A Few Notes About Christine Daae, Part 2

It’s finally here!  And prepare for a loooong post…

Act II picks up at the Opera House’s masquerade party 6 months after the events of Act I.  The Phantom has been silent the whole time, and Raoul and the rest of the company believes him gone.  Christine, however, knows that the man has no choice but to live under the Opera House; and as far as she knows, he may still be obsessed with her.  Therefore, though she is excited about being Raoul’s bride, she begs him not to reveal their engagement yet.  And she knows Raoul still won’t believe her if she explains her reasoning.  She doesn’t want to rehash this point or argue, saying, “please pretend you will understand in time.”

Which means she doesn’t think he will ever understand.  She trusts Raoul and confides in him on other matters, but unless the Phantom literally shows up, Raoul isn’t going to believe her tale.  And Christine doesn’t want the Phantom to return to her life.  All she wants is freedom, remember, from that world of night.  So if he stays away, Raoul won’t understand what she was afraid of—but the two of them won’t have to deal with the Phantom’s anger either.

In fact, Christine is no doubt thinking of Raoul’s safety as well as her own.  The Phantom would be furious if he discovered their engagement—remember the way he lashed out at Raoul after the dressing room visit—and so she seeks protection for the two of them in secrecy.

These 6 months must have been uneasy for Christine.  The mentor who threatened her with “now you cannot ever be free!” has been oddly silent, but is no doubt still lurking somewhere.  And she lives in fear of her relationship with Raoul being discovered.  And she still stuck with Raoul.  For six months, under constant fear and uncertainty.  Which means she not only trusted him through those long months, but also that they remained faithful to each other in spite of this disagreement.

The musical doesn’t specify what she is waiting on, however, or when she would be comfortable announcing their engagement.  I suspect that she wants to affirm that the Phantom is gone from her life.  In fact, I think she planned to elope with Raoul that night on the roof, hence her line “order your fine horses, be with them at the door!”  But the falling chandelier made her pull back.  It reminded her that the Phantom was not gone from her life—and that consequences will follow if he finds out about her engagement.  Thus, she sought to keep Raoul and herself safe through secrecy, while maintaining her normal life—and watching for a confirmation that they were not suspected, and that the Phantom would not trouble her any more.

So when the Phantom appears at the masquerade, it is the incarnation of Christine’s fear.  She knew he was probably lurking around and possibly still obsessed with her.  His appearance and words confirm it.  And he will continue to terrorize the Opera House, with worse things “than a shattered chandelier” if the company doesn’t obey.

He also singles out Christine and declares: “Your chains are still mine—you will sing for me!”  This not only references his earlier remark, “Now you cannot ever be free!” it may also be a subtle communication that he knows of her engagement.  If she is figuratively chained, she cannot do what she wishes.  Since the Phantom controls those chains, only he can dictate what she can do and where she can go.  And rather than explain that he needs her to sing for his music (as he did earlier), now he commands it, treating it like a certainty.  Ultimately, Christine is helpless to change her situation—as such, if the Phantom decides to put a stop to her relationship with Raoul, he can, and he will.

When she comes to the managers’ office, she learns she has been cast in the star role of the Phantom’s opera—which did not ease her fears—and to top it off, Carlotta accuses her as the perpetrator of these problems.  Christine snaps, showing an outrage that she had never before displayed, and declares, “I don’t want any part of this plot!”  She’s mad at being blamed for this mess, but also angry of being accused of threats and manipulation—notice that she never once says something she doesn’t mean.

She also feels cornered.  The managers witnessed that nastily possessive order, “You will sing for me!” and their first instinct is not to protect her or put up any sort of fight, but to go along with those demands and cast her in the Phantom’s opera.  Andre pretends to be reasonable, but questions her reason for refusing; Firmin outright tells her that performing is her duty.  But Christine’s one fear is that the Phantom will take her again and would never let her go.  If she appeared in the opera, it would play right into his hands.

