Jean Cocteau: Orphée [Orpheus]

(2576 words)
  • Candice Nicolas (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Shortly after “L’Ange Heurtebise”, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) adapted the legend of Orpheus and his descent into Hell to rescue his wife, Eurydice, for the stage (1926). With only one act and very few characters (Orpheus, Eurydice, Heurtebise, Death and her helpers), the play revolves around a story of love and death, in a universe where time is abolished and horses make poetry. Cocteau’s work deals with the inner personality of the poet and his relentless inclination towards, and fascination with, Death, as well as his preference for her over living people. Focusing particularly on Orpheus’ metaphorical descent into Hell, the play took to the screen in 1950. The main characters return, with an internal psyche treated even more i…

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Nicolas, Candice. "Orphée". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 15 August 2011
[, accessed 29 September 2016.]