Review of Mary Renaults The King Must Die

Justin James McCorkle March 4th 2000 Review of Mary Renaults The King Must Die Mary Renault tells a wonderfully dashing tale of the classic Hero Theseus, who was said to have lived shortly before the time of the Trojan War. Although the book is very appealing to me the author did not follow the classic legends in several aspects. This can be a good technique and does bring newness to the story, however some departures changed the very fabric of the tale. In Renaults story many details are added that give the tale much more flavor. Finally, all told Mary Renault wrote a very believable tale of Theseus, and may have even done a better job than the ancients in bringing the story to life. Mary Renault departed from the classic story of Theseus in the following ways. Theseus, in the classic legend was the cousin of Hercules and was built very much like him, Renault writes him as a smaller man with wit to make up for his size, and not a cousin of Hercules. Theseus does ponder on Hercules several times in the story, like he is a long dead hero. This is also misleading because Theseus and Hercules lived at the same time; they were in fact friends. In Euripides when Hercules is driven mad and kills his family, he is consoled by Theseus, clearly naming them as contemporaries. In Renaults tale several things are added which do not appear in any of the classic tales, Eleusis for example, does not appear in Theseus classic tale, but I find no fault in adding it to the tale. Renault turns the famous maze of the labyrinth into a palace, a strange twist indeed. She also explains away the Minotaur as the young prince of the palace in a bull helm. In the classic tale the Minotaur is a cursed creature who is forced to live in a great maze with no entrance and no exit. Renault follows the classic rendition in the part of the story where Theseus is sent to Crete, however after that she explains away all magical aspects of the tribute to…

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