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Pelléas and Mélisande


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A: Maurice Maeterlinck Pf: 1893, Paris Pb: 1892 Tr: 1896 G: Fairy tale in 5 acts; French prose S: Castle and environs, medieval period C: 6m, 2f, extras While out hunting, Prince Golaud encounters a beautiful girl, Mélisande, weeping by a spring. Her crown lies at the bottom of the spring, but she will not allow Golaud to retrieve it. Golaud marries Mélisande and they come to his grandfather King Arkel's palace in Allemonde, where they are welcomed, especially by Pelléas, Golaud's half-brother, who shares an affinity with Golaud's child-wife. Together at the Fountain of the Blind, Mélisande drops her wedding ring into its depths, which arouses Golaud's suspicions. When Mélisande combs her hair at a tower window, she leans out to greet Pelléas and he luxuriates in the long tresses that envelop him. Golaud's jealousy pushes him almost to kill Pelléas in the vaults of the castle, to interrogate his son from his first marriage about the young couple, and to use physical violence on Mélisande. When Pelléas meets Mélisande to take his leave of her, they at last declare their love and embrace. Golaud leaps from the shadows, runs Pelléas through with his sword, and pursues Mélisande into the forest. They are later found, both injured, Mélisande having given birth to a baby daughter. Brought back to the castle, she dies, proclaiming her innocence to Golaud, her head turned towards her child, the hope for the future.

A: Maurice Maeterlinck Pf: 1893, Paris Pb: 1892 Tr: 1896 G: Fairy tale in 5 acts; French prose S: Castle and environs, medieval period C: 6m, 2f, extras

This is Maeterlinck's most important work and a key text of Symbolist drama. The lyrical quality of the language, the evocative settings, and the enigmatic characters all contribute to create a play of highly charged atmosphere, whether in the erotic cascade of Mélisande's hair that pours down over Pelléas, or in the sinister journey through the castle vaults. Debussy wrote an operatic version in 1902, in which Mélisande dies before answering Golaud's question about the innocence of her love for Pelléas.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Maurice Maeterlinck (1862—1949) Belgian poet, dramatist, and essayist


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