The Prisoner of Chillon: A Fable
Where It All Goes Down
The literal setting of "The Prisoner of Chillon" is a real-life prison on the banks of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. But in the world of this poem, the literal setting isn't as important as the emotional, affective setting. In the mind of the speaker it doesn't really matter where the prison is – he's stuck in his cell, and can hardly see out the grate. By the end of the poem, his cell becomes his whole world – he's been there so long, he doesn't know how to cope with freedom. As he says, "the whole earth would henceforth be/ A wider prison unto me" (lines 322-323). The prison is in his mind!