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Eurydice: A Myth Retold

Sara Ruhl's play Eurydice is based on the Ancient Greek Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; The classic tale of a man and a woman, much too young and much too in love, who face the consequences in the end. Although Sarah has included this theme of tragic love in her play, she has twisted the myth it into a beautifully abstract and feminist version. So... Why does this matter?

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The Ancient Myth... In a Nut Shell

Long, long ago, in the land of Thrace, Orpheus was born and raised as a great musician. His Thracian friends would admire his divine ability to woo anyone with his talent. Basically, he was a thick-headed dude who was given a musical talent by his Mommy when he was born.

We are told that "It is clear no maiden he wanted could have resisted the power of his song." Of course, this is where Eurydice comes in.

She was overwhelmed with his beautiful melodies and he with her breathtaking beauty... blah, blah, blah. They were married right away! Yay! (How predictable)

Sadly, right after the two love birds get hitched, Eurydice was stung by a viper, and died. Whoops...

Of course, we follow Orpheus through his time of grief without his one true love. He cannot bare to see the light of day. He enters a state of deep depression. How will he ever go on?! He will never find the right melodies now! In the end, he bravely decides to go and rescue his young wife from the dead. (How sweet).

Greek Tragedy at its Finest

Once he has arrived in the underworld (I don't know how he did it, they never explain that stuff!), he simply has to use his beauteous voice to convince them to bring Eurydice forth. Although, to actually remove her from the god Hades' Underworld will prove more difficult: Orpheus is told that he must not look back at her as she follows him out, or she will die a second death (ouch).

As they walk up, towards the light once more, HE TURNS! He was so selfish that he must see her beauty, and he caused his wife to die, for good this time. The gods would not permit him a second entrance and in the end, you guessed it: everyone dies!


From that quick summary of the myth, and really from our background knowledge of all Ancient Greek stories, we can see that the Tragic Hero was our very own Orpheus.


Orpheus is in fact a quite famous Greek character if you were not aware. (He is referred to in the play as the most famous musician in the world.) What really changes from the myth to Ruhl's play is Orpheus' role in the action.

It's called "EURYDICE" for a reason!

In fact, Sarah Ruhl has written this play with a female in place of the male as our central character. It is no longer Orpheus, but Eurydice, who we will see grow into a young woman, able to make her own decisions. (This would never have been so in an ancient Greek myth)....

Eurydice's character is very intelligent, a total bookworm. Rather than simply being seen as a Greek beauty, she is a smart woman with whom the audience can connect. I would say that in the end, a real emotional connection to Eurydice will be formed for any audience member.

Sarah has written about a girl who may be unsure of what the wants, but who in the end, is able to make her own decisions. She is not brainwashed by a man or by his music, for that matter.

Daddy's Little Girl

Besides replacing Orpheus' lead role with Eurydice, Sarah also added in a new character: the Father. In the play, Eurydice contemplates on her wedding day as she thinks about her father, alone in the underworld: "A wedding is for daughters and fathers... They stop being married to each other on that day."

After dying and travelling to the underworld, Eurydice will be reunited with her father. Immediately a spark is rekindled between them- an unconditional love exists which cannot ever be broken.

We, as viewers, begin to ask ourselves whether Eurydice should end up with Orpheus- can he take care of her the way her Father can? It just might be true that "the only man a girl can ever depend on is her father."

Do we have a new Tragic Hero?


Sarah Ruhl has replaced the original hero, Orpheus, with the lovely Eurydice herself. The new characterization of Eurydice completely alters the original myth, beautifully stringing together a contemporary (and, yes, feminist) love story.

So, you ask, with this new female hero will it still end in such tragedy as the myth did?

Come and see for yourself!!!

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