Cosette in the novel
In the novel, the young Cosette's mother Fantine places her under the guardianship of the Thénardiers, where she is severely mistreated. They beat her, starve her, and force her to perform heavy labor in their inn. Under the Thénardiers' care, she is described as "thin and pale," wears rags for clothing, and she has chilblains on her hands as well as bruised and reddened skin. The author also states that "fear was spread all over her."
While later under the care of Jean Valjean, Cosette’s appearance completely transforms as she grows older. She becomes very beautiful, healthy, well-attired and educated. She later falls in love with Marius Pontmercy. Cosette has chestnut brown hair, beautiful eyes, rosy cheeks, pale skin, and a radiant smile.
Euphrasie, nicknamed Cosette by her mother Fantine, is the illegitimate daughter of Fantine and Félix Tholomyès. After Tholomyès abandons Fantine, she leaves Cosette with the Thénardiers at their inn in Montfermeil, paying them to care for her child while she goes to work in the city of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Unbeknownst to Fantine, the Thénardiers abuse and mistreat Cosette while she is under their care for the next five years.
While Fantine is in the hospital, the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer--who is Jean Valjean masquerading under the name "Madeleine" to avoid being arrested as an escaped convict--vows to retrieve Cosette for her. Although Fantine dies before her daughter can be brought to her, Valjean becomes determined to look after the young girl.
When he arrives in Montfermeil on Christmas Eve, he finds Cosette fetching a pail of water for the Thénardiers. He accompanies her back to the inn and witnesses the Thénardiers’ mistreatment of her, as well as the unkindness that their daughters Éponine and Azelma show her. After seeing this, Valjean leaves the inn and soon returns with an expensive new doll, which he offers to Cosette. At first Cosette is reluctant to take the doll, but then she joyfully accepts it. This makes Mme. Thénardier furious at Valjean, and Éponine and Azelma become jealous.
The next morning on Christmas Day, Valjean informs the Thénardiers that the real reason he is at the inn is because he wants to take Cosette with him. Mme. Thénardier immediately agrees to this, but M. Thénardier pretends to have adoration for Cosette and acts reluctant to give her up. Valjean pays them 1,500 francs, settling all of Fantine's debts, and he and Cosette leave the inn. However, M. Thénardier tries to swindle more money out of Valjean by running after them and telling Valjean that he has changed his mind and now wants Cosette back. He informs Valjean that Cosette's mother had entrusted her to their care and that he cannot release Cosette without a note from her mother. Valjean, agreeing with him, hands him a letter signed by Fantine. M. Thénardier then attempts to order Valjean to either return Cosette or pay a thousand crowns, but Valjean ignores him and leaves with Cosette.
Valjean takes Cosette directly to Paris. They lodge at Gorbeau House, and Valjean begins giving her a basic education. When Inspector Javert discovers Valjean's whereabouts, Valjean and Cosette are forced to flee. After climbing over a wall, they soon find themselves in the Petit-Picpus convent. The gardener Fauchelevant, who was once rescued by Valjean in Montreuil-sur-Mer, recognizes "Monsieur Madeleine" and is eager to help him. Valjean poses as Fauchelevant's brother, assuming that name for Cosette and himself, and the two live peacefully in the convent for many years. Valjean works with Fauchelevent while Cosette is educated. As Cosette grows up, she appears to have no recollection of her childhood before arriving at the convent. She leaves the convent at the age of 14.
In a later chapter, Cosette does eventually remember her childhood. She remembers praying for the mother she never knew, the Thénardiers as two ugly creatures, and fetching the water for the Thénardiers somewhere "very far from Paris." In the same chapter, she asks Valjean about her mother, but he does not answer her question. When Cosette has a dream about her mother as an angel, she remarks that her mother must have been a saint. Valjean answers by simply saying, "through martyrdom."
