Hellfire is, to put it simply, a masterpiece. We don’t even need to look at the main lyrics to get an understanding of the genius put into this work. Listen to the Latin Chanting as Frollo sings. It is a prayer Catholics recite during mass that is an admission of guilt… so we have Frollo singing how the current situation isn’t his fault, whilst our red hooded friends are chanting ‘mea culpa’ and ‘mea maxima culpa’ (through my fault, through my most grievous fault) - showing the dual natures of humankind, religion etc… it also shows us Frollo’s mental state, obviously a precarious one as he fights his inner demons.
This song is also a parallel to Quasimodo’s earlier song Out There - both start begging for forgiveness, then grow into revealing the performers true feelings (Wanting to go to the festival and wanting Esmeralda respectively) which shows a similarity between the two which in turn shows that despite differences in appearance, status etc they are the same - which the film is showing. Regardless of appearance, if you are considered ‘normal’ or not, we are all the same.
By having this technique, it also sets the stage for Frollo v Quasimodo in their views of Esmeralda, this is emphasized by having Heaven’s Light sung and leading into Hellfire, creating another paradox of human nature and how appearance can be misleading (Quasi thinks she is angelic, Frollo thinks she is a witch… both don’t fit and are extremely exaggerated viewpoints, once again fitting the theme of appearances being a mask worn and you shouldn’t be judged on that).
On a totally separate note, another piece of genius from the music score of this film comes in the shape of ‘dies irae’ that plays whilst Frollo chases Quasimodo and Esmeralda. This translates as ‘Day of Wrath’ which is how the wicked shall be punished in eternal fire… this piece was also used whilst Frollo chased down Quasimodo’s mother. Both times he was using religion to justify his actions. Additionally, the inclusion of this results in Hellfire not just foreshadowing Esmeralda’s brush with death, but Frollo’s actual death.
He shall smite the wicked and plunge them into the fiery pit…