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Complete Study Guide
Complete Study Guide
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King of the gods. Then. this move forced Jason. to help Jason. Jason's father had died. and Medea. He would have to be killed. and represents the first naval assault by the Greeks against an Eastern people. She was a powerful sorceress. the unfortunate woman's cries can be heard even outside the house. The unwitting daughters did as Medea asked. The modern reader. on the throne. convinced Pelias' daughters that she knew a way to restore the old king's youth. but the sorceress then explained that she couldn't really bring Pelias back to life. Medea. to fully understand the events of Medea. speaking of the sorrows facing Medea's family. for the Greeks of Euripides' time. they discuss Jason's betrayal of Medea. Medea was of a people at the far edge of the Black Sea. The traps set by Aeetes made the Golden Fleece all but impossible to obtain. cut into pieces. soon after Medea learns of Jason's treachery. a great Greek hero and captain of the Argonauts. princess of Colchis. Medea killed her own brother and tossed the pieces of his corpse behind the Argo as they sailed for Greece. Finally. had to slow his pursuit of the Argo so he could collect the pieces of his son's body for burial. She announces her intention to . Medea emerges from her home. Helias. They ask the Nurse to bring Medea out so that they might comfort her. Medea and Jason returned to his hereditary kingdom of Iolcus. The Nurse fears for everyone's safety: she knows the violence of Medea's heart. bewailing the harshness with which Fate handles women. lord of Colchis and Medea's father. where Jason eventually took a new bride. kept the Fleece under guard. led his crew to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece. and then put together and restored to youth by Medea's magic. full of sympathy for Medea. he was a formidable opponent. A sorcerer himself. is Medea's grandfather. The Tutor brings the children back into the house. Jason. and a granddaughter of the sun god Helias. Her father. The story is set after the ascent of Zeus. The Chorus of Corinthian women enters. By Medea's aid. needs to be familiar with the legends and myths on which the play is based. and Medea herself killed the giant serpent that guarded the Fleece. this was the edge of the known world. they settled in Corinth. the ancient sun god before Apollo's coming. This legend takes place quite early in the chronology of Greek myth. Jason's voyage with the Argonauts predates the Trojan War. and their children into exile. Jason overcame these obstacles.Medea Summary Greek audiences would have known the story of the ill-fated marriage between Jason. Rather than win Jason his throne. The Nurse complies. barbarian witch and princess of Colchis. hero of the Golden Fleece. grief-stricken by his son's death and his daughter's treachery. without right. King Aeetes. The action of the play begins here. and his uncle Pelias sat. to buy time during their escape. She is joined by the Tutor and the children. A Nurse enters. but is still near the beginning of his reign. Medea.
and Medea tells the Chorus that one day is all she needs to get her revenge. Although he seems to have convinced himself. telling her that her exile is her own fault. When Creon saw his daughter's corpse. but she overcomes it. condescending and smug. Medea begs for mercy. The Chorus begs Medea to reconsider these plans. and condemning him for his faithlessness. She also has the children bring gifts to the Corinthian princess. She begs him to allow the children to stay in Corinth. Jason rationalizes all of his actions. To make her revenge complete. the children were killed by Creon's friends in revenge for the death of the king and princess. king of Athens and old friend of Medea's. reminding him of all that she has done for him. The poison then worked against him. and she is granted a reprieve of one day. The old king leaves. She will kill Jason's new bride and father-in-law by the aid of poisoned gifts. There is no room for compromise. Both daughter and father died in excruciating pain. but she proudly refuses.seek revenge. and Medea adapts a conciliatory tone. . Jason exits. but Medea insists that her revenge must be complete. She and her children must leave Corinth immediately. Medea tells him of her problems. The poisoned dress and diadem have worked: the princess is dead. to most audience members Jason comes off as smug and spineless. He offers Medea money and aid in her exile. Aegeus. enters. king of Corinth and Jason's new father-in-law. The Tutor soon returns with the children. She has a moment of hesitation. Medea tells the Chorus of her plans. He scolds Medea for her loose tongue. and asks for safe haven in Athens. She offers to help him to have a child. Jason is pleased by this change of heart. enters and tells Medea that she is banished. Creon (not to be confused with the Creon of Sophocles' Theban cycle). Aegeus is childless. Medea accusing Jason of cowardice. Many scholars now believe that the murder of Medea's children was Euripides' addition to the myth. with