My sister Gingersnap told me the other day that her inbox holds a string of emails from me that she hasn’t had time to read. The emails are unread because they are so long, each requiring a hefty time commitment. The fact that I had to break this post into two parts corroborates the account. But if I could crave your indulgence for a little longer, I’ll elaborate some more about Raoul and finally wrap up this dissertation.
Act II picks up six months later at the opera’s masquerade ball. Christine is clearly excited about her relationship with Raoul and becoming his “future bride,” but begs that their engagement remain secret. Raoul wants to know why, and he points out that they’re not doing anything wrong. This can’t be the first time he’s inquired about her motives, nor can it be the first time Christine refused to give an answer, but they’ve stuck together for half a year, apparently without any serious disagreement other than announcing their engagement. And of course, Christine hesitates to make it public only because of her fear of the Phantom, and she knows Raoul won’t understand this. Raoul will not understand because he sees no good reason to believe in this Phantom.
But this impasse highlights two more points of Raoul’s character: he surrenders to Christine’s wish, in spite of no good reason that he can see for waiting. He doesn’t need to get a job before marrying, or buy a house, or solicit any approval, or wait for rich Uncle Augustus up in the north of France to die and leave an inheritance. The only reason to delay is Christine’s wish, and he has respected that wish for six months.
(You know, I can’t take much more of this rotten behavior. He’s getting worse by the paragraph.)
In the second place, it’s notable that Raoul wants to announce their engagement. If you think about it, he ought to be the one insisting on secrecy: Christine is a foreign peasant girl, and his aristocratic friends aren’t going to give him a Hero of the Year award for marrying her. From their perspective, Raoul is making a terrible, shameful choice financially and socially. From Raoul’s perspective, the Paris aristocracy can jump in the lake.
But why does he want to announce his engagement to Christine? The musical doesn’t directly state his reasons, but he might seek to clear her reputation. The managers assumed she was his mistress in “Prima Donna,” and certainly no one thinks it odd that they spend the masquerade together. He might also want to clear his own name; given that he wants to marry her, not just have a fling, he probably wants to remove any false assumptions about them both. He is also straightforward type, and might simply dislike the understand dealing.
Point being, he is more than willing to announce their engagement, regardless of social consequences, and he sees no good reason to wait. As far as he can see, the madman has disappeared and is no longer a threat. But Raoul doesn’t try to force Christine’s confidence, simply hoping that he’d understand in time.
And he does before ten minutes have elapsed. He realizes the truth when a literal person showed up, took credit for the notes and the shattered chandelier, and ordered the performance of his opera with the threat of more consequences if management did not. If that wasn’t enough, the man addressed his fiancée with “Your chains are still mine; you will sing for me!”—and vanished.
Now several missing pieces have fallen into place, and Raoul, remembering Madame Giry’s warnings from months ago, seeks her out and demands the full story. He also connects her information with Christine’s words that night on the rooftop, guessing that the Phantom was a composer—and was deformed. (His reaction to hearing that the Phantom had been deformed from birth indicates horror at this fate.) And once Raoul becomes convinced of this man’s existence, he never denies it again and focuses his energy on ending this threat and protecting Christine.
While discussing the situation with the managers, Raoul tries to discover how they will respond to the Phantom’s demands—he can’t make much headway thanks to Carlotta’s and Piangi’s interruptions, and the managers pressuring Christine to sing so that the Opera House doesn’t lose a second chandelier, among other things. Raoul, on the other hand, assures Christine she doesn’t have to sing in Don Juan if she doesn’t want to.
At this point, I get mobbed by hordes of angry phans hitting me with the subsequent pages of the script in which Raoul turns right back around and tries to convince her to sing in order to trap the Phantom, demonstrating him as insensitive, abusive, and hypocritical.
Ahem. Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to go about ending the threat; I myself have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, using Christine as bait (which is almost what it is) was harmful to her emotionally. On the other hand—what else could they do? Surrendering to the Phantom’s demands will keep the Opera House locked in terror; disobeying will mean the loss of more property and lives. The Phantom was a danger, not just to Christine, but to the whole Opera House; he had already killed one man and could have killed more had the chandelier fallen in a different place. He had to be caught before he took more lives. But Raoul knows by this time that the Phantom could evade capture easily in the Opera House. This plan was the only way to draw him out.
