The son of the Muse, Calliope, Orpheus was the greatest bard in all of Greece. His passion for music was just as deep as his love for his wife, Eurydice. Unfortunately, after being raped by a satyr, she was bitten by a snake and soon after died. Without Eurydice, Orpheus was heartbroken and only sung songs of sadness which made even the nymphs weep. Seeing that Orpheus was saddened, Zeus sent Hermes to instruct Orpheus on how to get his wife back. So Orpheus journeyed into the Underworld, where his lyre was convincing the three headed dog, Cerberus, went to sleep. When he stood before Hades, God of the Underworld, Orpheus demanded Eurydice's return.
Hades took this as a joke and refused anyway, so Orpheus tried to persuade Hades with his music. The song of Orpheus fell on Hades' deaf ears, but Orpheus got his wish anyway. After hearing Orpheus' music, Persephone, wife of Hades and queen of the Underworld, begged her husband to meet the mortal's demands. Hades consented, but told Orpheus he was not to look back while leading his wife from the Underworld. At first Orpheus followed Hades' command, but he started to doubt if Eurydice was really behind him. Orpheus turned his head to see if she was really there, but by doing this, he failed in his quest of returning his wife to the world above. Eurydice was forced to return to the Underworld, forever.
Orpheus would never be happy again, he sang tunes of sadness once more, but this time, it attracted the lust of two Maenads, who were the female followers of Dionysus. The two nymphs wanted to join Orpheus but he ignored their request. In a drunken rage, the Maenads tore Orpheus limb from limb and killed him. His head and lyre, which still sung songs of sorrow, floated to the Island of Lesbos where it was given a proper burial. After his death Orpheus was reunited with his beloved Eurydice in the Elysium Fields. At some point after this Orpheus was removed from Elysium for failing to deliver her from hell because he was deemed to have impeded the fufilment of God's will allowing Lucifer to claim his soul and damn him to hell. Lucifer then punishes him by forever seperating him from Eurydice unless Dante absolves him.
- In The Inferno, Orpheus isn't found on the Shores of Acheron, but is instead one of the many virtuous pagan shades whom Dante meets and speaks with during his journey through Limbo.