Sir Orfeo is a Middle English romance composed around the turn of the fourteenth century. It is primarily an adaptation of the classical Orpheus myth, where the hero’s descent into the underworld to retrieve his deceased wife is transformed into an English king’s journey to rescue his kidnapped queen from the Fairyworld. While original source for Sir Orfeo is uncertain, several Old French texts allude to an earlier musical lai, called Le lai d’Orphey, which is now lost to us (Bliss, 1966, pp. xxxi-xxxii).

Plot Summary

After discussing the nature of Breton lays, the poem introduces Sir Orfeo, an extraordinary harpist and a great English king, descended from …

3664 words

Citation: Colquitt, Olivia. "Sir Orfeo". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 April 2020 [, accessed 29 March 2023.]

2049 Sir Orfeo 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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