On that note, no one expected the Phantom to show up on stage. Raoul later says to the policemen: “Do you have a clear view of that box?” It was there, he thought, the Phantom would be, especially since he had written the opera and would want to enjoy it from the position of theatre-goer. If anyone had any reason to suspect that the Phantom would be onstage and backstage, they would send the policeman there. And Raoul would never knowingly put Christine in danger.
When she begs him not to make her sing, Raoul reminds her that she herself said he was nothing but a man (and therefore, not supernatural)—yet that he was powerful enough “to haunt us ‘till we’re dead.” This is a sensible reminder, however unwelcome in the stress of the moment. During the six months of their engagement, there was no danger (that Raoul knew of) and no need for action, and so he surrendered to Christine’s wish. Here, multiple lives are in danger, and the Phantom must be stopped. And so he tries to get her to see the situation for what it is, and that she is the only one who can make the plan work. He encourages Christine with appropriate sympathy–but he never explicitly commands her to sing. Right before the performance, the managers doubted she’d show up; Firmin asks, “Will Miss Daae sing?” Raoul doesn’t answer yes or no because he has no idea himself.
Raoul, in fact, is doing the best he can with the information he has. If you think about it, he still doesn’t have all the knowledge that the viewers have: namely, the full extent of the Phantom’s power—and the relationship between him and Christine. Raoul doesn’t know this because Christine never tells him. It certainly wasn’t during their six-month engagement, and she probably didn’t have time after the masquerade. So he just doesn’t know. The category he fits into is nobody-told-me rather than insensitive-jerk.
After Christine runs out of the room in agony, Raoul snaps and shouts a challenge to the general vicinity (wherever the Phantom might be)—he’s had it with the secrecy and danger and terrorizing, but he doesn’t lose it like this until Christine crumbles in torment.
While the Phantom is still loose, Raoul needs to keep a watch on Christine, which is probably why he shows up at the cemetery in “Wandering Child.” Imagine his horror when he sees a man perched above the gravestone, singing to her with words of gentleness and fatherly love—oh yeah, the same man who kidnapped her months ago, frightened her, and dropped a chandelier at her feet. The last conclusion Raoul draws is that the Phantom truly loved her. In fact, Raoul wonders outright if this man is a seducer.
At the same time, he wonders who on earth this person is. He knows only that the Phantom is a deformed man, living in the shadows of the opera and hovering around Christine, but his past and personality is a mystery. Raoul knows he is human and not supernatural, yet he wonders at the connection to Christine, how this man knew enough to play on her memories.
But as the Phantom begins his call “I am your Angel of Music,” Raoul snaps again. He calls the manipulation “torment.” He knows Christine is emotionally vulnerable: she is at her father’s grave, and this man is taking advantage her memories, her loneliness, and the last promise from her father. Then Raoul appeals to Christine, begging her to recall reality; when this appeal fails, he shouts at the Phantom, and then desperately turns back to Christine. Raoul is almost helpless in this scene: he’s watching the woman he loves be manipulated where she is most vulnerable, and by an established murderer. And Raoul is angry. Angry and desperate.
It’s interesting that the Phantom plays on Christine’s memories of her father, on her longing, and on her father’s promise to send the “Angel of Music.” Not only does this manipulate her, it seems to be the only way to draw her to him. Raoul does no similar thing, and Christine sticks with him on his own merit and not because of her memories. I mean, yeah, he’s her childhood friend, but there’s no pull to the past when she’s with Raoul as there is when she’s with the Phantom. If anything, Christine refers more to the present and future when she’s with Raoul.
At the last minute, she snaps out of her trance and runs to Raoul. Our Vicomte has had it with the Phantom’s attitude, manipulation, and terrorizing; he accuses the Phantom of “deception [and] violence!” He also confronts the Phantom’s warped romantic approach: “You can’t win her love by making her your prisoner!” Notice that he says win her love instead of make her love you. Christine’s love is something to be earned, not forced. Of course, Raoul does not believe this man truly loves her, but he can’t understand the Phantom’s method of trying. And according to one version of the lyrics, Raoul would have confronted the Phantom then and there (thus rending the Don Juan plan unnecessary) if Christine had not pulled him away.
Back at the opera, the managers wonder if Christine would show up in the first place to sing—meaning, obviously, that nobody forced her—and Raoul gets the policemen in position. And he says, “Shoot—only if you have to—but shoot to kill.” This is a marvelous insight into his character; he will end this threat however he must, but he’ll start by capturing the Phantom if possible, and taking extreme measures as a last resort.
