Study Guide

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame Book VIII

By Victor Hugo

Book VIII

Chapter 1: The Coin Transformed into a Dry Leaf

  • Esmeralda has been missing for a month now, and everyone in the Cour des Miracles is worried.
  • One day, Pierre Gringoire is passing the Palace of Justice and sees a crowd gathered to see the trial of a woman who is accused of stabbing an officer. He decides to join in the festivities.
  • Inside the Palace of Justice, they are questioning the old woman who ran the house where Phœbus was stabbed. The woman tells her side of the story: how a handsome man and a man in a cloak came in; how only the handsome man came back downstairs; how later, when she heard a scream upstairs, she saw the figure of a priest jump down into the water and swim to the other bank; and, finally, how the next day, when she looked for the coin the man had given her, it was turned into a leaf.
  • This last point causes everyone to agree that sorcery must have been involved. You know, obviously.
  • After some more questioning, an attorney says that the gentlemen are in possession of the deposition of Captain Phœbus.
  • At the mention of Phœbus's name, the accused stands up, and Gringoire recognizes Esmeralda.
  • Esmeralda cries out, asking if Phœbus is alive. The lawyer responds that he is dying, and Esmeralda sinks back down.
  • Next they bring out the second prisoner, who turns out to be Djali. They question the goat—or rather, the demon they think has possessed the goat. Think we're making this up? Guess again. Even we couldn't make this up.
  • Charmolue, who is in the court, demonstrates some of Djali's tricks with the tambourine. The same audience who used to adore Djali's tricks now finds the tricks terrifying.
  • Esmeralda is accused of witchcraft and murder. When she denies it, the court allows for her to be tortured until she confesses. The judges are a little annoyed that they're going to be late for their supper, but alas, sacrifices must be made.

Chapter 2: The Coin Transformed into a Dry Leaf, Part II

  • Esmeralda is taken to a room where there is a big furnace heating up all sorts of nasty-looking torture devices. Among the men in the room are Pierrat Torterue and Jacques Charmolue.
  • There is a leather bed in the center of the room, and when Esmeralda refuses to confess a second time, two men make her sit on it.
  • Charmolue asks Esmeralda a third time if she denies the charges brought against her, and when she does, Charmolue decides that they will start with something called "the boot."
  • It's a heavy block of oak bound with iron, and they encase Esmeralda's foot in it.
  • Charmolue asks again if Esmeralda confesses, and she insists on her innocence.
  • So they start to turn the screw that contracts the boot, and Esmeralda almost immediately screams.
  • Now when Charmolue asks if she confesses, she confesses—even though it means that she will certainly be hanged.
  • They make Esmeralda "confess" to much more than just murder: they tack on a lot of weird witchcraft stuff too, just to cover all their bases.
  • After they remove the boot, Charmolue comments on how great justice is.

Chapter 3: Conclusion of the Coin Transformed into a Dry Leaf

  • Everyone is pleased when Esmeralda returns to the courtroom because it means that they won't be late for supper.
  • Before announcing the verdict, Charmolue reads a long speech in Latin with a lot of pomp and gesticulations. The narrator spares us this speech.
  • But Charmolue stops reading midway when he observes Djali imitating him, which is one of her tricks. This proves, once and for all, that witchcraft is definitely and totally involved. Right? Right?
  • So Esmeralda is sentenced to stand in front of Notre-Dame before she (and her goat) are brought to the Place de Grève to be hanged.
  • Esmeralda's lawyer then cites an old law about a witch who eats (eats?) a man having to pay a fine and says that Esmeralda should have to pay it. The court votes it down so that they can go to supper.
  • Esmeralda faints as the sentence is read, and she is carried away.

Chapter 4: Lasciate Ogni Speranza

  • Esmeralda is taken to the underground prison in the Palace of Justice. It's dark and dank, it's full of creepy crawlies, and it's all kinds of awful.
  • Esmeralda eventually loses track of time, but one day she has a visitor. It's a monk in a black cloak.
  • The monk tells Esmeralda that she is going to die tomorrow. She doesn't care anymore.
  • The monk tells Esmeralda to leave with him, and he throws back his hood. It's the same face she saw behind Phœbus when he was stabbed. Hey, Frollo.
  • Esmeralda tells Frollo that he has ruined her life, and she asks why he hates her so much. To this, Frollo replies that he loves her. Definitely a "Say whaaaat?" moment.
  • Now Frollo tells his story.
  • Before, Frollo wasn't too bothered by his vows of chastity. He loved science too much to care either way. But one day, he saw Esmeralda dancing and was struck by how incredibly beautiful she was. He was convinced that she must be some sort of instrument of the devil—really, how could she not be, with that goat of hers?
  • Frollo became obsessed with Esmeralda and couldn't stop thinking about her. He even started following her.
  • Then Frollo did all sorts of things to try and get rid of her. He tried to get her forbidden from the church precinct, he attempted to kidnap her, and he denounced her to the officials for witchcraft. For some reason, he thought that in prison he would be able to "have" her (in the Biblical sense, if you catch our drift).
  • But as we know, none of these things worked out. Fate decided things would turn out otherwise. It was when Frollo happened to overhear Phœbus talk about his meeting with Esmeralda that everything was brought to where it is now.
  • Frollo was at Esmeralda's trial, and he tells her how much he suffered as he watched her tried and tortured. He even cut his chest with a dagger while they were using the boot on her.
  • Frollo begs Esmeralda to pity him, telling her what misery it is to dream about loving someone you can't have.
  • Esmeralda, in response, murmurs Phœbus's name. This elicits another slew of pleas for compassion from Frollo. Basically, Frollo wants Esmeralda to run away with him.
  • But Esmeralda is having none of it. She laughs and points to the blood on Frollo's fingers.
  • Again, when Frollo begs her to not let him see her die at the gallows, she asks what became of Phœbus. Frollo answers that he is dead.
  • At this, Esmeralda tells him off and says that she will never, ever be his.
  • Frollo leaves, and Esmeralda collapses on the ground.