neatly enumerated arguments. as follow women. and the bodies were barely recognizable. to aid her by keeping silent. The Chorus vows. With her security certain. in older versions. Jason enters again. in a scene that is both moving and chilling. Jason enters. Medea then waits anxiously for news from the palace. The deaths were brutal and terrifying. he embraced her body. Medea makes the old king vow by all the gods. A messenger comes bringing the awaited news. Husband and wife bicker bitterly. She asks the Chorus. telling Medea that the gifts have been received. Aegeus eagerly agrees. she has thorough knowledge of drugs and medicines. She speaks lovingly to her children. he will protect her. even as she steels herself so that she can kill them. If Medea can reach Athens. she will kill her children to wound Jason and to protect them from counter-revenge by Creon's allies and friends.
he has come to take the children under guard. each blaming the other for what has happened. The Chorus closes the play. but in the end does nothing. Jason re-enters with soldiers. We hear the children's screams from inside the house. she also refuses to give him the bodies. foretelling an embarrassing death for him. musing on the terrible unpredictability of fate. She rushes into the house with a shriek. so that he can take his revenge against his wife for these atrocities. with the aid of her chariot. Medea will escape to Athens. He fears for the children's safety.Medea now prepares to kill her children. Medea appears above the palace. She mocks Jason pitilessly. in a chariot drawn by dragons. because he knows Creon's friends will seek revenge. The Chorus sorrowfully informs Jason that his children are dead. There is nothing Jason can do. . She has the children's corpses with her. Jason now orders his guards to break the doors down. the Chorus considers interfering. Jason bickers with his wife one last time.
Greek drama seems to have its roots in religious celebrations that incorporated song and dance. Athenians had transformed a rural celebration of Dionysus into an urban festival with dancing choruses that competed for prizes. the character of Medea undoubtedly made the Athenian audience uncomfortable. only nineteen (or possibly eighteen. Prisoners were released on bail and most public business was suspended.About Medea Medea was first performed in 431 BC. Medea is one of the earliest surviving plays of Euripides. After the defeat of the Persians in a decisive campaign (480-479 BC). tragedies. second. Athens was the only Greek city-state where this art form evolved. making possible staged drama as we know it. Later. and third prize by the judges of Dionysis. It is also one of the most popular. choreographed the dances. but we know that this set of plays won third prize at the Dionysia. but true plays. but it is still meant to represent a group of characters. In the case of Medea. The playwrights were more than just writers. as the authorship of Rhesus is in doubt) survive. Although we know nothing of the other pieces. or the Dionysia. the drama festival. and dramas handed down to us from the period. Aeschylus transformed the art by using two masked actors. and the performances incorporated song and dance. The Dionysia lasted four to five days. nihilistic and disturbing. and the poets who competed in the festival were no longer writing elaborate hymns. Of the eighty-eight or so plays Euripides wrote. for audiences past and present. An anonymous poet came up with the idea of having the chorus interact with a masked actor. the Athenians were treated to three tragedies and a satyr play (a light comedy on a mythic theme) written by one of three pre-selected tragedians. By the sixth century BC. though it was written well into his career. watched plays in an enormous outdoor theater that could seat seventeen thousand spectators. At the end of the festival. although labeled generically as "Greek. The specific circumstances surrounding the origin of Greek drama were a puzzle even in the fourth century BC. each playing different parts throughout the piece. became a spectacular event. along with their slaves and dependents. the Chorus is constituted by the women of . the tragedians were awarded first. and during this time. and directed the actors. Roughly ten thousand free male citizens. although often they were. the play is something of a shocker. The Chorus delivers much of the exposition and expounds poetically on themes. The trilogies did not have to be an extended drama dealing with the same story. They also composed the music. Its companion pieces have been lost. On each of three days. as well as one comedy by a comedic playwright. the comedies. With two actors and a chorus. the Chorus may be the most alien element of the play. adding another disappointment to Euripides' career. and the city took the celebrations seriously." It was a highly stylized art form: actors wore masks. Greek drama was not meant to be what we would consider "naturalistic. complex plots and conflicts could be staged as never before. For modern readers." are in fact all Athenian works. Athens emerged as the superpower of the independent Greek city-states.
