The Personification of Death in Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus Essay

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The Personification of Death in Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus

The personification of Death is done by means of a princess of the Underworld in Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus. This Princess is very powerful, yet surprisingly vulnerable. For no one is allowed to love in the Underworld, the Princess falls in love with a famous poet named Orpheus and goes to drastic measures to be with him. But in the end she cannot be with her love, and she realizes this and does what is forbidden in the Underworld and defies time and sends back her love to whom he loved before her. Death in Cocteau’s Orpheus is not only powerful and vulnerable, but she also changes throughout the course of the movie. Three elements support that the Princess changes throughout the
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She longs for him to come to her world with her, even though she knows that this is an impossible act, because no one in the underworld is allowed to love. She pursues her love anyways, and she starts to talk in a softer tone of voice. Instead of ordering, she talks softly of her love to Orpheus. She even begins to talk in a softer tone to Heurtebise and Cegeste. But her tone becomes more flat when she is in front of the Committee in the Underworld. Dialogue is only one way that Cocteau reveals the changing character of the Princess.

The Princess’ clothing and appearance change as well throughout the various parts of the film. The Princess wears a very conservative black dress in the beginning of the film with her accessory being a long string of pearls and she is always seen smoking a cigarette. Her hair in the beginning of the film is pulled back into a very tight bun as well. This appearance emphasizes her harsh, authoritarian attitude. Once Eurydice’s death, the Princess emerges adorned in a much more revealing black dress and long black gloves. An interesting thing occurs when Heurtebise accuses the Princess of loving Orpheus; her dress turns white for an instant, but then back to black again. Her dress turns white again right before she crosses the mirror again into the Underworld. The Princess appears very modestly dressed and smokes again when she appears before the Committee of the Underworld. When
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