(Re)considering Robert Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice as a Dream Vision

Aktarer S.

JOURNAL OF NARRATIVE AND LANGUAGE STUDIES, vol.10, no.19, pp.126-137, 2022 (Scopus)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 19
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Page Numbers: pp.126-137
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Affiliated: Yes


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 Orfeoabounds 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 Orfeoenjoys a happy ending, Henryson’s Orpheus cannot achieve bliss as he breakshis 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 Eurydicenot as a romance but as a medieval dream poem.