Characters and their Influence

Characters in the tale of Theseus


 Theseus - Theseus is a hero, the son of King Aegeus of Athens and Aethra of Troezen. He was raised by Aethra until he went to visit his father in Athens, and this is where his story really begins. See the Summary for an in-depth description of Theseus's life. Theseus's character strongly portrays the archetype of hero; his journey strictly follows the guidelines of the hero cycle. This archetype is followed in numerous myths and stories both before and after the time of Theseus.

Aegeus - King of Athens. Aegeus is the father of Theseus because he slept with Aethra, daughter of Pittheus, who was the king of Troezoen. Aegeus, after leaving Aethra to care for his son, is reunited with him at Athens, where he promptly sends himself off to fight the Minotaur. Theseus told Aegeus that if he was to come back alive, the sail of his returning vessel will be white. Aegeus commits suicide after seeing a black sail on Theseus's ship, thinking he is dead when he only just forgot to switch the sail.

Aethra - Aethra is the daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezen, and the mother of Theseus. She slept with Aegeus one night when they were both intoxicated, and when Theseus was born, Aegeus left her to tend to him. He hid sandals and a sword under a rock nearby, and told her to tell Theseus to try to lift the rock every year, and when he can lift it, tell him to journey to Athens to find him. When Theseus is ready, Aethra sends him out to Athens, and this is the last we hear of her. Aethra displays the archetype of a mother very well; she is nurturing and raised Theseus until he could be on his own in the world. She is very alike to mothers in many other stories, and does not really have a defined personality in the tale of Theseus.

Ariadne - Ariadne is the daughter of the King of Crete. When Theseus arrives at Crete with the Tributes, they immediately fall in love, so much so that Ariadne decides to help Theseus defeat the Minotaur. She gives him a ball of thread that he can unwind during his wanderings through the maze so he can find his way out again after defeating the Minotaur. He does just this, and he and Ariadne come sailing back home with Theseus. Along the way, at the island of Dia, something happens to Ariadne - either she was kidnapped or just left there. Either way, she did not arrive at Athens with the others. Ariadne is a classic "lover", a princess, falling in love with a mysterious man from another land, and traveling home with him. It was a classic tale of "love at first sight".

 The Minotaur - The Minotaur is a human with a bulls head; a ferocious monster that dwells within the darkest corners of the Labyrinth. He is killed by Theseus in an epic battle. The minotaur is a typical villain, following the archetype of being heartless and just pure evil. The Minotaur has no hesitation in his deeds, and no good side that we can detect. This makes him surprisingly easier to understand. We can just tell ourselves "he is the villain" with no further hesitation or thought. This raging, evil character appears very frequently in many books, and is a very stereotypical "bad guy".

The myth about Theseus influenced literature and entertainment of today.  Theseus, is a character in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are also many movies about the myth.  Immortals, a movie based on the fight between Theseus and the Minotaur, will be released in November.  There is even a video game called Theseus on the myth about Theseus!

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