Places: The Sunken Bell

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1896 as Die versunkene Glocke (English translation, 1898)

First produced: 1896

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Fantasy

Time of work: Indeterminate

Places DiscussedMountains

Mountains. Sunken Bell, TheWilderness regions, untamed by human culture, where the supernatural still holds sway. Mountains have a dual symbolism in The Sunken Bell, as they also represent the heights of human aspiration and ambition. The elves and wood-sprites, who contrive such mischief as luring the vicar, the schoolmaster, and the barber deeper into the woods by calling for help in Heinrich’s voice, are trying to preserve the first function and defeat the second. An uneasy amalgam of the two roles is forged by Heinrich’s association with Rautendelein, but it cannot last.

Abandoned glassworks

Abandoned glassworks. Site of Heinrich’s doomed attempt to found a better bell with the aid of dwarf labor supplied by Rautendelein. It is refitted with a smithy and a water-bearing earthenware pipe before being further extended into the body of the mountain.

Heinrich home

Heinrich home. Coarse but comfortable domestic setting in which Magda awaits her lost husband, surrounded by cooking apparatus and Christian imagery; the latter includes engravings of work by the sixteenth century artist Adam Kraft.


Lake. Resting-place of Heinrich’s first bell–a church bell–that falls into the water when a wood-sprite upsets the cart transporting it. The sunken bell, rung by the jealous Nickelmann, finally awakens Heinrich’s conscience by evoking a vision of his children carrying a bucket of his wife’s tears.

BibliographyGarten, Hugh F. Gerhart Hauptmann. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954. A useful general introduction to the writer and his work.McInnes, E. O. H. “The ‘Active’ Hero in Gerhart Hauptmann’s Dramas.” In Hauptmann: Centenary Lectures, edited by K. G. Knight and F. Norman. London: University of London’s Institute of Germanic Studies, 1964. A relevant essay in a collection that mostly deals with later works.Maurer, Warren R. Gerhart Hauptmann. Boston: Twayne, 1982. A study with emphasis on the works; The Sunken Bell is discussed in chapter 6, “Folklore and Symbolism.”Maurer, Warren R. “Hauptmann’s ‘Die versunkene Glocke’ and Ibsen’s ‘Auf den Höhen.’” Monatshefte 52 (1960): 189-193. A comparison of the two works.Reichart, Walter A. “Gerhart Hauptmann’s Dramas on the American Stage.” Maske und Kothurn 8 (1962): 223-232. About the staging of Hauptmann’s plays in the United States.
Categories: Places