Jean Cocteau: Orphée [Orpheus] (2576 words)

Candice Nicolas (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)
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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…

Citation: Nicolas, Candice. "Orphée". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 15 August 2011 [, accessed 19 August 2022.]

11531 Orphée 3 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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