Guten Tag, Leute! Musicals are home to some of my favorite characters of all time. Many of these character have one thing in common: unrequited love. Characters like Éponine (LES MISÉRABLES), Sydney Carton (A TALE OF TWO CITIES), Elphaba and Glinda (WICKED), Franz Joseph (ELISABETH), Nancy (OLIVER!), Lucy (JEKYLL & HYDE), and the Beast (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST). And, while I am not excessively fond of him, the Phantom (THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA). Believe me, this list could go on and on. Unrequited love and the pain that stems from it is portrayed very well in song and thus, musicals thrive off of it. However, these characters each react to unrequited love in different ways. And, for today, I thought that I’d throw in my two cents on the topic! Of course, there will be spoilers both of the major and minor variety! Los geht’s!
Éponine is a character who could very well be called “the poster child of unrequited love” because she and her story are so well known! One of my favorite things about Éponine is that her love for Marius makes her a better person. Even though she knows that he doesn’t return her feelings, she continues to stand beside him. This, in my opinion is brought out perfectly in the German version of “On My Own”: “Ja, ich weiß er hat mir übersehen! Ganz egal, ich muss zu ihm stehen!” [Yes, I know he overlooked me! Doesn’t matter, I have to stand beside him!] And, in the end, Éponine’s love for Marius (yes, though unrequited) moves her to sacrifice her life for his. Éponine’s love for Marius causes her to, in so many ways, become a hero in the 1832 portion of the story.
Sydney Carton, like Éponine is well-known for his unrequited love storyline. One of the best things about Sydney? He makes a complete change for the better and turns over a new leaf even though Lucie doesn’t love him in the way he wishes she could. While unrequited love is tough to deal with, I love to see how characters like Sydney still manage to use the momentum that the unrequited love arc has created and spin it into some great character development. Sure, Sydney is absolutely shattered when he finds out that Lucie is going to get married to Charles Darnay but he doesn’t revert back to his old self. In fact, it’s from that point on that Sydney’s best character growth happens. I’m doong a horrible job at explaining this so I’ll just direct you to “If Dreams Came True” (a song from the musical) as it perfectly shows what I mean. Besides all that, though, Sydney lays down his own life for Charles’ by taking his place on the way to the guillotine. And this here is one of my favorite things about Sydney. He managed to be happy for Lucie and Charles although it was painful for him and, in the end, he put Lucie’s happiness before his own.
ELPHABA AND GLINDA
This is a very… shall we say odd situation. Odd in the sense that whilst Glinda is in a relationship with Fiyero in the beginning, Elphie’s the one coping with the feelings of unrequited love and that, towards the end of Act II when Elphie and Fiyero enter into a relationship, it’s Glinda who’s dealing with the unrequited love. Both girls handle their situations pretty well. Sure, they’re sad that they aren’t “that girl” but in the end, they’re able to put aside their feelings of pain and manage to keep their friendship intact.
This one is also a pretty strange situation seeing as Franz Joseph married Sisi and, for a time, his feelings were requited. But, after a series of situations in which Franz Joseph emotionally abandons Sisi, Sisi slowly feels alienated from him and they grow apart. By the end of the musical, it’s clear that Franz Joseph still loves Sisi but that Sisi sees him as more of a friend. This is made pretty clear in “Boote in der Nacht” [Boats in the Night] when Sisi tells Franz Joseph all of the many reasons why their relationship was practically doomed from the start. While I’m not exactly a big Franz Joseph fan, I do have to give him credit for how he reacts to Sisi’s rejection. He doesn’t give up on her but he does let her go, knowing that it’s what she wants and what she needs. He also still faithfully stands by Sisi to support her and very clearly still cares for her.
Nancy was one of the first fictional characters that I ever really felt an attachment to. As a kid, I really didn’t understand Nancy’s storyline as being one of unrequited love. However, now, it makes so much sense to me. While yes, Nancy and Bill are in a relationship, it is not a healthy one and it’s pretty clear that Nancy cares a lot more about Bill than he does about her. Bill never once says definitively if he does love Nancy. In fact, he dodges her questions. But, despite the abuse that Nancy suffers at Bill’s hands, she still stands by him, thinking that he needs her. Nancy’s hope is that she can change Bill and make him better. She doesn’t see how far gone Bill is. While her response to Bill’s abusiveness isn’t a healthy one, her intentions are good and I think that her love for Bill really does show what a kind, loving, sweet, selfless person Nancy is.
The interesting thing about Lucy’s case of unrequite love is that Lucy doesn’t necessarily know that Jekyll doesn’t return her feelings and that she really only crosses paths with him twice. Her other encounters are with Hyde who, contrary to Jekyll has a sort of obsession with Lucy. However, the audience knows that Jekyll’s feelings for Lucy really only go as far as friendly concern. Lucy likely understands this as well and doesn’t expect anything from Jekyll. She knows that whatever dreams she has of a future with Jekyll are merely that: dreams. Lucy, like Éponine, primarily falls for Jekyll because of his kindness–his sympathy–towards her. And, while Lucy knows that nothing can come of these dreams of hers, she uses those dreams, those memories of his kindness to get her through her tough times.
Sure, we all know that in the end, all works out for the Beast. But, when he lets Belle go to find her father, the Beast feels as if Belle doesn’t return his feelings and thus, sings the “If I Can’t Love Her” reprise. In the song, he says “No spell has been broken, no words have been spoken. No point anymore if she can’t love me.” Here, we see the Beast in a despairing state. Since the spell hasn’t broken and since Belle has not told him that she loves him, it’s easy to see why the Beast might think that his feelings are unrequited. This scene is such a tearjerker because the Beast, in his despair, sees nothing else to do but “wait for death to set him free.”
It’s really no secret that I’m not a big fan of the Phantom and that I love Raoul and a lot of that stems from the fact that I don’t like how the Phantom operates and that I don’t like how he responds to the fact that Christine doesn’t love him. He responds by murdering people, kidnapping Christine, and threatening to kill Raoul if she doesn marry him. While I cannot say that I like the Phantom as a character or love interest for Christine, I will say that he does make the story an interesting one and that he is a character that I feel sympathy towards. Not because of the unrequited nature of his feelings for Christine but because of his horrible, sad past.
So, those are some of my thoughts about some characters from musicals that suffer from unrequited love! What do you think? Vielen Dank und tschüss!