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Warrior Par Excellence- medea

Warrior Par Excellence- medea

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Published by Janet Lalawmpuii
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Published by: Janet Lalawmpuii on Sep 21, 2013
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Euripides' "Medea" and the Problem of SpiritednessAuthor(s): Aristide TessitoreReviewed work(s):Source:
The Review of Politics,
Vol. 53, No. 4 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 587-601Published by:
for the
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This content downloadedon Thu, 14 Feb 2013 03:17:32 AMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions
 
Euripides'MedeaandtheProblemofSpiritedness
AristideTessitore
TheMedeasEuripides'mostfamouslayandperhapshis mostnigmatic.Theunwieldyharacter f heplay'sentraligurendthemovementf heplayasa wholedefyhe raditionalategoriesfragedy.ttentivenesso theusuallyneglectedoliticalimension fMedea hedsnewightn someof tspersistent
enigmas.t alsouggestshaturipidesasesshananguinebout heindsof xcesseshempendingarwithpartawasikelyo callforthromitizen
soldiers.Mostimportantly,tbringsolighturipides'ober ssessmentf an
enduringoliticalroblem:herreduciblymbiguousharacterfpiritedness,thewarriorirtuearexcellence.
I.
AMBIVALENCE
Euripides'Medea emonstratesclearronyfhistory;tsorig-inal ackofpopularityas beenreversednsubsequentenerationssuch that t isvery ikelyhe bestknownndmost nfluentialfEuripides' lays.Theplayhassurvived hetransplantsfcultureandtimeand continues ocaptivateudienceswith tsrivetingpower.Forallthat,heplay,r moreprecisely,tsmaincharacter,persistentlylicits nambivalent eaction n thepartf udiences.Medea ishardlycharacter homonecouldove.Althoughheiscapableofnspiringontemporaryudiencessachampionfwomen'sights,venthis nthusiasmsinevitablyampenedbytheheinousness fher crime.Medeaislessanobjectofoveandsourceofnspirationndmoreanobjectof fascination.Althoughnemightetemptedodwellon one oranotherside of herunwieldyharacter,nyattemptodojusticetotheEuripideanortrayalfMedearequiresttentivenesso both heinspiringndshockinglements hich re somehow ewnogetherinMedea'ssoul. Thetendencyosimplifyedeabyrenderingermoreconsistentlys aheroineorvillain,althoughntelligible,betrays uripides' lay.'EuripidesaspresentedheMedeamyth
1.It is notdifficulto findepresentativesf hese xtremes.. M. W.Knoxmakesconvincingase forMedea'sheroic taturen "TheMedeafEuripides,"YaleClassical tudies5(1977):193-225.DenysL.Pageseeks o renderMedea'scrimentelligible ydepictinger asa barbariannda witch.MedeaOxford:ClarendonPress, 1938;rpt.1964),esp. pp.xvii-xxi.
587
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588THEREVIEWOF POLITICSinsuchways to retainndperhapsvenugmentn intractableambiguitybouttheplay'sentraligure.2hisambiguityasnotonlyprovedobe asourceofcontinuedascinationhroughheagesbut,sIwillrgue,pointso theunderlyingoliticaleachingoftheplay.3Onthe ve ofone ofthegreatestmilitaryonflictsfalltime,uripides' laydirectshettentionfhisaudienceotheproblemfspiritedness,hewarrior irtueparexcellence.AsIhopetoshow,Euripides' iagnosisftheproblemssobering;ereveals heneradicablymbivalentharacter fpiritednessttheverymomentwhen wewouldexpectthisqualityof soultobemostnthusiasticallyndorsedyhis fellowitizens.fEuripides'analysisfheproblemfpiritednesssdrawnromhe mmediatecontextrovidedythePeloponnesianWar,itis,ascontinuedinterestntheplayattests,messagefor lltime;Euripides'layshedsightn apermanentmbiguityt theheartfpoliticalife.4The bestwayntohepoliticalimensionfheplaysprovidedbyMedeaherself.oassertthatEuripidesrefusesosimplifyMedeaby makingher moreympatheticratleast moreconsis-tentlyhebjectfdmirationrvillainys notyetrecisenough.ItisnotmerelyhatEuripidesharpenshetwo-edgedharacterofMedea,butthatheplayscraftednsuchawaythat ach ofthesespectsspresentednsuccession.tisonlyfteruripideshas drawnthe audiencetowardheroinenthe firstalfoftheplay,thathegoesonto revealherterriblerutalityn theecondhalf.A.
THETRADITION OFTHEGREEK HERO
Theplayopenswithhenurse'sympatheticccountfMedea'spast,onecalculated oconjureupheroicdventuresnforeign
shores1-7),omanticove8,13-15),nd heelighthandanousa)
2.Giventhevarietyf raditionshatompriseheMedealegend,uripideshadconsiderableatitude nfashioningis character.ccordingo onetraditionMedeaunintentionallyilled erhildren;ccordingoanother,heywerekilledbykinsmenfCreon. SeePage,Medea,pp.xxi-xxv.3. For a thematiciscussionftherelationshipetweenGreekragedyndpolitical hilosophy,eeJ.PeterEuben, ed.,GreekragedyndPoliticalheory(Berkeley:UniversityfCaliforniaress,1986),esp. pp.1-42.4. For atreatmentftheproblemfpiritednesssatheme n thehistoryfpolitical hilosophy,eeCatherineuckert,d.,Understandinghe oliticalpirit:PhilosophicalnvestigationsromocratesoNietzscheNewHaven:YaleUniversityPress,1988).
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