In Greek mythology, Eurydice or Eurydike (/jʊəˈrɪdɪs/; Greek: Εὐρυδίκη, 'wide justice') was the wife of Orpheus, who tried to bring her back from the dead with his enchanting music.

Charles-François Lebœuf, Dying Eurydice (1822), marble
Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein, Orpheus and Eurydice, 1806, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen


Marriage to Orpheus, death and afterlife

Eurydice was the wife of musician Orpheus, who loved her dearly; on their wedding day, he played joyful songs as his bride danced through the meadow. One day, Aristaeus saw and pursued Eurydice, who stepped on a viper, was bitten, and died instantly. Distraught, Orpheus played and sang so mournfully that all the nymphs and deities wept and told him to travel to the Underworld to retrieve her, which he gladly did. After his music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, his singing so sweet that even the Erinyes wept, he was allowed to take her back to the world of the living. In another version, Orpheus played his lyre to put Cerberus, the guardian of Hades, to sleep, after which Eurydice was allowed to return with Orpheus to the world of the living. Either way, the condition was attached that he must walk in front of her and not look back until both had reached the upper world. Soon he began to doubt that she was there, suspecting that Hades had deceived him. Just as he reached the portals of Hades and daylight, he turned around to gaze on her face, and because Eurydice had not yet crossed the threshold, she vanished back into the Underworld. When Orpheus later was killed by the Maenads at the orders of Dionysus, his soul ended up in the Underworld where he was reunited with Eurydice.

The story in this form belongs to the time of Virgil, who first introduces the name of Aristaeus and the tragic outcome.[1] Other ancient sources however, speak of Orpheus' visit to the underworld in a more negative light; according to Phaedrus in Plato's Symposium,[2] the infernal deities only "presented an apparition" of Eurydice to him. Ovid says that Eurydice's death was not caused by fleeing from Aristaeus, but by dancing with naiads on her wedding day. In fact, Plato's representation of Orpheus is that of a coward; instead of choosing to die in order to be with the one he loved, he mocked the deities by trying to go to Hades to get her back alive. Since his love was not "true"—meaning he was not willing to die for it—he was punished by the deities, first by giving him only the apparition of his former wife in the underworld and then by being killed by women.[2]

The story of Eurydice may be a late addition to the Orpheus myths. In particular, the name Eurudike ('she whose justice extends widely') recalls cult-titles attached to Persephone. The myth may have been derived from another Orpheus legend in which he travels to Tartarus and charms the goddess Hecate.[3]

The story of Eurydice has a number of strong universal cultural parallels, from the Japanese myth of Izanagi and Izanami, the Mayan myth of Itzamna and Ixchel, the Indian myth of Savitri and Satyavan, to the Akkadian/Sumerian myth of Inanna's descent to the underworld. The biblical story of Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back at the town she was fleeing, is "often compared to the story of Orpheus and his wife Eurydice."[4]

In art and pop culture

Statue of Eurydice at Schönbrunn Palace; note the snake biting her foot

The story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been depicted in a number of works by artists, including Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Nicolas Poussin, and Corot.[5] More recently, the story has been depicted by Bracha Ettinger, whose series, Eurydice, was exhibited in the Pompidou Centre (Face à l'Histoire, 1996); the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (Kabinet, 1997), and The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp (Gorge(l), 2007). The story has inspired ample writings in the fields of ethics, aesthetics, art, and feminist theory. In the game Hades (2020), the aftermath of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is told throughout a playthrough of the game.

Film and literature

  • Sir Orfeo, a Middle English Romance poem from the late 13th or early 14th century, inspired by the Orpheus and Eurydice tale
  • "Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes." (1904), a poem retelling the journey from the underworld by Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Orphée (1950), directed by Jean Cocteau
  • Orfeu Negro (1959), an adaptation of the classic myth filmed in Brazil by Marcel Camus
  • Evrydiki BA 2O37 (1975), directed by Nikos Nikolaidis.
  • Portrait de la Jeune Fille en Feu (2019), directed by Céline Sciamma, uses the myth as a common thread throughout the film
  • "Eurydice" (1999), a poem that retells the traditional myth through a feminist lens by British poet Carol Ann Duffy in her book The World's Wife
  • "Eurydice", a poem by Portuguese poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen in her book No Tempo Dividido

Operas and stage productions

The myth has been retold in operas by Jacopo Peri, Monteverdi, Gluck, Yevstigney Fomin, Harrison Birtwistle, and Matthew Aucoin.

  • Euridice (1600), an opera by Jacopo Peri, the first genuine opera whose music survives to this day[6]
  • Orfeo ed Euridice, an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck
  • L'Orfeo (1607), by Claudio Monteverdi, widely regarded as the first operatic masterwork[7]
  • Eurydice (1941), a play by Jean Anouilh
  • Orpheus Descending (1957), by American playwright Tennessee Williams.
  • Eurydice (2003), a play by Sarah Ruhl, later made into an opera by Matthew Aucoin in 2020.[8]
  • Orpheus and Eurydice: A Myth Underground (2011), a theatre production written by Molly Davies with music by James Johnston, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds for the National Youth Theatre at the Old Vic Tunnels, directed by James Dacre
  • Hadestown (2010), an ensemble album by Anaïs Mitchell, featuring Mitchell as Eurydice, Justin Vernon as Orpheus and Ani DiFranco among others, retelling the myth as a 'folk opera' in a post-apocalyptic Depression era America. Also, a Broadway musical of the same name that opened in 2019, with Eurydice's role played by Eva Noblezada.
  • "Eurydice", a section of Écho d'Orphée, Pour Pierre Schaeffer composed by Pierre Henry.


