Orpheus and Eurydice Analysis


Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Thrace (thrays). Supposed birthplace of Orpheus, now a region of eastern Greece bordering Turkey, where the love story of Orpheus and Eurydice begins. In ancient times, Thrace’s peoples were renowned as being among the most musically accomplished in the Greek world.


Ismarus (is-mahr-as). Village on the southern coast of Thrace and home of the Cicones, a savage Thracian tribe whose women are believed to have attacked Orpheus and dismembered him. At Zone, near this village, mountain oaks grow in an unusual formation after dancing to Orpheus’s music—an example of how the story explains unusual geographic features found at Zone.


Hades (hay-deez). Underworld realm of the dead ruled by Queen Persephone and King Hades. Orpheus’s journey to Hades dramatizes his immense talent as a poet, as he soothes the tortures of the damned, the terrible, and the dead. His songs even mollify the king and queen of the underworld. In some versions of this story, after Orpheus returns from the underworld, he shares with his followers his newfound knowledge of the dead, and of the salve that poetry and song can bring to the deep wounds memory or “looking back” can cause. Eventually, Orpheus joins Eurydice in the underworld; happy at last, they wander through the fields together.


Acherusia (ak-ah-REW-see-ah). Lake on the border of ancient Pontus, a strip of land along the southern edge of the Black Sea in Asia Minor that was supposed to have been surrounded by hot, steaming mud. Orpheus is said to have traveled to this appropriately ugly and uninviting place in order to enter the underworld.


*Pieria (pee-er-ee-ah). Mythical home of the Muses, located near the village of Vergina in northern Greece. As the home of the goddesses of the arts, including poetry and music, Pieria is an appropriate place to bury the body of Orpheus.


Libethra (li-beh-thra). Ancient city at the foot of Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, where the fragments of Orpheus’s body were buried. It is said that nightingales sang more sweetly over his grave than in any other part of Greece.

Orpheus and Eurydice Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Anouilh, Jean. Eurydice and Medée. Edited by E. Freeman. New York: Basil Blackwell, 1984. A modern analysis of the Orpheus/Eurydice story and the story of Medea as dramatized by modern writers. Compares the two women as opposites, while exploring the loss of love as it relates to one’s view of the world.

Cotterell, Arthur. The Macmillan Illustrated Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends. New York: Macmillan, 1989. Associates Orpheus with the doctrines of Orphism, a mystery cult derived from Orpheus’ poetry to his lost love, Eurydice.

Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths. New York: Penguin Books, 1960. Retells the story of Orpheus, father of music, and his beloved Eurydice, who dies and is held in the Underworld. Orpheus is seen both as a hero and as one who spreads the culture of music throughout the world.

Guthrie, W. K. C. Orpheus and Greek Religion: A Study of the Orphic Movement. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993. Analyzes Orpheus and Dionysus as the catalysts for the Orphic religion. Places emphasis on the mysteries of the cult and their attraction for women.

Warden, John, ed. Orpheus: The Metamorphoses of a Myth. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1982. An in-depth analysis of the uses to which ancient Greek, Roman, and more recent Western European poets, playwrights, musicians, and composers have put the Orpheus legend. Includes a look at the songs of Orpheus compared to the songs of Christ. Since Orpheus, like Christ, was killed as a sacrifice, the mythic implications of the two stories are of major significance.