting that he can not be like other men. The 1996 Disney cartoon version ends with Quasimodo eventually being accepted by the people of Paris. The 2002 direct-to-video sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, ends with Quasimodo finding his own true love.
Quasimodo is one of the many monster characters who appear in Mad Monster Party?, a 1967 stop-motion animated movie. A hunchbacked French chef named Quasimodo, who has a pet mouse named Esmeralda, appears in the 2012 CGI animated movie Hotel Transylvania.
The 1944 movie House of Frankenstein features a sub-pot in which a hunchback falls in love with a beautiful Gypsy woman. The Gypsy appreciates the hunchback's kindness but is unable to love him because of his appearance. Instead, she loves the handsome Larry Talbot, even after she finds out that he is a werewolf.
- Text of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame in French and English on Wikisource.
- Free public domain audiobooks of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in French and English from LibriVox.
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame (title) on the Internet Movie Database.
- Video of the 1923 silent movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame on Wikimedia Commons.