Though she feels attacked, cornered, and afraid—notice that she insists she won’t sing.  Commands of duty and faux-reasonableness do not sway her.  She has a spine of steel, and won’t let herself be pushed around once she’s decided to draw a line.  And all she wants now is to get away from the Phantom, from the shadows and uncertainties of the last few months—perhaps years, depending on how long the Phantom had been part of her life.  Six months earlier, she had starred in Ill Muto and admitted to Raoul that the Phantom’s music entranced her.  Now, she wants no more, and refuses the star role in Don Juan: “I cannot sing it, duty or not.”

What she intends to do instead is not specified, but regardless, the Phantom won’t give up that easily.  In his note, he appealed to her love for music, saying that her voice was good, but nowhere near excellence.  If that weren’t enough, he accuses her of rejecting his instruction out of pride.  And furthermore, he twists the situation to make it look like she was the one at fault in forsaking him.

He may also be communicating to her (again) that he knows of her engagement to Raoul.  By giving her a chance to return to him voluntarily, he forces her to make a choice: to ally with his music and his instruction, or to go with Raoul in “pride” that she needed no further instruction or protection.  But Christine’s response is instant and terrified: “I can’t.  I won’t do it.”  She is becoming more and more aware of the Phantom’s cunning and manipulation, and so rejects more and more of his advances.

During the chaos of everyone arguing over Raoul’s plan, Christine snaps again—though in fear rather than anger—and appeals to Raoul.  She tells him that the Phantom will take her back, whether she wants to go or not—“We’ll be parted forever; he won’t let me go!”  Think of that; separation from Raoul is one of her prime fears.  She knows good and well that the Phantom can do what he wants with her life.  He does not need to threaten her with danger.  His hold over her is stronger because she once trusted him, and he, in turn, revealed to her his lair and his desire for her to sing his music.  She does not want to return to him, but severing those once-personal ties and escaping him completely is harder than it sounds.  As such, her other fear is that she will never be able to escape the Phantom’s influence; “And he’ll always be there singing songs in my head…”

Raoul reminds her that she had said the Phantom was nothing but a man.  The libretto does not actually record this dialogue; I assume Raoul inferred this point from her conversation that night on the roof, or that Christine had said this directly during some scene that the musical did not show.  Either way, Raoul is right.  The Phantom is human, and Christine knows it.  But he is powerful in ways Raoul doesn’t understand.

Up until this point, Raoul had been Christine’s only ally.  Now she is understandably upset with his plan, yet she never accuses him of cruelty or harshness or going back on his word.  In fact, he is trying to fulfill his promise to her and get them both out of this mess.  And I think Christine knows it.  She feels “twisted every way,” but not because she fears he won’t protect her, or that his plan won’t work.  She doesn’t even accuse Raoul of being cruel towards the Phantom, and Christine is not in denial about the situation.  In fact, she understood the reality before she engaged herself to marry Raoul: that the Phantom was a danger to her and to others.  Matters have come to a crisis now, and they can’t disentangle themselves the way she hoped they could.

On the one hand, her dilemma is deeply personal: “Can I betray the man who once inspired my voice?”  Though she will not return to her music lessons, she recognizes the gift he gave her, and this recognition shows her to be a humble young woman.  Furthermore, trust is one of Christine’s highest values.  To betray someone she had once trusted—to use against him the skills he taught her, to use her voice to trap him, must have violated nearly everything she believed right.  And she may be very reluctant to treat the Phantom the way he once treated her.  She wants no revenge, has no wish to betray him as he once betrayed her.  She just wants out of the situation.

But on the other hand, this problem is not personal: “He kills without a thought; he murders all that’s good.”  It’s not just her life at stake.  And deep down, she seems to know that she has a duty to do this: “I know I can’t refuse and yet I wish I could!”  The fact that Raoul and others are depending on her and her alone to free them from the danger only adds to her torment.

