March 15: Morals, Transformation and Alternate Realms in Sir Orfeo

In Sir Orfeo there are two worlds: the real world of Sir Orfeo’s court where Herodis is originally threatened by the Faerie King and the realm of the faeries where she is taken. Orfeo is able to handle his real world conflict in the faerie world through his tact and musical skill rather than through combat.

In what ways are these two worlds similar and how are they different (is one world more “alive” than the other)? How does the introduction of an alternate realm manipulate or transform Sir Orfeo and his morals?

4 thoughts on “March 15: Morals, Transformation and Alternate Realms in Sir Orfeo

  1. To me, both kingdoms seem to be very similar Sir Orfeo’s kingdom appears to be just as dreamlike as the Faerie King’s kingdom. The land of the Faerie King is littered with people who were presumed dead by Sir Orfeo’s kingdom. They live somewhat sadly in the Faerie King’s land sill alive, but they all show signs of the way they died. Almost as if the land of the Faerie King is a place between life and death. Sir Orfeo’s land that is appeased by the beautiful harp playing of the king, Orfeo. Somehow when he leaves to search for his wife for 10 years, his kingdom is able to survive. They never replace the king, because they aren’t certain of his death. Both Sir Orfeo’s kingdom and the land of the Faerie King seem unreal. This kingdom seems just as dreamlike and unrealistic as the purgatory that seems to be the Faerie King’s kingdom.

  2. Orpheo seems to handle both courts in the same way. He plays his harp and begs honesty of those around him. When Orpheo finally descends on the Fairy Kingdom it is a mixture of heaven and hell (the dead walk around him). But he doesn’t alter himself just because he is in Paradise. He enters the fairy king’s court as he would enter any court (he even tells the king that he has made a tour of castles and this only one of many). Weirdly we would expect someone to be more exceedingly more humble in fairy court than in a human court but he is not. Maybe that is just Orphan’s steadfast nature, his appearance may change but his manner foes not. He plays his harp and asks the king for his lady, bidding that he keep his word. Not only is Orpheo honest and steadfast he requires honesty and steadfastness from others. When he returns to his old court he does the same: he plays his harp to get attention and respect, then he feeds his steward a riddle so that he can see if the man is still true to him. Orpheo is rewarded because he steadfast, he doesn’t change his self based on context so he is truly a king.

  3. I’d argue that for Orfeo and his wife the faerie world was also real. I think the biggest change I saw in Orfeo was his position in each society. In his own realm he was king and had power over almost everything. The introduction of the faerie king, however, put Orfeo at the mercy of someone else. The faerie king seemed to be stronger than Orfeo physically (or at least, through some kind of magic) in that he could kill him if he wanted, and he also commanded more powerful subjects. This, in my opinion, is why Orfeo had to rely on manipulation and trickery. I don’t know that his morals actually changed, though. When Orfeo finally gets his wife back and returns to his own realm, he relies on the same sort of disguise techniques in order to test the loyalty of his steward. For me this seems more about achieving things he does not have the power to do as king- he cannot just demand his wife back because the faerie king is more powerful, and he cannot truly know his steward’s motives unless he approaches as someone else.

  4. To me, it seemed as if the two worlds were similar in many ways, but also very different. In the real world and in the fairie world, there was lots of luxury when it came to the castles, the gardens, and the orchards. In both worlds there was great details about the luxirousness of the castle and the orchards and gardens. As far as differences go, the people were complete opposites. In the real world, everyone was lively and happy and alive. In the dream world, the people were all in a dazed state as if they were sleeping. Because of the way that the people acted in the dream world, it gave the overall feeling of the world to be eerie and dead, even if it was luxurious and beautiful. The way that the people behave is what really creates a dramatic difference in the two worlds, but in Orpheo’s mind, they are both the same. He see’s no difference and is only focused on getting his queen back. With this goal in mind, he does not treat the worlds as they are different. He acts the same in both places because all he wants to do is get his queen, and he knows this can be done through his music.

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