Discuss the role of love in mythology.  How does love motivate the characters?  What kinds of love exists in the myths?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hamilton depicts different kinds of love in Greek mythology.  In each of these cases, sacrifice becomes a critical element of love.  This sacrifice motivates the characters to love and endure the pain that love brings.  

One example of love could be seen in a universal sense.  The love that Prometheus has for humanity is evident.  Hamilton constructs Prometheus as one who recognizes that humans require some intervention in order to sustain under the will of Zeus.  Through this, he teaches humanity the gift of fire, and through this, the ability to trick the divine.  Prometheus holds a specific type of love for humanity.  He suffers for this greatly as Zeus punishes him.  The love that Prometheus proves to be difficult to endure.  In having the eagle eat away at his liver only to see it regenerate, Prometheus displays how love requires sacrifice.

In a more specific and subjective context, Hamilton shows that Earthly love requires the same type of sacrifice.  Characters are motivated to make a sacrifice because of love, something that they would not initially do if love had not been evident.  For example, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice shows sacrifice in how two people meant for each other must live for their love even when the other one dies.  Orpheus believes he can conquer the dead and that his love for his wife will be enough. When he turns back to see if she is there, he does not honor the sacrifice that he promised to the divine.  Love is shown as only being able to reveal its full extent of happiness when individuals submit their own sense of identity towards something larger. It is in this where one sees love and sacrifice aligned with one another.  Baucis and Philemon is another example of Earthly love that necessitates sacrifice.  Baucis and Philemon recognize that their time on Earth is going to be cut short.  They sacrifice living life on Earth so long as they can be with one another for eternity.  The myth of Baucis and Philemon show how sacrifice to something larger is the essence of love.  Hamilton shows love as existing only when individuals subjugate their own present constitution and envision what can be from what is.

The transformative capacity of love and the sacrifice that is a part of it can be seen in the parental narrative.  It is love that motivates the parents in loving their children.  Helios, the Sun God, loves his son so much that he will do anything for him, swearing on the River Styx in such loyalty. Honoring his word ends up killing the one thing that Helios loves.  Phaeton's ending of failure and daring is a reflection of the bittersweet nature of love.  Icarus loves his son so much that he gives him wings to freedom.  When Daedalus flies too high to the sun on these borrowed wings, the father is left to watch his son die.  The love experienced necessitated a sacrifice and pain ends up becoming the result.  This same love that a father has for a son can be seen in Priam's love for Hector.  In this narrative, love is held in such high regards that the sacrifice is of personal identity when death takes the beloved away.  Priam loves his son so much that when Hector dies, the father literally begs at the feet of Achilles for his son's body back.  Love is shown to demand sacrifice of one's own sense of self in order to recognize the bond with another. In the myths that show the love of parent to child, sacrifice becomes the essential denominator in all of them.

Love is shown to be extremely complex in Hamilton's myths.  The characters experience love, but also experience pain and heartache.  Love and sacrifice become joined with one another.  It becomes evident individuals are motivated to great ends because of their love for another.  While love is shown to exist on different levels, the need to sacrifice as the catalyst for action is evident.