Throughout my initial reading of Sir Orfeo, I thought of Sir Orfeo’s quest as a testament to humility and pure love, as many of Sir Orfeo’s actions seemed to indicate such motivations. However, as we discussed in class, the allegory of death, mourning, and coping seem to be a far greater underlying theme throughout the piece. Not only does the idea of death play a major part in interpreting the king’s actions and the enigmatic fairy kingdom that steals the queen, but it also shows how death has an agency throughout the piece that affects the networks it touches.
For example, as the she earnestly begs the fairy king not to take her away, the king proclaims that she will “live with ous evermo,” and if she is to refuse they will “totore [tear] thine limes al /…And thei thou best so totorn, / Yete thou worst with ous y-born” (169, 171, 173-74). Such a statement on the part of the fairy’s —when seen as a calling of death— shows how powerful an agency like death possess. The force of this agency effects more than just the queen, it tears the king from his sanity and wreaks emotional havoc on his psyche. Despite the queen’s ultimate acquiesce and acceptance of the inevitable separation, the King cannot fathom such occurrences and merely drives himself into distress, thinking “[n]ever eft y nil no woman se / into wilderness ichil te / and live ther evermore,” which shows how the king refuses to bear the pain of emotional attachment (211-14).
In addition to his refusal to deal with human contact, the king’s drive to find his wife seems to manifest the type of agency death bestows on the assemblages throughout the poem —it transforms them. The idea that the king will get back his lost wife shows how he has gained a sense of hope or a faith in finding what may have been impossible to find. This type of response bring to mind a sense that the king will be able to defeat death, which is an utterly impossible feat, but nonetheless it seems to show how death’s agency can transform the logical mind of the mourner into one of self-destructive and unfounded hope. However, the story certainly does not end on such a dismal note, but in doing so the reader is left asking what this type of allegory has achieved. Perhaps the point of the narrative is that ending on a sad note is precisely what humans cannot understand and is why the story ends as such.