The song is one of Disney's darker and more mature ones, as it deals with Frollo's struggle with his lustful feelings for Esmeralda, and his fears that they will damn him. He is extremely devoted to the Catholic church and realizes he has sexual feelings for a gypsy woman whom he believes to be an evil witch. He sings of his frustration, for he does not want to go to Hell. The song contains some complex Catholic themes that may be unknown to children.
The song contains parts of the Confiteor (Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa), of which another part was sung in the mini-song before Hellfire, entitled Heaven's Light. As well, the ending of the song contains the Kyrie eleison, sung at the ending as Frollo sings "God have Mercy on her, God have Mercy on me", paralleling the Greek.
Through the second verse, Frollo draws away from the fireplace, taking a hidden piece of Esmeralda's costume, both fondly caressing it and looking on it with despisement. He kneels in despair on the word 'Sin', and huge red cloaked figures appear, chanting the words 'Mea Culpa'. Frollo desperately shouts the call and response part, looking at the figures as if pleading for his innocence. The figures melt and are draw into the fireplace, nearly taking Frollo with them as they sing the last lines of the call and response.
Frollo simply sings in front of the fire, holding out the cloth as some more shots of the fiery Esmeralda continuing her dance show, but she seems to act as if being burnt at a stake when Frollo says "let her taste the fires of hell". Another apparition, larger and formed of smoke, appears briefly, which Frollo attempts to embrace. The song briefly halts when a guard interrupts to tell him Esmeralda has escaped. He is dismissed ("get out, you idiot!"), and the song continues. Frollo casts the cloth into the fire, and backs against the wall as the shadows of the robed figures from earlier appear, and after the last line of the song Frollo collapses.