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.