"Greek poet and musician who failed to deliver his beloved from the underworld. Denounced for attempting to impede the fulfillment of God's will."
The son of the Muse Calliope and the god Apollo, Orpheus was the greatest bard in all of Greece. His passion for music was just as deep as his love for his wife, a wood nymph named Eurydice. Unfortunately, on their wedding day Eurydice was chased into a forest by an amorous pursuer (accounts say either by a satyr or one of the guests at the wedding, who intended to rape her). In her attempt to escape the young bride accidentally stepped on a viper, which bit and killed her.
Without Eurydice, Orpheus was heartbroken. Unbalanced by grief, the musician made the fateful decision to go to the Underworld and bargain with its king, Hades, for the return of Eurydice (in one version, seeing that Orpheus was saddened, Zeus sent Hermes to instruct Orpheus on how to get his wife back). Orpheus journeyed into the Underworld through a secret entryway. On the shores of the Acheron his song moved even the heart of Charon, who allowed him passage despite being alive. His lyre lulled the three-headed dog Cerberus to sleep. Even the Damned stopped and harkened to Orpheus's music, forgetting all else. Those receiving the worst torments forgot their pains and listened intently, pitying the young man.
When Orpheus finally stood before Hades, the god of the Underworld, Orpheus demanded Eurydice's return. To press his case Orpheus tried to persuade Hades with his music. In some versions of the story, after hearing Orpheus' music Persephone (the wife of Hades and queen of the Underworld) begged her husband to meet the mortal's demands. In other versions Hades himself was so unexpectedly touched by Orpheus that he silently wept in sympathy. In the end Hades consented to release Eurydice but told Orpheus that he was not to look back while leading his wife from the Underworld, or else she would be forced to stay.
At first Orpheus followed Hades' command but he started to doubt if Eurydice was really behind him, given Hades's reputation for allowing no soul to escape him. His doubts grew until, nearly out of the Underworld, Orpheus turned his head to see if she was really there. She was, but by looking back before they both left Hades's realm, he failed in his quest of returning his wife to the world above. Eurydice gave a final farewell to her husband before she was forced to return to the Underworld forever.
Orpheus would never be happy again. He sang tunes of sadness once more and refused the love of all others. This time, however, his music attracted the lust of two Maenads, the female followers of Dionysus. The two nymphs wanted to join Orpheus, but he ignored their request. In a drunken rage the Maenads tore Orpheus limb from limb, killing him. His head and lyre, which still sung songs of sorrow, floated to the Island of Lesbos, where it was given a proper burial. In some stories, in honor of his musical talents his lyre was placed in the sky as the constellation Lyra.
"Gods who rule the earth below, I seek Eurydice!"
"I looked back at her... I was warned not to... such a fool!"
"My gift of music could not save you!"
"A serpent's bite took you from me, my love..."
"Proceed in silence, my wife. We're almost there..."
"Restore her to life or take us both in death!"
"She said at last farewell... then she was gone."
"When she has filled her term of life, she will rightly be yours!"
"Love is an all-powefull god to those who dwell above."
"I only wanted to make sure she was following me!"
"I will sing your cruelty to the rocks and mountains!"
"Mortals and wild beasts alike are tempered by my songs!"
*Grabbed by Dante* "Don't make me go back alone!" (Variation 1)
*Grabbed by Dante* "No happy omens!" (Variation 1)
*Grabbed by Dante* "Please let me see Eurydice one more time!" (Variation 2)
*Grabbed by Dante* "Apollo, my father, deliver me!" (Variation 2)
"No! Let me re-" *Slain by Dante*
*Absolved by Dante* "Elysium... so beautiful..."
- In The Inferno, Orpheus isn't found aboard Charon's vessel, but is instead one of the many virtuous pagan shades whom Dante meets and speaks with during his journey through Limbo. He is not condemned for attempting to revive his wife, as the game depicts, but is instead given honor for his musical gifts.
- The myth of Orpheus mirrors Dante's own quest to find and rescue his fiancee, Beatrice.
- Despite the game stating that he is condemned for impeding the will of God, Orpheus doesn't seem to display any submission to God as a shade in The Inferno. He instead continues to appeal to the Greek gods.
- This could suggest that despite being placed in The Inferno, he still remains unaware of God's will and His divine judgment. This is further illustrated by his quote upon being absolved, where he refers to his salvation as "Elysium," rather than "Heaven" or "Paradise".
- Since Orpheus belonged to the Greek Mythology, this could lead to the theory of Christianity and other mythologies being merged together in one single universe. This is supported by the penchant of The Renaissance's classical revival, as well as Dante's historic merging of both Classical and Christian themes and stories in The Divine Comedy.