George Lyman Kittredge (essay date 1886)
SOURCE: “Sir Orfeo,” American Journal of Philology, Vol. VII, No. 25, 1886, pp. 176-202.
[In the following essay, Kittredge examines several Breton lays and explains how French, Celtic, and Irish influences made Sir Orfeo different from the others.]
Dating from the end of the thirteenth century, when imitation, not originality, was the rule in English writing, the Romance or Lay of Sir Orfeo is not more remarkable for its grace and beauty than for the freedom with which it handles the classic mythology. The ultimate source of the poem is evidently the story of Orpheus and Eurydice as told by Virgil and Ovid, but so different is the romance from any...
(The entire section is 12026 words.)