The Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice is perfect for teaching a number of Common Core literature standards. Read the myth. Then enjoy the mini-lesson covering vocabulary, comprehension questions, and writing. Look for a link to the handout at the bottom of the post.
Orpheus was the son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope. When Orpheus was young, his father gave him a lyre and taught him how to play. Orpheus’s music was so beautiful that even wild beasts would come to hear him play. One day while Orpheus was playing, a pretty maiden named Eurydice came up and seated herself by Orpheus to listen. Day after day she returned until Orpheus finally asked her to marry him.
Shortly after her marriage, Eurydice was walking with the nymphs. Suddenly a snake bit Eurydice on the foot causing her to die. At first Orpheus sang his grief to anyone who would listen. Then he hung up his lyre and refused to be happy. All the birds began to trill a song of regret and sadness.
At last Orpheus decided to go to the Land of the Dead to beg his uncle Hades to allow his wife to come back to earth.
First he had to pass before Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guarded the gates. Orpheus sat down and played his lyre. The fierce beast ceased growling and licked his hand as he played. Orpheus continued on his way.
When Orpheus came to the river Styx, Charon, the Ferryman, looked at him coldly. Once again Orpheus played his lyre and asked to be carried across the river. The song was so touching that Charon complied.
Orpheus continued through the dark caverns until he reached the throne of Hades and Persephone.
When Hades heard Orpheus’s request, he agreed to let Eurydice go back to earth. Hades had only one condition. Orpheus had to promise not to look back until both he and his wife were safely above ground.
As Orpheus neared the entrance to earth, he worried Eurydice wasn’t behind him. Giving into temptation, he turned to look behind him. When Orpheus looked, he saw Eurydice’s face for only a moment before she was taken back to Hades’ kingdom.
Orpheus tried to go back, but he was refused entry. Orpheus spent the rest of his days playing love songs.
Orpheus and Eurydice
This handout includes a printable version of the story. You will also find vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, and a writing prompt.