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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
The novel opens on January 6, 1482. The city of Paris is in the midst of its annual celebrations for Epiphany and the Festival of Fools. The traditional celebrations, carried over from antiquity, revolve around three events: an exhibition of fireworks in the Place de Greve, the planting of a May tree at the Chapel of Braque, and a mystery play performed at the Palace of Justice. The chief attraction for most citizens is the mystery play, which is followed by the Election of the Pope of Fools.
In this first chapter, the paths to the Palace of Justice are packed with people awaiting the arrival of the Flemish Ambassadors. The noise from the impatient crowd, as they amuse themselves by mocking each other, echoes throughout the entire palace. The scholars, including Jehan Frollo, are especially adept at their witticisms.
As the clock strikes twelve, the show has still not begun. The angry crowd begins shouting. Finally Michel Giborne, an actor dressed as Jupiter, appears and announces that the play will begin as soon as the Cardinal arrives.
In this chapter Hugo introduces some of the customs of fifteenth century Paris, especially in regard to public celebrations and revelries. The Parisian citizens enjoy their festivals and attend then in high spirits. They especially look forward to seeing and honoring any foreign ambassadors who may be present at the celebrations. Hugo also emphasizes the custom of publicizing important matters through tolling the bells in the tower of the great cathedral of Notre Dame. In addition, Hugo points out that Paris has a well-established system of law and order. He describes in detail the law keepers and provosts, including a description of their clothes.
Although the celebrations of Epiphany and the Festival of Fools are not well documented in history books, in the novel Hugo indicates that these festivals attract a great gathering of people in Paris. The crowd, which really becomes a rowdy mob, even does damage to some of the great architectural structures of Paris.
During this opening chapter, Hugo gives exhaustive accounts and draws vivid images of the architecture and sculpture in the Palace of Justice and the Great Hall. In so doing, he clearly reveals that he has an appreciation of history and an extraordinary sensitivity to the spirit of his country. In truth, Hugoís main purpose in this first chapter seems to be to draw the readerís attention to the rich medieval heritage of Paris.