The trap doesn’t work because nobody expected the Phantom to appear onstage. When Raoul and the others realize who the Don Juan singer really is, he is too close to Christine for the policemen to safely fire. The Phantom makes off with Christine, and Raoul snags Madame Giry (the only person, he knew, who had any information about the Phantom), and she directs him to the Phantom’s lair. Raoul swims the underground lake—in the middle of winter, mind—to get there.
Arriving at the lair, cold, wet, desperate, and afraid for Christine, Raoul begs the Phantom to free her, appealing to his humanity and pity. He still has no idea of the Phantom’s loneliness and desperation for love. All he sees is a man who has (again) manipulated and kidnapped Christine, and oh, yeah, now has her in a wedding dress. I’m surprised he didn’t totally lose it when he saw that. And how can anyone doubt Raoul’s feelings as he cries: “I love her! Does mean nothing? I love her!” Not only that, he demonstrates his love with action: he sheltered and guarded Christine to the best of his ability; he put himself in personal danger to save her; and he will lay down his life if necessary
Getting nowhere with pleas for compassion, he begs to see Christine to make sure she’s unharmed. With so much on his mind, it kinda makes sense that he forgets the whole “hand at the level of your eyes” thing. And so the Phantom catches him in the Punjab lasso and threatens to kill him.
Raoul’s words after hearing this? “Christine, forgive me. Please, forgive me!” His plan had backfired; he knew she was now facing more danger and pain than when onstage singing Don Juan. And Raoul blames himself alone. He doesn’t say, “Well, if you’d told me about all this long before the Masquerade…” He doesn’t even accuse the Phantom. Raoul takes the blame on himself, acknowledging that he put her, though unintentionally, in this desperate position, and begging her forgiveness.
I’ve seen his line “Say you love him, and my life is over” denounced as selfishness. I think instead it’s fact combined with despair. Christine engaged herself to Raoul, promised to spend the rest of her life with him, and for her to go back on that promise, either genuinely or to earn his freedom, would hurt him, badly. And how could he live with himself knowing she threw away her happiness for his sake? What he ultimately wants is for Christine to somehow get out of this mess unharmed and free. If she remains behind with the Phantom, she will be trapped, and Raoul will be heartbroken on a number of levels.
It’s interesting that Raoul demands of the Phantom: “Why make her lie to you to save me?” To Raoul, it is utterly pointless to force her into giving the appearance of love when her heart doesn’t accompany it. This is actually a smart and logical point (provided it didn’t tip the Phantom over the edge); by forcing Christine’s hand, the Phantom wouldn’t get her heartfelt promise. And none of them would come out on top: Christine would be trapped into a life with the Phantom; he would not have the love he desperately wants; and Raoul would be free, but with nothing more to live for.
The Phantom is not rational enough to see this outcome; he is as desperate and angry as Raoul is, and it doesn’t occur to him how hollow Christine’s promise would be under the two choices. So Raoul, all but hanging by a noose, begs his love not to throw away her life for his sake. In “All I Ask of You,” he said, “Let me be your freedom.” In “Final Lair,” he will fulfill that promise even if it requires his own death.
But through Christine’s compassion and sacrifice, the Phantom realizes his mistake and lets them both go. Which makes me happy (although sorry for the Phantom); though Raoul was willing to die for Christine, I’m glad he didn’t have to. And as he and Christine leave, they reaffirm their promise to each other.
And I made a timeline mistake in my previous post: Raoul first appears in the prologue. The audience probably won’t understand the significance until the musical is over, however, so perhaps it’s just as well that I forgot the scene until now. 🙂 Anyway, in the prologue, Raoul buys the promotional poster for Hannibal and the Phantom’s music box, an item Christine often spoke of. But what’s interesting is when the auctioneer speculates about the Phantom of the Opera, calling it “a mystery never fully explained.” Guess which person there knows exactly what happened? Raoul. But he doesn’t speak up. The Phantom said, “Swear to me never to tell!” And Raoul didn’t, apparently not before this, and certainly not now.
Raoul, in a nutshell, cares more for Christine than for himself. He’s the both-feet-on-the-ground, straightforward type, a decisive, take-charge man, yet tender and loving toward Christine. He does make some assumptions that are not grounded in reality and has a listening problem, but he truly love Christine and demonstrates his love by his actions. He’s a multi-layered character with flaws and strengths; he makes both wise choices and mistakes. He’s human, really. And he’s a good man.