Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Country house

Country house. The play’s only location is an ordinary setting in extraordinary circumstances: a dimly lit room in an old country. The room has doors at the left and right and a small concealed door in a corner. Stained glass windows on the back wall are predominantly green, giving an eerie cast to interior objects lighted by the light from the outside. A glass door beside them opens to a terrace. In another corner is a clock, and a lighted lamp provides illumination. There is also a table with chairs around it.

The play opens in the late morning, when a family assembles to wait for news of the mother’s illness; the atmosphere is one of terror and foreboding. Doors open by themselves, and then refuse to close. The lamp casts flickering shadows. Sounds are heard for which no explanation can be found. With very little plot or characterization, Maeterlinck creates an atmosphere of mystery that gradually escalates into full-blown terror.