Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Orpheus (OHR-fee-uhs), a poet. An impulsive and self-centered writer, he is abused by the need to understand truth and to convey his insights in verse. Easily irritated by his wife’s demands on his attention, he gives in to his passions, reflected to petty vindictiveness, jealousies, and anger. In listening intensely to the soundings of the prophetic Horse, he disregards the presence of his wife and induces within her the pain of rejection. This marital conflict begs for resolution, but through her attempts to vindicate these slights, Eurydice destroys the Horse and brings about, ironically and indirectly, her own death, resuscitation, and final death. By observing, and participating in, these actions, Orpheus comes to recognize the reality of pain that, characterizing the human situation, becomes the substance of poetry. Controlled by the passions of his temperament, he disregards the voice of reason and disobeys the directions that enable him to preserve Eurydice. Anger generated by Eurydice’s words compels him to direct his sight to his wife, who is immediately condemned to death. The Bacchantes assassinate Orpheus. Thus, Orpheus experiences and penetrates the nature of the suffering created by human passion and moral blindness.


Eurydice (yew-RIH-dih-see), Orpheus’ wife and a former member of the Bacchantes. As egoistical as her husband, she becomes envious of the Horse, which absorbs Orpheus’ time and energies. Submitting to her passions, she bickers; through her intrusions into Orpheus’ compulsive...

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