|Type of paper:||Essay|
|Categories:||History Character analysis Mythology Gender in literature Ancient Greece Ancient history|
Edith Hamilton recreates myths from ancient Greece to form short stories that modern leaders can relate with. She has told the story of Perseus and Theseus; two young heroes who faced a big task from their kings, but overcame through the help of divine beings, united their families and later lived happily ever after. Both young men have a disconnect with their fathers, and their mothers play an important role in bringing up their sons of men of courage and valor. Hamilton retells the stories by adjusting the themes, plots and characterization to bring out the similarities and differences between Perseus and Theseus.
In the two myths, women play an essential role in protecting and nurturing life. Perseus is an integral part of Athens's history and is presented as the founder of the kingdom. Perseus is brought up by his mother single-handedly in South Greece until he is an adult when he goes to meet his father. He is already a hero by surviving the difficulties he meets on his way, which makes his father jealous, unaware that he Perseus is his son (Cartwright, 2012). The king even plans to poison him until Perseus shows him a sword that was a mark of loyalty. Similarly, Theseus lacks a father -figure in his life. His mother claims to be impregnated by Zeus, which angers her father for he had enclosed her in a single room to avoid such a scenario.
The confinement the king does is because he had received a warning that Danae's son would kill him. Nevertheless, Danae delivers her baby and keeps it a secret from her father, who later discovers. He puts her and Theseus in a box and places it in the ocean to be carried away, as it was a taboo to kill his kindred. Danae comforts her son through the agony until a fisherman rescues them. She brings up her son with the help of the fisherman's family (Cole, 2013). The absence of a father figure in the two heroes' lives does not deter them from achievement.
Hamilton also reshapes the theory of leadership to that of sacrifice and courage. The heroes in both stories have a link with the royal family, but the relationship is a source of constraining instead. For Perseus, his father does not recognize him at first and sends him to war to as among 12 youth who are sent to fight a giant in Crete against a Minotaur. Perseus being the king's son would have refused to act as a sacrificial lamb, but he instead took the lead and devised a plan on how to kill the beast that had been a threat to his people for years (Cartwright, 2012). Helped by Daedalus, he overcomes by leaving a trait of his tracks using a string. His courage saves his life and that of other eleven young people who return to their families in Athens happily, which earns him respect, and he is made a king of the kingdom.
Theseus is also in a similar situation, but due to different circumstances. He finds himself in such a situation after his mother refuses to marry the current king. To embarrass him, king Polytecdes holds a party where Theseus does not bring any gift; therefore, he is faced with a situation of promising the best among all guests (Cole, 2013). In his pride, he promises a Medusa's head, a monster that was dreaded. Nature, however, favors him, and he receives divine assistance and protection until he returns with the monster's head. All forces around him favor him despite the danger of his mission, and he brings back the promised present to the king, although he had forced Danae to run away.
In most myths, the heroes have a happy ending with their families or loved ones, but Hamilton presents it in a different way for the story of Perseus through a plot twist. Perseus is born in a difficult childhood, gets initially rejected by his father, and tasked with killing giant that had slain many men and women from Athens (Cartwright, 2012). While in Crete, he encounters good luck by being assisted to kill the dragon, and the king's daughter falls in love with him. However, Hamilton provides a plot twist of the girl Ariadne dying before they reach Athens. He is accused of or deserting the girl and leading to her death, which lowers his respect from his fellow sailors. When Perseus reaches Athens, he forgets to raise the white sails, which his father interprets for his son being killed in the war. He jumps into the water and commits suicide, and does not witness his son's victorious homecoming. In a typical myth, the king would have live to celebrate the achievements of his son and even crown him king as an award. However, despite his father's death, Perseus is celebrated by the people of Athens and crowned king.
He later marries a sister to Ariadne, named Phaedra. Perseus is a great leader of the people, and Athens becomes a happy nation, but his marriage to Phaedra becomes an avenue to destroy him. Perseus had a son, who Phaedra falls in love with and seduces, but he refutes her advances. To punish him, she commits suicide and leaves a suicide note accusing Perseus's son of defilement. Perseus orders the killing of his son, only to discover later that it was a false accusation (Cartwright, 2012). Perseus was a great king, but his life does not end happily due to his decisions. Hamilton provides a new view on mythology, unlike the convention of a happily ever after. Typical myths would end with the king having a successful tenure, a happy, long and fulfilling marriage, but Hamilton provides a plot twist that the modern reader can relate to. The ending is more realistic than ideal.
However, the myth of Theseus is presented in a typical myth narration. From the survival in a box with his mother and being rescued by a fisherman, Theseus experiences a smooth life that is aided by divine intervention. No human had ever thought of killing Medusa. Still, he offers to do so for pride. He receives guidance, protection, and advice, coupled with magic to achieve his goal and return home safely. On his way back, he gets a bride from Ethiopia after killing a snake that was a nuisance to her people, who they live together happily ever after. The charm also helps him punish his rivals without shedding blood or using force (Cole, 2013). He later reunites with his mother and proceeds to look for his father, and ends up killing him just like it had been foretold. The story, unlike the Perseus story, has the typical mythological ending.
Edith Hamilton provides a different view on mythology and refreshes the memories of ancient Greece through cinematic adaptations of the story of Perseus and Theseus. She links the myths to modern life events to present the role played by women in upbringing, good qualities of leadership, and the daily challenges of being a public figure. She achieves this through characterization, the plot and development of themes.
Cartwright, M. (2012, October 21). Perseus. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Perseus/.
Cole, M. (2013, November 5). Theseus: Retold by Edith Hamilton. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/4qdd5dwzbvue/theseus-retold-by-edith-hamilton/.
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