Relationship with Marius Pontmercy
Their first meeting is in the Luxembourg Gardens. Both Marius and Cosette fall in love with each other when their eyes meet (although this only happens after constantly seeing each other over the course of several months), and they begin to constantly think of each other. When Valjean takes notice of Marius’ affections, he sees Marius as a coward for not confronting him and seeking approval to court his "daughter." He also fears losing Cosette, who has become the source of his happiness, to Marius. After Marius discovers their address, Valjean then takes Cosette away from the Luxembourg Gardens and moves to another house, which he frequently does nevertheless as a means of dodging Javert and the law in general.
Marius spots Cosette again during a charitable visit she and Valjean make to the Thénardiers at Gorbeau House, directly next door to Marius. He asks Éponine to find her address for him, and she reluctantly agrees to. After many weeks, Éponine takes Marius to Cosette’s new address in order to see Marius happy. Marius idly watches Cosette for a few nights before approaching her. When Cosette and Marius finally meet again in the garden, both of them confess that they love each other, share their first kiss together and introduce themselves. They continue to meet each other from that point on. On one night, while Éponine prevents M. Thénardier, Patron-Minette and Brujon from robbing Valjean and Cosette’s house, Cosette informs Marius that she and Valjean will be departing for England soon. This news devastates them both, because it will mean the end of their relationship. Marius briefly attempts to obtain money and permission to marry from his grandfather to circumvent this issue, but ultimately their discussion dissolves into a heated argument stemming from the grandfather's suggestion to "Make her (Cosette) your (Marius') mistress", which ends with Marius storming out.
The next day, Éponine (now dressed as a boy) finds Valjean in an embankment in the Champ de Mars and anonymously throws him a note, which tells him to "move." Valjean considers this in horror for a few days, then informs Cosette they will move to their other house and will be in England in a week. Cosette quickly writes a letter to Marius with this information. She catches sight of Éponine through the gate and asks the "workman" to deliver the letter to Marius. Éponine accepts the letter, but does not deliver it.
Several nights later, Marius is led to the barricades by Éponine, in hope that they will die together. After being fatally shot, Éponine reveals this to Marius and gives him Cosette’s letter before she dies. Marius writes a farewell letter to Cosette, which is delivered to Valjean by Gavroche. Valjean reads Marius’ farewell letter and decides to follow Marius to the barricades. After the battle is over, he takes Marius' unconscious body through the sewers. After, quite literally, dragging Marius through quicksand in the sewer, Valjean finally manages to get Marius through the sewers alive, is let out by Thenardier, who has a government key and does not recognize him simply assuming him to be an assassin who killed Marius. He is confronted by Javert at the exit, who had pursued Thenardier there and was watching the exit in hopes of catching him. Javert helps Valjean return Marius to his grandfather's house and requests to be brought home to say goodbye to Cosette before being sent back to the galleys, Javert allows it, and when Valjean instinctively looks out the window, Javert is gone. We later find out that Valjean sparing his life at the barricade had caused a moral paradox and that Javert had gone to throw himself into the Seine. After Marius' 6 month recovery from his wounds, he is reunited with Cosette and they marry.
The Wedding and Afterwards
In February, Marius and Cosette get married. The next morning, Valjean tells Marius of his criminal history. This leads Marius to believe Valjean is dangerous, and asks him to leave him and Cosette. Valjean wishes not to be permanently separated from Cosette, so Marius grants him a visit every evening. When finding out through M. Thénardier that Valjean had saved him, Marius and Cosette go to Valjean, now on his deathbed. Valjean then shares the last minutes of his life with Marius and Cosette, while Cosette learns from Valjean about her past and her mother Fantine.
Cosette in the musical
In the stage musical based on the novel of the same name, Cosette is one of the central characters. She is played by two people, a young girl for Young Cosette in Montfermeil, 1823 and a young woman for the adolescent Cosette in Paris, 1832. Her part as an adolescent is condensed. Actors playing Young Cosette and Young Éponine interchange roles in different performances to equalize performance opportunities and vocal strain.
Differences in the musical
- Much of Cosette’s character is not fully portrayed in the musical. In the novel, she is described as beautiful, enjoys singing and reading, and is passionate and afraid of little. In the musical, very little of this is portrayed. Because of this, her character in the musical is often disliked by audience members and fans, because it portrays her as an ingenue who steals the boy from another, more deserving character (Éponine).
