Perseus, is he a shmuck or a hero? Join us in our investigation tonight on Behind the Greeks. Okay, I went to a silly place there, but this really is a major point we have to contend with. We have divergent ideas regarding Perseus. The whole gist of his quest was to save his mother from marrying another shmuck, but now to see him putting the screws to Andromeda’s parents paints him as being the same kind of person.
Never fear, for the answer is here. First, let’s review the situation. Andromeda is chained, naked, to a rock, ready to be devoured by the Kraken. Perseus is with the ‘rents at the negotiation table, ready to exchange one rescue for one marriage.
This looks bad. She’s in danger, and he’s using the situation as leverage. I mean, what parent wouldn’t agree to this? And why can’t he just rescue her first? Wouldn’t they be grateful for the act and allow the marriage? Who would be better suited to love and protect their only daughter than the man who rescued her from such a deadly monster?
Well, this is where we get into it. Remember, this is Ancient Greece. In fact, the entire ancient world regards marriage as something political over something done out of love. Joining two families together was done to promote the wealth and well-being of the families. It wasn’t done out of love. Love? that’s crazy-talk!
So even if Perseus rescued her, they may not allow the marriage. Remember, Perseus was cast out by his own grandfather. He’s not a king of anything, despite actually being in line for the throne. A marriage to Perseus would not be advantageous to Cepheus and Cassiopeia. If Perseus rescued Andromeda, they would likely not allow the marriage.
But, still, we have this image of Perseus purely in this for his own gain. Andromeda will go from being chained to a rock to being chained to him, just another form of property. Alive, true, which is an improvement, but we still have to question Perseus’s own morality.
However, we have to rewind the tape. Perseus, while allowing her to remain in danger during the negotiation, is not the one responsible for her danger. He didn’t cause the situation. Andromeda’s parents did through their hubris and carelessness. Who is to say this won’t happen again? Rescuing Andromeda is not about eliminating the threat from the Kraken, but the threat from her parents. They were the ones that made the comparison. They were the ones that stripped her and chained her up. They clearly do not have her best interests at heart.
So, for Perseus to do the morally right thing, as we often conceive what all heroes do, he must negotiate for her hand in marriage so he can take her from them, keeping her safe from the harm they would do to her.
Yay! Perseus is a good guy after all.