Sunday, May 24, 2009

Comte Philippe de Chagny

Dare I write about Comte Philippe de Chagny, the elder of brother of Raoul? (Inhales deeply and picks up quill with shaking hand to find the courage within to tread upon sacred ground.)

Philippe de Chagny is a Comte revered by many in Leroux’s original version. He’s a man I find everywhere on the Internet. He continues to be written about in Phantom books and sequels. He is played by multiple individuals in roleplay groups around the Internet, and there’s even a YouTube video made in his honor.

Here is a short description of his character as penned by Gaston Leroux:

Philippe Georges Marie Comte de Chagny was just forty-one years of age. He was a great aristocrat and a good-looking man, above middle height and with attractive features, in spite of his hard forehead and his rather cold eyes. He was exquisitely polite to the women and a little haughty to the men, who did not always forgive him for his successes in society. He had an excellent heart and an irreproachable conscience.

Philippe, of course, is the head of the de Chagny family. He’s inherited from his deceased father a large prosperous estate containing a great deal of property. His mother passed away upon the birth of his younger brother Raoul; and his father passed away when he was 32 and Raoul 12. His life is suddenly thrown into the management of the estate, which Leroux states was “no easy task.” In addition, he is faced with the duties of raising his younger brother and caring for his two sisters.

The sisters have little mention, but Philippe’s relationship with Raoul is expounded upon. He is devoted to his younger brother’s education. Philippe spoils him, but is very proud and pleased of Raoul’s naval career. When Raoul comes home on furlough, he introduces him to Parisian luxuries and delights, but makes sure that he does not set a bad example for his younger brother. He’s balanced in work and pleasure, and his outward demeanor in public is faultless.

Philippe, however, is opposed to the match between Raoul and Christine Daae, calling her “little baggage” believing she is only after Raoul’s money since she has no benefactor to care for her. Philippe and Raoul argue over the matter often, according to the household servants. Even their disagreements are noted in the local news: “The two brothers are said to adore each other; but the count is curiously mistaken if he imagines that brotherly love will triumph over love pure and simple."

As a result, the two go head to head. Raoul plans to run away with Christine, and Philippe intends to stop him at all costs. As usual, in the heat of conflict personality traits loom large, and we are able to see what possibly makes this charismatic man tick.

I’ve already written in formers posts that I believe Raoul to be head over heels in love with Christine, so much so he was willing to die to save her life. What about Philippe though? Why is he so hell-bent on stopping the union between his brother and Christine? I came across an interesting quote that I thought fit Philippe quite well.

"There is nothing to which men cling more tenaciously
than the privileges of class."

(L. Woolf )

Philippe de Chagny comes from an aristocratic world, filled with expectations, and codes of social behavior. Remember, Philippe is 20 years Raoul’s senior. His background was no doubt heavily influenced by his father and mother, and the generations of de Chagny’s that date back to the 14th century. The coat of arms hangs in his residence, along with portraits of ancestors reminding him of the way things have always been done.

Raoul, however, is threatening the old ways. He’s daring to marry beneath his status in society, and Philippe will not hear of it. To keep the way things have always been, he reverts to control tactics as he screams at his brother, “I SHALL know how to prevent you!" He is tenaciously clinging to the class in which he was birthed unwilling to accept change.

No doubt Philippe de Chagny was a complex man struggling with a changing world both politically and socially. I often wonder about his life prior to becoming the head of the family. He was 32 when his father passed way. Why hasn’t he married? Why has he no children of his own? You would think by that age he would have accomplished those two tasks in life, but he had not; and we are given no explanation as to why.

Philippe, I believe, struggles with a changing world that grates against his ingrained beliefs. He clings to the way of life he knows, resists change, and desperately attempts to control his brother who wants to break away from the mold.

Philippe, unfortunately, fought change and attempted in vain to stop his brother from running away with Christine Daae. His careless pursuit to stop him results in his own death. His body is discovered on the bank of the Opera lake. A sad ending indeed for a man with an excellent heart and an irreproachable conscience, who lost a battle with change.

As we all know, change is an inevitable part of life and most of us resist it on the spot rather than embracing its arrival. We tenaciously cling to what we have always known. We don't want our apple carts upset, or life to be different when we are comfortable. It will knock on your door one day, if it hasn't already. The question is, will you fight or embrace change? I like to think of Raoul and Christine as two that embraced change, for they left and built a new life together. Unfortunately, Philippe resisted change, and the end result was his demise.


Elliott said...

Watching Phantom of the Opera in London was a magical experience. ultimate romantic love story. Saw it with my wife on our 25th anniversary. Combined it with a chauffeur driven limo trip ... ... great value!

Teresa said...

My poor Philippe. I tried to tell him, did I not?


Excellent blog, Vicki. Your insights are always insightful and thought-provoking.

~~ Teresa