Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Allemonde. Kingdom ruled by Arkël, the grandfather of Pelléas and Golaud. The name recalls Allemagne, the French name for Germany (Allemand means “German”), but monde is French for “world,” so it may also be read as a German/French or English/French composite signifying the whole world.


Castle. Arkël’s seat, an old and gloomy edifice set on the shore of an ocean; a reek of decay ascends from the cracked walls of its extensive vaults. Like the Brothers Grimm’s Rapunzel, Mélisande lets her abundant hair fall from one of the castle’s towers as Pelléas climbs up, entangling them both.


Forest. Wild land beyond the park where Golaud hunts. It is there that he discovers the distraught Mélisande beside a spring, and there that he sustains his injuries.

Blindman’s well

Blindman’s well. Spring in the park beyond the castle’s gardens, whose water is reputed to have once been able to cure blindness. Mélisande loses her wedding ring there, and it is there that she and Pelléas make their fatal confessions of love on the eve of his intended departure. The association between Mélisande and the two springs is strongly reminiscent of Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué’s novel Undine (1811), suggesting that Mélisande is more elemental than human.


Cave. Large, partially unexplored, stalactite-encrusted grotto on the seashore, which Pélleas and Mélisande visit after she lies about the loss of her wedding ring. It is, in effect, an extension of the vaults underlying the castle, symbolic of the dark depths of the human mind where lust and jealousy are born.

Pelléas and Mélisande Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Delevoy, Robert L. Symbolists and Symbolism. New York: Rizzoli, 1982. A beautifully illustrated chronicle of the Symbolist movement. Describes the cultural events of the era and the aesthetic theories of the Symbolist pictorial and literary artists. Includes an analysis of Pelléas and Mélisande.

Halls, W. D. Maurice Maeterlinck: A Study of His Life and Thought. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1960. This brief biography is based on the author’s research into Maeterlinck’s letters and interviews of his acquaintances. Includes concise critical summaries of each work. A good scholarly starting point for Maeterlinck studies.

Knapp, Bettina. Maurice Maeterlinck. Boston: Twayne, 1975. Discusses the writer’s life and works with particular emphasis on his use of archetypes and symbols.

Lambert, Carole J. The Empty Cross: Medieval Hopes, Modern Futility in the Theater of Maurice Maeterlinck, Paul Claudel, August Strindberg, and Georg Kaiser. New York: Garland, 1990. The introduction and conclusion describe the cultural environment that stimulated Maeterlinck to write symbolic plays. Chapter 2 provides a detailed analysis of Pelléas and Mélisande. Includes an extensive bibliography, with references to unpublished texts and works about Maeterlinck in several languages.

Mahony, Patrick. Maurice Maeterlinck, Mystic and Dramatist. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: The Institute for the Study of Man, 1984. The author, a friend and editor for Maeterlinck during his travels in the United States, relates personal anecdotes and gives a summary of his life. Also discusses some of the plays and prose works, as well as his interest in psychic phenomena.