Books Edit

Articles Edit

Lissette Lopez Szwydky. "Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris on the Nineteenth-Century London Stage."European Romantic Review, Vol. 21, No. 4.(2010): 469-487. JSTOR. Web. 11 Nov 2014. Edit

In this essay, Szwydky analyzes the transition from Hugo's tragic novel to domestic melodrama in nineteenth century theater and the effect that transition has on later adaptations. The adaptation of Hugo's work started as early as 1834, when Fitzball rewrites the story for the stage. Because the reviews of the production were generally positive, Fitzball again rewrites the story for an 1836 production. This ignites the picture of "domestic bliss" that will bring numerous adaptations to a close throughout the history of popular culture. With adaptation also came a shift in depiction that inadequately represents the characters of Hugo's novel and, in turn, detracts from some of the prevalent themes. Szwydky also analyzes the effects of censorship on adaptation in regard to the almost forgotten political, social, and historical aspects of Hugo's work. Because domestic stability is a crowd pleasing element of melodrama, the economic success appealed to those adapting the story and encouraged further happily-ever-after differentiation from the original story. Where the productions lagged in similarity to the original plot they made up in costly and visually pleasing theatrics. Of the important scenes from Hugo's novel the "Sanctuary" scene in which Quasimodo rescues Esmeralda is almost always included. However, the political weight of the scene is lessened in regard to the corruption of medieval Paris, a subject Hugo was so adamant to address, within the earliest of adaptations. Though these adaptations changed details that are important to the story, the most notable is likely the death of Esmeralda by the gallows. A death by hanging was considered far to disturbing for dramatic staging and many theatergoers appreciated the divergence from the original plot. Hugo penned an adaptation for opera shortly after his book was published. In this adaptation, calledLa Esmeralda, Hugo eliminates the hanging of Esmeralda to meet guidelines of French censorship. However, the opera was still fairly heavy in political language and was not received well by the French public. Because English viewers were not aware of the political implications of Hugo's work, the reception of adaptations in England, regardless of the political weight, was more positive. Also, the pardon of Esmeralda by the proper hierarchy of authorities in English adaptations pulls from the story the element of corruption. Szwydky points out Hugo's historical references in comparison with current French political issues as an element that is lost through adaptation. The narrator's asides concerning the concept of revolution are trumped by the spectacular action and complicated web of relationships among characters that also lose their relevance to the plot as is adapted in popular culture. Szwydky makes an excellent point against adaptation culture that has stripped the historically rich plot fromNotre Dame de Parisand transformed it into variations ofThe Hunchback of Notre Dame.