In 15th century France, the time and place that Victor Hugo set his book “The Hunchback of Notre Dome” in, the role of religion played a major role, and those men and women of the church were respected, recognized and revered such as “Archdeacon of Josas, second acolyte of the bishop, in charge of two deanships and one hundred and seventy four parish priests” (66). Archdeacon Claude Frollo was a model man of the church in his subtle, thoughtful and solemn demeanor along with the many responsibilities of those in his charge.
However, despite his vows to the church and his position of respectability within it, Claude Frollo is not what one expects of a priest; he is, in fact, an evil man. Even before that fateful day he saw his love dancing mesmerizing-like in the square, Claude Frollo was not what one would call a kindred spirit. From early childhood he was raised to be “a melancholy, solemn boy who studied ardently and learned quickly” (56). From then on always had a very studious manner; which is a surprising way for a child, who’s supposed to be near opposite, such as Claude’s brother, Jehan, who provides a perfect foil to his straight-arrow brother.
With Claude’s early upbringing as a scholar and the undertaking of Jehan’s future, “From then on the weight of his responsibility made him take life very seriously” (58). Such seriousness led until his very old age, and “he therefore became more and more learned and, as a natural consequence, more and more rigid as a priest and more and more melancholy as a man” (67), who struck fear in one glance and “more than one choirboy had fled in terror on meeting him… o strange and fiery was his look” (70). Although Claude Frollo is the ‘villain’ in the story, he is not one’s typical example of ‘evil’, such as classic criminal Iago from Othello, bent on causing pain and hatred. Evil, meaning to be profoundly immoral and wrong or deliberately causing great harm or pain, especially to those who have pained you, is not Claude’s aim, but is the outcome that drives him to madness, thus making him a villain.
In all actuality, Claude is a bright and compassionate man at first and takes full responsibility for his abandoned brother, Jehan, and for the misshapen and retched creature, Quasimodo. Nevertheless, all that he loves is all for naught, and all his exerted emotions squandered, thus driving him to lunacy. Jehan drinks all his money away, and “was sure to be seen everywhere in Paris except at his professors’ lectures” (72). Frollo then tries to educate Quasimodo, but his deafness makes it impossible to learn.
The hunchback thus becomes both a emblem of failure for Frollo, but also a useful tool for “it was remarkable to see all that physical strength, developed to such an extraordinary degree in Quasimodo, placed blindly at the disposal of another person… the fascination exerted by one mind on another” (65). In short, Frollo is driven to madness by his failed enterprises, and thus becomes an evil and vicious character worthy of the title “villain”. The final stake, the last straw and the driving nail of his road to irrationality is his obsessive lust for La Esmerelda.
His love causes her death of execution, despite all his vows and proclamations of love, for she is turned away by them, and only becomes increasingly frightened of the man. Along with his first two failures, Quasimodo and Jehan, in league his thirsty and undying lust for Esmerelda made him lose all sense of morality, and then turning him into epic example of evil. Such as when he spouts such horrible things as ” ‘You must either die or belong to me! Belong to the priest! To the apostate! To the murderer! … Kiss me! Either the grave or my bed! His eyes flashed with lust and rage” (280).
With this obsession, love, and hate, for all three go hand and in hand when speaking of Claude Frollo and Esmerelda, was the cause of making Archdeacon Claude Frollo the evil villain that he is known for today. Claude Frollo, a brilliant man with suppressed potential and immoralities, is not what one would put as the definition of an evil man, but through his non existent child hood that suppressed any sort of exertion of happiness and merriment turned him into a bitter, remorseful, and terrifying old man.
Though his pursuit of science always returned his affections, all people he came to love; Jehan, Quasimodo and La Esmerelda, proved to failure after failure, through either their laziness, their inability to satisfy, or the unreturned love and dire need and instead given only hatred and fear, respectively. For a man of science cannot depend upon human emotion to always deliver, such a lesson we learn from the departure of sanity from our dearest villain Archdeacon Claude Frollo.