But I don’t think Raoul could have forced Christine to sing.  She’s close to people she loves, and she hates to disappoint and hates to be pressured—but she is capable of standing her chosen ground.  Remember that she insisted the Phantom was real that night on the rooftop, in spite of protests from the man she loved.  And she insisted on keeping their engagement secret for six months, and barely five minutes earlier, had flat-out refused to sing in Don Juan.

Ultimately, she knows what she must do, yet can’t bring herself to do it.  She runs out of the room in conflict and torment, without deciding one way or the other.

Torn between choices, hesitant to betray the Phantom, and afraid she’ll lose Raoul forever, Christine turns to her memories of her father.  She visits the cemetery where he’s buried, which is as close as she can get to him now.  It’s interesting that she did not go to Raoul with her emotional turmoil here.  She may have been a little upset with him for persuading her to betray the Phantom—but then again, she may have just wanted some alone time.

“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is a gorgeous number, but it’s vital to the story on several levels.  It indirectly reveals a good deal about Christine’s heart and loyalty.  She describes her father as her “one companion” and “all that mattered.”  She describes him as “friend and father,”—and says that her world was shattered by his death.  With such a close relationship between them, it’s easier to understand that Christine trusted his last promise and was desperate for any connection to him.  And so fell for the whole “Angel of Music” thing.

The musical doesn’t specify how long it had been since her father died, but the lyrics give the impression that it happened some time ago, and that she’d been on her own for years.  And she longs for those days when he was alive, when none of this fear, loneliness, uncertainty existed.  His death and the lack of companionship in her life seems to have haunted her, affected her deeply even while performing as a simple ballet/chorus girl in the Opera House.

But as she remembers and grieves, she realizes that living in the past is not the solution: “Dreaming of you won’t help me to do all that you dreamed I could.”  And she realizes that she must let go of her memories, of that last promise, and move forward.  She will still miss her father, still wish he was there, but she will no longer depend on this longing and her memories: “…Knowing we must say good-bye.  Try to forgive; teach me to live!  Give me the strength to try!”

And by the end of the song, she makes her final decision: “No more memories!  No more silent tears!  No more gazing across the wasted years.  Help me say good-bye.”

This is tremendous strength of character, and a pivotal plot point.  For after this song, Christine herself does not slip into the past.  She deals with the situation as it is.  She also resolves to sing in Don Juan, regardless of the consequences—the conflict at the cemetery seemed to convince her, once and for all, that the Angel she had trusted must be stopped.

The Phantom, of course, is not entirely happy with this turn of events.  He attempts to call Christine back to him; and it’s interesting that in the managers’ office, his note appealed to her love of music and their mentor-student relationship.  Now he appeals to her love and loyalty toward her father, a bond that no one else would fully understand.

Christine, for her part, differentiates between “friend or Phantom.”  The two are no longer one and the same in her mind.  She also no longer follows a mysterious voice without question, and wants to know who is there.  But she quickly figures out it’s the Phantom, and picks up, at least to some degree, on hidden motives in his appearance: “Angel, oh speak!—what endless longings echo in this whisper?”  Christine made several mistakes in her thinking and emotions, but she is not an idiot, guys.  And my sister pointed out that she is fairly emotionally stable—she is affected by the traumatic circumstances, but she doesn’t totally break down under everything that happened.

The Phantom gives her a second chance to return to him voluntarily—and Christine feels the pull, but fights it: “Wildly, my mind beats against you, but my soul obeys!”  At first glance, it seems weird that she chooses to let go of the past, and then immediately falls back under the Phantom’s spell.  But the Phantom is manipulating her in a personal way here.  And manipulating her, as I specified in my Raoul post, where she is most vulnerable.  Also, Christine still feels a pull to the Phantom and his music, but it’s one that she does not want to submit to.