- Valjean and Cosette's stay at Gorbeau House, their avoidance of Javert and their arrival at the Petit-Picpus convent is cut. After they leave the Thénardiers' inn, the musical jumps to Paris nine years later.
Cosette is featured in the following songs in the musical:
- Castle on a Cloud
- The eight-year-old Cosette works at the Thénardiers' inn in Montfermeil. She is heavily abused and is forced to scrub the floors. Cosette sings of her dreams of heaven, comparing it to a "castle on a cloud", in which there are no floors to clean, nobody shouting and in which there is a lady in white (possibly her mother). She is quickly interrupted by Mme. Thénardier who catches her "pretending to be so awfully good." She then orders Cosette to fetch a bucket of water from the well in the woods. She taunts her, regretting ever taking her and comparing her to her own daughter, Éponine. As soon as Éponine appears, Mme. Thénardier immedietely dotes on her and praises her. While she does this, Éponine points to Cosette to indicate to her mother that Cosette did not leave. Mme. Thénardier once again angrily orders Cosette to retrieve the water. Cosette begs Mme. Thénardier not to send her out in the darkness alone, but then reluctantly and frightingly complies when Mme. Thénardier threatens to her that she will "forget to be nice".
- The Bargain / The Waltz of Treachery
- Jean Valjean finds Cosette in the woods and brings her back to the Thénardiers' inn. Valjean informs the Thénardiers that her mother Fantine is dead and offers to take Cosette to his care. Valjean pays Fantine's debt but the Thénardiers try to force money from Valjean, insisting that they loved her as if she was their daughter, that they have had to pay for expensive medicines for Cosette's repeated illnesses and that Valjean has bad intentions. They finally let Cosette go after Valjean pays them 1500 francs. Valjean assures Cosette of her dreams (expressed in Castle on a Cloud) and gives her a doll, which overjoys her. They leave for Paris.
- The Robbery / Javert's Intervention (silent)
- Nine years have passed and Cosette lives with Valjean in Paris. When they arrive for a charitable visit on the street, she accidentally bumps into a revolutionary student, Marius, of whom she immediately falls in love with and vice versa. Meanwhile, they encounter M. Thénardier, who recognizes Valjean and assaults him with his gang. However, just as they reveal the brand upon his chest, Éponine yells out that Javert is arriving. Javert appears and not recognizing Valjean, assures him that M. Thénardier will be punished. Valjean, on the other hand, recognizes Javert immediately and runs off with Cosette.
- Rue Plumet / In My Life
- On the garden of their residence at 55 Rue Plumet, Cosette recalls the encounter earlier that day with Marius, asking herself "Can people really fall in love so fast?" Valjean comes out and remarks on Cosette's loneliness. Cosette tries to ask Valjean of the faint memory of her early life with the Thénardiers (whom she does not seem to remember) and why she and Valjean always keep to themselves, insisting that she is no longer a child. Valjean, however, refuses to tell her anything, insisting that "it is a time that is dead" and that "truth is given by God to us all in our time" and leaves. Before his exit, Cosette expresses her general unease with her situation. Outside the garden, Marius, having found her residence with the help of Éponine, prepares to enter. He estatically sings "Éponine, you're the friend who has brought me here! Thanks to you, I am one with the gods and Heaven is near!" to Éponine's chagrin.
- A Heart Full of Love
- Marius enters the garden and shows himself to Cosette. He realizes his foolishness as he does not even know her name. However, Cosette follows suit and soon they are assured of their love and sing of it together with Marius singing that he is "lost" and Cosette singing that she is "found." Unbeknownst to them, they are also interjected by Éponine, who is also in love with Marius and is devastated by their love. Cosette and Marius end off joyfully singing that it is "not a dream after all" and they kiss.
- The Attack on Rue Plumet
- Shortly afterwards, M. Thénardier and his gang attempt to rob Valjean. Éponine, wanting to save Marius, tries to assure her father that Valjean is not worth robbing, to no avail. Seeing no other choice, she screams, sending her father and the gang to the sewers, and escapes with Marius. Valjean appears, hearing a cry in the dark and the voice of angry voices. Cosette, for the first time in her life, lies to him, telling him that she had screamed after seeing three men, who fled after her scream. Valjean immediately assumes them to be Javert and that he has found their trail. He tells Cosette that they are to leave the next day across the sea. *In the book, Cosette lied numerous times as a child to avoid beatings by the Thénardiers.
