The Story of Medusa
By Casey, Max, and Thomas
The Myth: Part 1
• Medusa was a beautiful woman
1. Medusa was punished for believing she
was more beautiful than Athena
2. Medusa and Poseidon got freaky in
Athena’s temple
• Athena turns Medusa into a Gorgon
• Medusa retreats to the edge of the world
The Myth: Part 2
• Perseus and his mother, Danae, are cast out to
sea when King Acrisius hears prediction of
Perseus killing him
• Drift to the Island of Seriphus
• King of Seriphus, Polydectes falls in love with
Danae
• Fearing Perseus will get in the way, Polydectes
sends him in search of only mortal gorgon,
Medusa
The Myth: Part 2
• Perseus goes in search of the Graeae
• Gets directions to find the Hesperides
• The Hesperides gave him a magic wallet that could fit
anything that was put into it
• Also received winged sandals from Hermes, an
adamantine sword and Hades’ helm of darkness from
Zeus, and a polished shield from Athena
• Went to Medusa’s cave and decapitated her in her
sleep
• Escaped from the other two gorgons by wearing Hades’
helm of darkness
The Myth: Part 2
• Stops at Ethiopia and saves Andromeda from
being killed by Cetus, a land and sea serpent
– Depicted in the 1981 Clash of the Titans (skip to 3:20)
• Takes her to be his wife
• Returns to Seriphus and turns Polydectes to stone
with Medusa’s head
• Later in life, Perseus goes to Larissa to compete in
athletic games
• Throws the discus and strikes King Acrisius, killing
him instantly
Significance: Feminism
• Possibly parallels with
the ending of female
ascendency within the
temples
• Medusa represents
womanhood and the
sacred/secret
transformation from girl
to woman
• Snakes represent birth,
death, and rebirth,
which parallels with the
woman’s cycle
Tip-Offs
• Snakes for hair
• Turning living things into
stone
• Decapitation as the only
way to kill something
• Beauty and ugliness
• Exile
• Sex in temples
• Extreme vanity
The Laugh of the Medusa
• “Woman must write herself: must write about women and
bring women to writing, from which they have been driven
away as violently as from their bodies-for the same reasons,
by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put
herself into the text-as into the world and into history-by her
own movement.”
• In this text, women are literally being driven away from
writing and figuratively being driven away from their bodies,
just as Medusa was driven from her beauty in the myth.
Cixous, Helene. The Laugh of the Medusa. Signs. Vol. 1, No. 4, Cixous, Hélène.
p. 875-893, Summer 1976
The Laugh of the Medusa
• “You only have to look at the Medusa straight
on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s
beautiful and she’s laughing.”
• In this text, Medusa represents woman who
have been castrated by patriarchal
expectations of the day
Cixous, Helene. The Laugh of the Medusa. Signs. Vol. 1, No. 4, Cixous, Hélène. p. 875-893,
Summer 1976. (English).
Other allusions
• Medusa’s death by the
help of a mirror alludes
to the Myth of Narcissus
• In Moby Dick, the
narrator describes
Perseus as the first
whaleman when he kills
Cetus with Medusa’s
head
• In A Tale of Two Cities,
Medusa is alluded to
when the narrator is
describing the Marquis’s
chateau.
Examples in Today’s Society
•
•
•
Role playing games, such as D&D,
classify Medusa as a species of
monster and a gorgon as scalecovered ox-like creatures that
breathe out a gas that turns
victims to stone.
The God of War series of video
games have gorgons as enemies,
depicted as scaly reptile-women
with serpentine lower bodies and
snakes for hair.
Both the film and novel of Percy
Jackson and the Olympians: The
Lightning Thief, reference Medusa
in her garden that is populated by
people she has turned to stone.
Percy goes on to decapitate her
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