Orpheus and Eurydice
Theme of Love and Trust in Orpheus and Eurydice
Love is a powerful motivator. It can make people do irrationally amazing things ("look, honey, I baked a giant cake in the shape of your face!") and irrationally stupid things (see first example). In the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, we find instances of both amazing and stupid things done in the name of love.
Orpheus is so heartbroken when he loses Eurydice that he travels to the Underworld for her, which is irrational and awesome. But then, as they make their way to the upper world, he turns around to look at her. This is irrational and way less awesome, since he knows that doing so will send his wife plummeting back to Hades.
This second example is definitely an exercise in trusting the ones we love. Orpheus can hear his wife's footsteps, but he's never quite sure that she's there. Had he been able to hold out, and simply trust that Eurydice was behind him, they might have made it back to Earth and lived happily ever after.
Questions About Love and Trust
- Why do you think Hades made a rule that Orpheus was not allowed to look at Eurydice until they reached the upper world?
- Different versions of the myth give different reasons for Orpheus turning around. Some say that he got excited and forgot his instructions. Others say he was plagued with doubt, and needed to make sure that Eurydice was still there. Why do you think Orpheus looked back?
- If you were Eurydice, would you forgive Orpheus for turning around?
- Some endings of the story imply that Orpheus and Eurydice never see each other again, while others say that they are reunited in the Underworld after Orpheus dies (specifically, in the beautiful Elysian Fields). Which ending is more powerful? Why?