Study Guide

Theseus: The Minotaur and the Labyrinth Betrayal

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When Theseus abandons Princess Ariadne, we see that he's not the squeaky clean hero that we might have thought he was. Even though Ariadne's help was essential for him to complete his quest, he breaks his promise of marriage and ditches her on a random island.

Heroes treating their women badly is actually a pretty common theme in Greek mythology. For example, Jason abandons his wife, Medea, and Heracles plans on abandoning his wife Deinara. In both of these examples, these betrayals end up ruining the hero's life (in the case of Heracles, it actually causes his death).

Some see the suicide of Aegeus, Theseus's father, as a punishment for Theseus's betrayal. Over the years some mythographers cleaned up Theseus's image by saying that love-struck Dionysus demanded that Theseus give up Ariadne. Others said that a storm blew Theseus's ship away. However, the most popular story still seems to be that Theseus was guilty of betrayal.

Questions About Betrayal

  1. Why do you think Theseus betrayed Ariadne? Explain your answer.
  2. Why do you think the Greeks made their heroes flawed? What does that say about their perception of greatness?
  3. The Minotaur was Ariadne's half-brother and King Minos was her father. Could it be that by helping Theseus she was also guilty of betraying her own family? Why, or why not?

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