they do nothing to interfere. In taking her revenge. most Greek tragedies have action confined to a twenty-four hour period. Medea refuses to be wronged by men. as noted by Aristotle. and for that. Medea is not divided into acts or discrete scenes. Powerful and fearless. instead of ennobling her. The women live vicariously through Medea. and the Chorus cannot help but admire her. Medea is part of the gallery of Euripides' "bad women. We are not. The women are alternately horrified and enthralled by Medea: there is no question that she goes too far and commits the most horrible act possible for a mother." Euripides was often attacked for portraying what Aristotle called "unscrupulously clever" women as his main characters. as in Aeschylus' Oresteia. she earns the Chorus' pity and condemnation. it is clear that a considerable amount of time has passed in the world of the play even though only a few seconds have passed for the audience. However. and in the character of Medea. . In general. we see who a woman whose suffering. allowed to comfort ourselves with the restoration of male-dominated order. Consistent with the norms of Greek drama. time passes in non-naturalistic fashion: at certain points. And yet. he depicts his tragic heroines with far less apology than his contemporaries. she avenges the crimes committed against all of womankind.Corinth. has made her monstrous. In Medea that order is exposed as hypocritical and spineless. The relationship between the Chorus and Medea is one of the most interesting Chorus-protagonist relationships in all of Greek drama.
in Corinth. sorceress. Barbarian. Friend of Medea. Although he has received credit for retrieving the treasure. He runs into Medea by chance. Clever. He condescends to his wife. Jason has gone behind Medea's back and taken another bride. and she refuses to suffer in silence. although she is in every way superior to him. Now. providing Medea with the means to ensure her own survival. fearing that the dangerous witch will seek vengeance against his family. unwilling to allow her enemies to have any kind of victory. Aegeus vows to grant her safe haven in Athens. She also saved Jason's life during the escape. She is fiercely proud. Aegeus remains childless. New father-in-law to Jason. because of this act. but it comes at the cost of everything she holds dear. Aegeus King of Athens. Wife of Jason. she has been betrayed by Jason. Creon King of Corinth. Jason and his family were exiled from his native kingdom of Iolcus. Leader of the Argonauts. Here in Corinth. powerful. due to her overly ardent actions on Jason's behalf. however. and ruthless.Character List Medea Princess of Colchis. Kindly and trusting ruler. Jason Son of Aeson. For his sake. Medea takes advantage of Creon's underestimation of her: she begs for one day to make preparations. He is depicted as an opportunistic and unscrupulous man. full of self-deception and repugnant smugness. she murdered her own brother. and the king grants it. Her revenge is total. Hero of the Golden Fleece. and Medea promises to help him. she murders her own children in part because she cannot bear the thought of seeing them hurt by an enemy. woman of passion and rage. . Medea enabled Jason to complete his quest for the Golden Fleece. Not to be confused with Creon of Sophocles' Theban plays. Jason met Medea during his quest for the Golden Fleece. Not aware of her plans. Creon exiles Medea. Jason married her. on his way back from the great oracle of Apollo. She is also a cunning and cold manipulator: she sees through the false pieties and hypocritical values of her enemies. and fathered two children by her. and uses their own moral bankruptcy against them. she can never return home. This day is enough fro Medea to destroy Creon and his daughter. Medea is the one who killed the monster guarding the Fleece.
