Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Orpheus dramatizes the quest of the poet-seer. As a visionary, Orpheus strives to perceive the nature and dynamics of the reality that becomes the substance of his verse. In penetrating life’s mysteries, he encounters the tensions of the human situation, which drive him unrelentingly toward death. Poetic creativity results from the psychological conflict and earthly disorder. At the conclusion of the tragedy, Orpheus apprehends the presence of God, which he identifies with the divinity of poetry. This harmonic vision, though, is illusionary and uneasy, for by contemplating the divine, he inadvertently relinquishes his role as a poet who, through pain and annihilation, discloses the essence of man’s condition.

The conflicts defining Orpheus’ situation evolve from the misunderstandings that result from human imperfection and the workings of earthly reality. Bickering between husband and wife indicates the tension between male and female principles. Instead of appreciating their love, both shape their situations to personal desires and visions: Orpheus is possessed by artistic ambitions, and Eurydice feels slighted as his wife. Orpheus’ source of creativity is the Horse’s tappings, which, translated from words into actions, foretell the poet’s suffering and death. The sentence emanating from the Horse and forming Orpheus’ verse incurs the anger of Aglaonice, thereby intensifying the uneasiness between man and woman. Poetry becomes...

(The entire section is 501 words.)