The Man Who Laughs
A tragic tale of romance, oppression, and depraved nobility in seventeenth-century England by the author of LesMisérables.
First published in 1869, The Man Who Laughs is an impassioned plea for recognition of the humanity of society’s outcasts and an indictment of the callous crimes of the aristocracy. It tells the story of Gwynplaine, a boy whose face was disfigured by order of the king into a ghastly, permanent smile. Outcast and homeless, Gwynplaine finds refuge with travelling carnival merchant Ursus and falls in love with a blind orphan girl named Dea.
One day while performing a popular carnival routine, Gwynplaine captures the attention of bored and jaded Duchess Josiana. Used as a pawn by an agent of the royal court, Gwynplaine’s true identity and noble parentage is soon revealed. But when he is reinstated as a member of the aristocracy, Gwynplaine makes visible the monstrosity of the upper classes