Though on the point of returning to the Phantom, she finally hears Raoul’s frantic call, and runs back to him.  It’s also strange, at first glance, that Christine chooses to let go of the past, but then Raoul has to be the one to snap her out of her trance.  However, this is actually a balance of what each of them are responsible for.  Raoul helps her where she cannot help herself (and his appearance perhaps reaffirms Christine’s knowledge that he will protect her).  And she sticks to her resolve to leave the past behind.  After his song, she does all she can to resist the Phantom, and she chooses to sing in Don Juan to put an end to his behavior and his threat.

After what happened at the cemetery, Christine could not be any more comfortable about the situation—the Phantom still clearly wants her under his authority, and will do whatever he can to call her back to him, thus separating her from Raoul.  And she sings in Don Juan anyway.  She no doubt trusted that Raoul would be nearby to protect her and trusted that his plan would actually work.  Of course, nobody expected that the Phantom would appear onstage in disguise to play role of Don Juan himself.  Christine doesn’t realize it until the end of “The Point of No Return.”

And I have to pause and make some important points about this song.  It’s strongly implied to be a sexual song (or at least to have sexual subtext), and the fact that Christine sings it with the Phantom (though he’s in disguise) makes it an emotionally charged duet.  Right?

Wrong.  Christine thinks she’s singing with Piangi.  She doesn’t realize who her Don Juan really is until the end of the song.  Did she have those feelings toward Piangi?  I think not.  I believe Christine was acting a part, that she did not feel (at least not completely) everything the song was trying to put to put into her head.  And if you think about it, the Phantom—once again—is manipulating her into saying and doing things she might not have done of her own free will.

And on that note, “Point of No Return” is also cited as a metaphor for the Phantom’s life.  It’s also something of metaphor for Christine’s involvement with him.  Her first line could well describe her innocent trust right when he came into her life: “No thoughts within her head but thoughts of joy; no dreams within her heart but dreams of love!”  The Phantom knows exactly what is going on; Christine has “come here, hardly knowing the reason why.”

But by the end of the song, Christine figures out who the other singer really is.  And if she had any doubts that the Phantom knew of her engagement to Raoul, those doubts vanish when he sings the exact lines Raoul had sung to her six months ago.

I was always confused about why she pulled off his mask.  Screaming something like “that’s the man, catch him!” might have succeeded better, and since he reacted so histrionically when she pulled it off the first time, what did she expect he’d do this time?  However, it’s possible that she did it to communicate to him the way he’d been subtly communicating to her: that she knew the truth of his actions and motives, and that she was not afraid of him anymore.

But the Phantom evades capture of the police and drags Christine down to his lair—as she’d earlier feared he would.

Up until this point, Christine had tried simply to evade the Phantom.  Now she confronts him directly, and accuses him of his moral crimes: “Have you gorged yourself at last in your lust for blood!”  And demands to know what his intentions are towards her: “Am I now to be prey to your lust for flesh?”  A huge change from the girl who once followed him into his lair without a question.

She has also realized that the darkness and twistedness in his heart was the problem, not his face.  Yes, he had been denied love, even from his mother.  Yes, he had been wrongfully outcast from society.  But his circumstances are not responsible for his actions—he alone is.  This is another great change from her character at the beginning of the musical: rather than being terrified to disobey or to challenge him, she tells him honestly that he had let this deformity twist his heart into something terrible.  The Phantom had spent the entire musical trying to manipulate her; she, on the other hand, tells him the truth about himself.  She doesn’t even address the fact that the Phantom threatened to keep her beside him for eternity; she focuses instead on the root of the matter.

She may also believe, or hope, that he will change his heart and turn from this path.  It was a bold move to tell him that his soul was more deformed than his face; it might tip him over the edge, and Christine, of all people, knew how angry he got when opposed.  Though she will no longer succumb to his manipulation and lies, the very fact that she points out his problem means she hopes that he might listen—and that she is concerned about the state of his soul.

On the other hand, when Raoul shows up, she cries that reasoning with the Phantom was “useless”—she may be afraid that the Phantom will explode if opposed by anyone else, and might take that anger out upon Raoul.  Which is exactly what happens.  The Phantom forces Christine to make a choice: stay with me, and Raoul will go free.  “Refuse me, and you send your lover to his death!”

