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

Plot Summary

After discussing the nature of Breton lays, the poem introduces Sir Orfeo, an extraordinary harpist and a great English king, descended from the gods Pluto and Juno. He resides in Winchester with his beautiful wife, Queen Heurodis, who takes her ladies to an

3664 words

Citation: Colquitt, Olivia. "Sir Orfeo". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 30 April 2020 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=2049, accessed 03 March 2024.]

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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