Eurydice Summary & Study Guide

Sarah Ruhl
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Eurydice Summary & Study Guide Description

Eurydice Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Ruhl, Sarah. Eurydice. Samuel French, 2008.

Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice is divided into three movements (acts). The first takes place only in the world above. The second and the third take place only in the underworld. This play is based on the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. However, unlike in the myth, both Orpheus and Eurydice are human. In Movement One, the reader or the audience see their engagement and their wedding, which is not mentioned in the myth. Eurydice's father cannot attend their wedding, as he has already died and gone to the underworld. However, he writes a wedding speech, and he gives it to a worm whom he hopes will find Eurydice.

While she is at her wedding, getting a drink of water from a water pump, Eurydice meets The Nasty Interesting Man. He flirts with her. Uncomfortable, Eurydice leaves. After she has left, The Nasty Interesting Man sees the letter her father sent. When he sees it is addressed to her, he puts it into the breast pocket of his shirt. When he sees Eurydice at the water pump again, he tells her about the letter. He lies though, saying the letter was wrongly delivered to his apartment. She agrees to come with him to his apartment and get the letter. The apartment is very high up. The Nasty Interesting Man makes a sexual advance on Eurydice while she is in his apartment. She escapes him, her letter in her hand. When she tries to descend his high staircase, she falls and descends into the underworld.

In Movement Two, Eurydice meets her father in the underworld. She does not recognize him. Like most of the dead, she has dipped herself in the river and lost her memories. Her father, who was not held in the river long enough, still remembers how to read and write. He has also retained all of his memories. Since he knows Eurydice's relationship to him, he cares for her. When she says she would like to go to her room, he builds a house out of string. Gradually, he teaches her how to speak again. Her father and she slowly rebuild their former emotional bond, sharing unconventional definitions for words. When her father reads aloud to her from a letter Orpheus has sent, she remembers Orpheus is her husband. Suddenly, she recognizes her father too, and she embraces him. He teaches her to read. Together, they read a book Orpheus sent.

Meanwhile, Orpheus makes a plan to rescue Eurydice from the underworld. He will put a straw in his mouth while he sleeps. He will grow smaller and fit inside the straw. His breath will propel him, and he will be swept to the underworld. Once there, he will sing a note so powerful, it will open the gate to the underworld. He successfully enters the underworld. He tells The Lord of the Underworld he has come to lead his wife to the world above. The Lord of the Underworld is so impressed by Orpheus' singing, he agrees to release Eurydice. If Orpheus walks out of the underworld, says The Lord of the Underworld, Eurydice will follow him. There is one condition: If he turns to look at her, they will be separated forever. Eurydice's father, who takes her to meet Orpheus, gives the same warning to her. Orpheus and Eurydice's walk out of the underworld is the plot of the Greek myth that inspires this play. However, in the play it is Eurydice who causes the permanent separation between Orpheus and herself. Walking behind him, she speeds up and calls out his name. She deliberately causes him to turn around so she can return to the underworld and be with her father.

When Eurydice returns to the underworld in Movement Three, she finds her father has dipped himself into the river. Terribly lonely without his daughter, he decides to lose his memories instead of living with them. Eurydice tries to reawaken her father by teaching him how to spell her name, but he is unconscious. The Lord of the Underworld, who is played by the same actor who plays The Nasty Interesting Man and has the same sexual aggressiveness, demands Eurydice marry him now that she has returned to the underworld. Eurydice does not want to marry The Lord of the Underworld. Nor does she want to live without her father. Instead she leaves a letter for Orpheus. Then she dips herself in the river. She falls down beside her father, unconscious. As soon as Eurydice has fallen, Orpheus descends to the underworld a second time. This time, he is in the elevator that rains on the inside. Unlike Eurydice in Movement One, he does not have an umbrella to shield him from the rain inside the elevator. He is happy when he sees Eurydice. When the rainwater falls inside the elevator, the water washes away his memories of her, as water usually does for the dead. He finds Eurydice's letter. He picks it up. He cannot read it.

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