Here, Christine snaps.  None of his other actions had brought out her hatred; but now she tells him, “The tears I might have shed for your dark fate grow cold—and turn to tears of hate!”

And she denounces him: “Farewell my fallen idol and false friend!”  She calls him as “Angel of Music” a few lines later, but the tone is almost in condemnation, referring to the role he had masqueraded to use her.  At the same time, she appeals to the fact that he, of all people, should understand the pain of being tormented for something not his fault: “Angel of Music, who deserves this?  Why do you curse mercy?”  She further accuses him of deceiving her–but also that she gave her mind blindly.  She realized he took advantage of her, but also that she was too trusting in the first place.

But her reasoning and pleas do not move him.  And Christine must choose whether to stay with the Phantom or to refuse to give up Raoul and so condemn him to death.

What she chooses to do is a strangely independent decision.  The Phantom is forcing her hand, yes, and there’s no way to get out of the situation.  But Christine does not simply give into his demands.  She sees his ignorance, misery, and loneliness, and she chooses to pity him and to show him compassion.  The very fact that she has a loved one whom the Phantom can use against her contrasts starkly with the lack of companionship in his own life.

This compassion is incredible.  Think about it: the man whom she trusted as a messenger from her father lied to her, deceived her, threatened her, manipulated her into singing a sexual song for his own benefit, betrayed her, and threatened to kill her fiancé.  And she still pitied him.  Her choice is not easy; she says, “God give me courage to show you you are not alone.”  But she offers the Phantom compassion, not ignoring or excusing his actions–she knows exactly who he is and what he had done–but choosing to extend mercy instead of judgment.

And she isn’t trying to manipulate the Phantom into setting Raoul free either.  Christine is honest and values trust, and it doesn’t make sense she would use the Phantom’s emotions like that.  I believe she truly chose to stay with him, partly to free Raoul, yes but also because he needed someone to show him compassion and mercy, to give him the love that others had wrongfully withheld.

But this choice shows the Phantom, instantly and clearly, how he is wrong, and that he himself is not showing Christine true love.  And he sets her and Raoul free.

Christine loses no time in fleeing with Raoul, yet she returns for a moment to give the Phantom back his ring.  I’m not sure whether she meant it to be a memento of her, as he would probably never see her again, or whether she felt it wrong to keep something that he had offered her that she did not accept.  Perhaps both.  Then she returns to Raoul, asking him to reaffirm his promise to “say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime.”  And she reaffirms her promise to him: “Say you’ll share with me each night, each morning.”

It’s up for debate whether Christine loved the Phantom romantically; the libretto is ambiguous enough that each actress can put her own spin on it.  But I don’t believe Christine loved the Phantom.  She is initially too trusting–but that’s exactly the point: she wants to trust her guide and protector.  Her faith in the Phantom was broken, never to be restored, and she seems to trust Raoul unconditionally, and to give him the same faithfulness he provides her.  She is also so honest that it makes no sense that she would string Raoul along in their relationship, nor to pretend she was afraid of the Phantom when she secretly loved him.  And the love she showed her former mentor was unconditional, sacrificial love, based on his needs, rather than romantic love.

Christine, in a nutshell, is a kind, observant, compassionate, trusting young woman–a  too trusting at first–but with a spine of steel and determination once she’s drawn the line.  She loves people deeply, but she picks up quickly on the realities of the situation.  She has the strongest character arc in the story and makes the choices to grow and to move on.  Yet she remains gentle and compassionate, uses her love to bless and not manipulate.  She’s a layered character who grows.  And there’s so much more to her than meets the eye.

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2 thoughts on “A Few Notes About Christine Daae, Part 2

    • Christine Eyre says:

      Haha, I can be quite loquacious when defending my favorite characters! But thank you for the compliment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post! People really ought to give Christine more credit for her strengths…

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