Study Guide

Perseus and Andromeda Themes

  • Love

    Superman has Lois Lane, Spiderman has Mary Jane, Mario has Princess Peach, and Perseus has Princess Andromeda. Like pretty much every hero ever, Perseus has a ladylove who he's willing to face down any villain for. No adventure story is complete without a little romance thrown in, and the episode of Perseus and Andromeda is one of the most famous love affairs of all time, a classic story of love at first sight. This story also brings in questions of familial love, when King Cepheus decides to sacrifice his daughter in order to save his kingdom.

    Questions About Love

    1. What is it about Andromeda that attracts Perseus?
    2. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why, or why not?
    3. Compare and contrast the tale of Perseus and Andromeda to a "damsel in distress" story from a recent movie.
    4. Do we get any hints about whether Andromeda loves Perseus?
  • Sacrifice

    At the beginning of the tale, Andromeda is about to be fed to the Cetus, a sea monster. Her father and mother have decided to sacrifice their daughter so that their kingdom can be saved. The idea of sacrificing a virgin or a beautiful maiden remains a pretty common story element in literature and popular entertainment today. In King Kong, the natives try to sacrifice the beautiful girl to everybody's favorite giant ape. In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, love interest Willie Scott is almost sacrificed by the bloody cult that Indi is up against. The sacrificing-the-helpless-girl trope does seem a bit dated, we have to admit. Still, the challenging decision about whether it's okay to sacrifice a loved one for the greater good never gets old.

    Questions About Sacrifice

    1. If you were in King Cepheus' position, would you make the same decision? Would you sacrifice a loved one if it meant you could save your whole kingdom? Why or why not?
    2. What other examples of human sacrifice in literature and popular entertainment can you think of? (For Shmoop, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the Hunger Games series come to mind…)
    3. Are there any other kinds of sacrifice in the myth of Perseus and Andromeda besides the literal sacrifice of Andromeda?
  • Women and Femininity

    Sadly for modern readers, women don't come off so great in the story of Perseus and Andromeda. The whole sea monster disaster starts because of Cassiopeia's vanity, which is a bummer. And Andromeda is mostly just a beautiful, passive damsel-in-distress character. When Perseus saves her from the sea monster, she becomes his wife and his reward for bravely fighting the creature.

    Questions About Women and Femininity

    1. Why do you think we don't see any strong female characters in this story? How might this story reflect the role of women in ancient Greek society?
    2. Write another version of the story from Andromeda's perspective. How does she feel about her rescuer? How does she feel about becoming a monster meal?
    3. In the 2010 movie The Clash of the Titans, a loose adaptation of Perseus' story, Perseus and Andromeda don't get married. In fact, Andromeda proposes to Perseus, but he turns her down. Why do you think the filmmakers chose to have the story end this way? Which ending do you prefer? Why?