(Re)considering Robert Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice as a Dream Vision
Keywords:Robert Henryson, the myth of Orpheus, Orpheus and Eurydice, Sir Orfeo, medieval dream vision, romance
This study aims to reconsider the Scottish poet Robert Henryson’s retelling of the myth of Orpheus in his Orpheus and Eurydice (c. 1470) as a late example of medieval dream vision genre. There are two prominent versions of the myth in the medieval world: The anonymous Breton lay Sir Orfeo (c. 1330-1340) and Robert Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice. While Sir Orfeo abounds in romance elements, Henryson’s poem seems to be a dream poem with its extensive use of medieval allegory and several characteristics of the dream vision poetry. While the king in Sir Orfeo enjoys a happy ending, Henryson’s Orpheus cannot achieve bliss as he breaks his promise when he looks back to Eurydice, hence surrendering to worldly appetite. As a result, the poem ends with the disillusionment of Orpheus, who, however, learns from his mistake and is more mature and enlightened at the end of the poem. Like the dreamers in a typical medieval dream narrative, Orpheus goes through a journey in a vision and as a result of this experience, he is educated and spiritually transformed. In this light, the aim of this paper is to introduce Orpheus and Eurydice not as a romance but as a medieval dream poem.
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