The story of Orpheus and Eurydice features prominently in the 1967 album Reflections by Manos Hadjidakis, as well as on the track "Talk" from Hozier's 2019 album Wasteland, Baby!.

  • "Valsa de Euridice", a song by Vinicius de Moraes
  • "(Love is) Myth or Madness" from the eponymous album of The Passerine, a Sarasota-based folk group
  • The Lyre of Orpheus (2004), an album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • "Orpheus", a song by Manos Hadjidakis and the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble
  • "From the Underworld" (1967), a song by British psychedelic band The Herd.[9]
  • "Euridice" (1971), a song from the album Focus II (Moving Waves) by Focus
  • "Eurydice" (1971), by Wayne Shorter and recorded by Weather Report on their eponymous album Weather Report
  • "Reuben And Cérise" (1980), a song from the album Jack O' Roses by Robert Hunter
  • "Euridice" (2001), a song from the album Echoes and Artifacts by The Crüxshadows
  • "Euridice" (2006), a song from the album The Dawnseeker by Sleepthief (featuring Jody Quine)
  • "Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)" and "It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus)" are songs from the album Reflektor (2013) by Arcade Fire
  • "Eurydice" (2014), from the album Days of Abandon by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  • Eurydice is the name of the comet referred to in Ariana Grande's "One Last time" (2015)

Science and geography

  • Eurydice Peninsula in Antarctica is named after Eurydice.
  • A species of Australian lizard, Ctenotus eurydice, is named after Eurydice.[10]
  • An asteroid 75 Eurydike is named after Eurydice.


  1. Lee, M. Owen. 1996. Virgil as Orpheus: A Study of the Georgics. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 9.
  2. Symposium 179d-e.
  3. Graves, Robert. 1955. "Orpheus." Ch. 28 in The Greek Myths 1. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p. 115.
  4. Clark, Matthew. 2012. "The Judgment of Paris." Pp. 97–111 in Exploring Greek Myths. Chichester: Blackwell Publishing. p. 106.
  5. Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille. 1861. "Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld" (painting). MFAH, Houston.
  6. Rosand, Ellen. "Opera: III. Early opera, 1600–90." Grove Music Online, edited by L. Macy.
  7. Whenham, John. 1986. Claudio Monteverdi, Orfeo. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28477-5. p. xi.
  8. Tommasini, Anthony (February 3, 2020). "Review: Eurydice, a New Opera, Looks Back All Too Tamely". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  9. Clayson, Alan (1997). Death Discs: An Account of Fatality in the Popular Song (2nd ed.). Sanctuary. p. 200. ISBN 1860741959. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  10. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Eurydice", p. 86).


Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Buci-Glucksmann, Christine. 2000. "Eurydice and her Doubles: Painting after Auschwitz." In Artworking 1985-1999. Amsterdam: Ludion. ISBN 90-5544-283-6.
  • Butler, Judith. [2001] 2004. "Bracha's Eurydice." Theory, Culture & Society 21(1).
    • Originally in de Zegher, Catherine, and B. Massumi, eds. 2001. Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger: Eurydice Series, Drawing Papers 24. NY: Drawing Center.
  • Duffy, Carol Ann. 1999. "Eurydice." In The World's Wife. ISBN 978-0-330-37222-0.
  • Ettinger, Bracha L., and Emmanuel Levinas. [1997] 2006. "Qui Dirait Eurydice? What Would Eurydice say?: Brache Lichtenberg Ettinger in Conversation with Emmanuel Levinas." Philosophical Studies 2.
  • Glowaka, Dorota. 2007. "Lyotard and Eurydice." In Gender after Lyotard, edited by M. Grebowicz. NY: Suny Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-6956-9
  • Pollock, Griselda. 2009. "Orphée et Eurydice: le temps/l'éspace/le regard traumatique." In Guerre et paix des sexes, edited by J. Kristeva, et al. Hachette.
  • —— "Abandoned at the Mouth of Hell." In Looking Back to the Future. G&B Arts. ISBN 90-5701-132-8.
  • Rosand, Ellen. "Opera: III. Early opera, 1600–90." Grove Music Online, edited by L. Macy.
  • Whenham, John. 1986. Claudio Monteverdi, Orfeo. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28477-5

Further reading

  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Hirsh, Jennie, and Isabelle D. Wallace, eds. 2011. Contemporary Art and Classical Myth. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-6974-6.
  • Masing-Delic, Irene. 2011. "Replication or Recreation? The Eurydice Motif in Nabokov's Russian Oeuvre." Russian Literature 70(3):391–414.

Media related to Eurydice at Wikimedia Commons

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.