- One Day More
- As with all the other characters, Cosette sings with Marius anticipating how they could live when they are parted and are saddened by the fact that they are to be separated, insisting that they cannot go on without each other.
- Every Day
- Cosette does not appear again until after the barricades fall. She helps Marius recover, being the only survivor of the revolution and who had been brought to her by Valjean. She comforts him, reminding him of the night at Rue Plumet.
- Wedding Chorale (silent)
- The guests sing in jubilation as Cosette and Marius are married. They waltz in celebration, but Marius is confronted by the Thénardiers, who blackmail him with information about Valjean. They show him a ring, supposedly stolen by Valjean, which turns out to be Marius' ring. Realizing that Valjean was the one that saved him from the barricades, Marius punches M. Thénardier and leaves with Cosette to find Valjean.
- Valjean's Death
- Marius and Cosette find Valjean on his deathbed, who is jubilant to see them. Marius apologizes to Valjean for not thanking him for bringing him back from the barricade, but they are too late to save Valjean from death. Valjean, comforted that he can "die in peace" with Cosette and Marius at his side, writes his last confession, the story of Fantine and Cosette's life. Cosette passionately insists her father will live and that it's "too soon to say goodbye" She and Marius make peace with Valjean and accept the facts, and Valjean dies.
- Fabienne Guyon, 1980 Original French Cast
- Rebecca Caine, 1985 London Musical
- Judy Kuhn, 1987 Broadway Musical, 10th Anniversary Concert
- Kymberley Huffman, 1989 Original Canadian Cast
- Eden Riegel, New York
- Chelsea Matthews, 1997 San Francisco
- Marie Zamora, 1991 Paris Revival
- Luisa Torres, 1992 Original Spanish Cast
- Sara Sarres, 2001 Brazil Cast
- Ali Ewoldt, 2006 Broadway Revival
- Myriam Brousseau, 2008 Québec City Production
- Leanne Dobison, Queen's Theatre 2008-2009
- Michele Maika, 2008 Hollywood Bowl Concert
- Camilla Kerslake, September 2010, Queen's Theatre, London
- Katie Hall, 25th anniversary Concert
- Lucie Jones, 2010
- Jenny Latimer, Current 25 Anniversary US Tour 2011
- Lisa-Anne Wood, Queen's theatre, London, 2011
- Talía del Val, Current Spanish 25th Anniversary Production Cast
Film and television
- Maria Fromet, 1913 Adaptation
- Jewel Carmen, 1917 Adaptation
- Sandra Milowanoff, 1925 Adaptation
- Josseline Gaël, 1934 Adaptation
- Rochelle Hudson, 1935 Adaptation
- Valentina Cortese, 1948 Adaptation
- Debra Paget, 1952 Adaptation
- Béatrice Altariba, 1958 Adaptation
- Giulia Lazzarini, 1964 Adaptation
- Nicole Jamet, 1972 Adaptation
- Diana Bracho, 1973 Adaptation
- Caroline Langrishe, 1978 Adaptation
- Christiane Jean, 1982 Adaptation
- Claire Danes, 1998 Adaptation
- Virginie Ledoyen, 2000 Adaptation
- In 1995, HarperCollins published an informal sequel novel entitled Cosette: The Sequel To Les Misérables by author Laura Kalpakian. It continues the story of Cosette and Marius' lives after the end of Les Miserables. The novel is mostly a sequel to the musical than to Hugo's novel.
- In 2001, Plon released their own informal sequels to Hugo's novel entitled Cosette or the Time of Illusions and the follow-up novel Marius or The Fugitive. Both were by author François Cérésa.
- Ingenue (stock character)
- Émilie Cozette, étoile at the Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris
Characters Film adaptations Other adaptations SongsSongs from Les Misérables · "I Dreamed a Dream"
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