What about our other lady of Paris?

As I said before, I’m really into Notre Dame de Paris right now and I spend a lot of time thinking about the show, primarily its characters. Last time I talked about Esmeralda and today I’d like to focus on the other female character, Fleur-de-Lys.

Fleur-de-Lys is possibly my favorite character in the musical, or at least the one I find the most interesting, because she is the only one who really goes through any kind of change over the course of the story. While Esmeralda, Phoebus, Quasimodo, et. al have more stage time than Fleur, they still end the show as more or less the same person they were when they started it. This is not the case for Fleur-de-Lys.

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Who is ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ and what makes her so special?

So there’s this musical I’m currently obsessed with, and it goes by the name of Notre Dame de Paris. This musical, based on the Victor Hugo novel of the same name, opened in Paris in 1998 and took France by storm–quite a surprise for a country in which musical theatre is not a popular medium. Though the story is better known to English-speaking audiences as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the title actually translates to “Our Lady of Paris” and can be interpreted with a double meaning. It refers to the famous cathedral of the same name which is dedicated to the Blessed Mother and is the setting of the novel, and it can also refer to the character of Esmeralda, who exists at the center of the story.

NotreDamedeParis-HeleneSegara-EsmeraldaThe reason I say Esmeralda “exists at the center of the story” rather than calling her the central character of the story is because she is more of an object than a character. As the title implies, she is important to the story because the men around her feel possessive of her (“Our Lady of Paris”) and though she does have some amount of agency in the musical, most of her time on stage consists of things happening to her, rather than her making things happen.

[Warning: Spoilers for a nearly 200 year-old story ahead]

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