Roles Of Love / Desire In Ovid’s Version Of The The Story Of Orpheus And Eurydice

The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice has several versions depending on the angle at which various authors view the story. Ovid’s version of the story explicitly explain the role of love and desire in bringing two people of opposite sex together. According to Ovid, Orpheus, a famous musician marries his beloved, Eurydice, in a wedding ceremony where the god of marriage is also present. Unfortunately, the god of marriage fails to offer the couple a word of encouragement, and Ovid says that this is a sign that the marriage will be unsuccessful. Later in the day, the new bride is bitten by a snake on the ankle and she dies (Woodlief 1).

According to Gonzaga et al., those are in love are attracted to one another and always want to be together (119). Orpheus is so overcome by grief following the death of his lovely that he wife decides to descend to the Underworld to convince Persephone and Hades to let Eurydice to come back to him. It is therefore the power of love that is making Orpheus to feel lonely and even pushes him to request Persephone and Hades to allow Eurydice come back to him. In his song to the kings of the Underworld, Orpheus states, “I tried to bear my loss. I could not bear it. Love was too strong a god, O King, you know……..Only that you will lend, not give, her to me (Woodlief 1).”

Love must be present for a romantic bond to be strengthened. As Ovid explains, Persephone and Hades accept to release Eurydice, but on condition that she must walk behind Orpheus and he must not turn back to look at her until they reach the upper world. Immediately the two reach the exit of the Underworld, Orpheus is filled with passion and he turns to look at her. Due to Orpheus’ gaze, Eurydice slips away from her husband’s hug, and returns to the Underworld a second time. According to Gonzaga et al., love plays a great role in maintaining romantic bonds, and a feeling of love for a romantic partner helps to suppress thoughts of attraction towards alternative mates (119). This explains why Orpheus rejects advances of passionate women after he is denied a chance of having Eurydice a second time. Ovid feels that Orpheus in the pioneer of homosexuality among the Thracians because of his rejection of women, a move that is controlled by his love and desire for Eurydice (Woodlief 1).

The strong love and desire that Orpheus has for Eurydice is maintained even after his death. While on the mountains, Orpheus meets Bacchic women wearing animal skin who throw weapons at him, which do not harm him at first due to his softening song. Unfortunately, Orpheus is overwhelmed and the women finally tear his body into pieces and throw them into a river. Orpheus’ head and lyre continue to call out for Eurydice even as it continues to float on the Hebrus river out to sea. Surprisingly, a serpent that was just about to bite Orpheus’ head is frozen into stone by Apollo. At last, Orpheus reunites forever with his beloved wife Eurydice in the Underworld. Ideally, experience of love helps people who are genuinely in a romantic relationship to foreclose other options and focus on benefits that can be obtained right now, rather than those than those that are to be gained in the future (Gonzaga et al., 120).

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