Chapter 5: The Mother

  • One morning in May, the Sack Woman is doing her usual grieving, oblivious to the noises around her. She laments the loss of her daughter and obsesses over her daughter's little shoe.
  • The Sack Woman perks up when she hears a group of boys go by and comment that they are going to hang the gypsy that day. The Sack Woman bounds over to the window and asks a priest standing nearby, who happens to be our favorite Archdeacon of Josas, whom they are going to hang.
  • The priest answers that he doesn't know. When the woman presses him further and says that she heard it was a gypsy, he kinda sorta answers that he believes so.
  • When the Sack Woman starts laughing, the Archdeacon says that she must really hate her some gypsies. She responds that there is one in particular she hates: a young woman who would have been the same age as her daughter.
  • The priest responds that she is in fact the one they are going to hang.
  • This makes the Sack Woman's day.

Chapter 6: Three Human Hearts Differently Constituted

  • Um, actually, you guys, Phœbus isn't dead. Everyone just assumed that he was. He's actually fine.
  • When Phœbus thinks back on the event, he's mostly just confused about what it all meant. He doesn't really look into it further, because he's not a thinking type of guy. He just didn't want his name to get mixed up in all of it.
  • Phœbus decides that now is a good time to get back into the good graces of Fleur-de-Lis, so one day, two months after the whole stabbing incident, he goes to her house.
  • Phœbus and Fleur-de-Lis are flirtier with each other now, though Phœbus has to keep dodging questions and lying so as not to reveal where he actually was these past two months.
  • In passing, Fleur-de-Lis mentions a witch who is to do penance in front of the church that morning, but Phœbus thinks nothing of it.
  • While Fleur-de-Lis's mother goes into this long spiel about things no one cares about, Phœbus stares at Fleur-de-Lis's breasts. Fleur-de-Lis asks him to swear that he never loved anyone but her, and of course he does it readily.
  • Fleur-de-Lis's mother leaves the two lovebirds alone, and Fleur-de-Lis, a bit flustered, runs to the balcony. Phœbus follows. From there, they can hear snippets of the conversations below about the witch to be hanged. Phœbus pays less attention to all that talk than he does to feeling up Fleur-de-Lis.
  • As the clock strikes noon, a cart is drawn into the square containing a girl whose hands are bound and who is almost naked except for her slip. She has a cord around her neck, as well as the amulet she's always worn. Oh, and of course the goat is there, too.
  • Fleur-de-Lis recognizes Esmeralda and points her out to Phœbus. Phœbus turns suspiciously pale and tries to pretend not to recognize her. Fleur-de-Lis senses that his reaction is shady, so she makes him stay and watch.
  • The cart pulls in front of the doorway of the cathedral, and some Latin is chanted from inside. A procession of priests and deacons files out—including the Archdeacon.
  • While Frollo outwardly asks Esmeralda if she has prayed for her crimes, he whispers to her, asking if she will have him. She tells him to go to the devil and asks about Phœbus.
  • Just as Frollo responds that Phœbus is dead, he looks across the square, and who should he see but Phœbus watching the whole thing from a balcony.
  • Well, if Frollo can't have Esmeralda, then no one can. Some more Latin is chanted, and then they go to tie up Esmeralda again.
  • But then Esmeralda catches sight of Phœbus and cries out to him. She sees him with a young woman, and the two go back inside. Suddenly recalling that she was charged with Phœbus's murder, and that Phœbus isn't even dead, she faints.
  • The guards are about to place her back in the cart when a strange-looking figure, who has been watching the whole ordeal, climbs down the cathedral, knocks out the guards, grabs the still-unconscious Esmeralda, carries her into the church, and cries out "Sanctuary!" while brandishing her above his head. Yes, it's Quasimodo.
  • Esmeralda briefly wakes up but then passes out again when she sees Quasimodo's face.
  • At that moment, when Quasimodo is standing under the entrance clasping Esmeralda, Quasimodo really is beautiful to the crowd.
  • Quasimodo runs all over Notre-Dame with Esmeralda shouting "Sanctuary!" while the crowd cheers.