Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Huisum (HI-sum). Fictional Netherlands village, surrounded by cultivated fields, not far from the real city of Utrecht. Its occupants, who farm the land and raise livestock, are mostly illiterate. Characters need to make frequent trips to Utrecht for goods and services as well as for business. Economic dependence on Utrecht reflects its political position as provincial seat, location of the superior court.


Courtroom. Heinrich von Kleist has noted that the inspiration for this play came from a Dutch etching that showed a courtroom with a trial in progress and included a broken jug as well as characters analogous to those in this play. The courtroom serves also as Judge Adam’s living room. The cabinets in the courtroom contain a messy mix of cheese, ham, and sausage interspersed with or wrapped in various legal files. The confusion of private and public realms, which compromises Adam as a civil servant, is indicated.

Frau Martha’s house

Frau Martha’s house. From the garden, Eve’s bedroom window on the second floor is visible. Posts, reaching from the ground to Eve’s window, support a trellis covered with grapevines. As the scene of the crime, this geography becomes important during the trial. The grapevine hints at sensual desire and entanglement; and Eve’s room, like the jug in it, is a symbol of her chastity and honor, which appear to have been violated by an intruder who broke the jug during his hasty retreat.