Along with the Nurse. Like Medea. Tutor Tutor to Medea's children. Though they condemn Medea at times. on the whole they seem to be more enthralled than disgusted by her.Nurse Servant to Medea and Medea's children. they are subject to the injustices that befall women. . Medea enlists their loyalty. Chorus of Corinthian Women The women of Corinth. there is a part of them that seems to live vicariously through Medea's terrible revenge. she is an outside commentator on the events of the play. Her worries for the children foreshadow the children's deaths. she is a canny but powerless observer. extracting a vow of silence. As a slave. although he has a different perspective on events. The Tutor is another slave of Medea's household. Messenger He brings the news of the deaths of Creon and the Corinthian princess. he comments on the behavior of his masters. Along with the tutor. but do not interfere. They watch the horrific events unfold. She is loyal to Medea and disapproves of Jason's decisions.
committing unspeakable acts on his behalf. Her greatness of intellect and selfabsorption are beyond doubt. we watch Medea with a mixture of horror and excitement. she sacrificed all. and then takes the brutality a step further. But his betrayal of her has transformed passion into rage. Throughout their literature. beyond the bounds of myth. they also tended to see strong passion and rage as part and parcel of greatness. Pride. we have fantasized about the satisfaction of a perfect revenge. any satisfaction gained from watching Medea takes perverse form. Hers is the damaged and distorted pride of a woman. . who is nonetheless superior to everyone around her. Revenge The seductive appeal of revenge is part of the play's enduring popularity. Medea is willing to sacrifice everything to make her revenge perfect. But part of Medea's appeal is its power as a revenge fantasy. Like the Chorus. twisting some of the conventions of his art. Medea is an example of passion carried too far. The Greeks were very interested in the extremes of emotion and the consequences of leaving emotion unchecked. in some ways Medea is most infuriated when she is ridiculed by fools. And like Medea. After all she has suffered. Euripides plays with the idea of greatness here. but the reduced field for these talents makes her into a monster. all have at one time or another been beset by enemies whose power is institutionally protected and unfair. in a woman perversely set on choosing rage over mercy and reason. Medea's pride drives her to unnecessarily brutal action. paradoxically. closely connected to greatness. is likewise distorted. Medea has some of the makings of a great hero. condescended to for her sex and her barbarian origin. Greatness and pride The Greeks were fascinated by the thin line between greatness and hubris. by slaying her own children (Euripides' addition to the story). often to surprising effects. but Euripides distorts and dislocates these traits. There is a tremendous sense of waste. For her passionate love for Jason. she also kills them to hurt Jason. While many tragedies give us a kind of clean satisfaction in the tragic. She murders her own children. although in slaying them she is dooming herself to a life of remorse and grief. Her violent and intemperate heart. now is set on his destruction. to protect them from the counter-revenge of her enemies. just like Medea.Major Themes Passion and Rage Medea is a woman of extreme behavior and extreme emotion. formerly devoted to Jason. there is a sense that the same traits that make a man or woman great can lead to their destruction. She fully exacts her revenge.
) Euripides was aware of these hypocrisies. (The typical apology offered by admirers of Athens is that all ancient societies were sexist and dependent on slave labor. as he does in other plays. his treatment of gender is the most sophisticated one to be found in the works of any ancient Greek writer. the unknown. from the very opening lines. they are implying certain things about themselves. He will show. we Greeks are rational. Medea's foreignness is emphasized from the start: the Nurse. The Other is also essential for self-definition: as the Greeks ascribe certain traits to barbarians. for the Greeks and for us. that the Other is not exclusively something external to Greece. Euripides destabilizes these easy binaries. But throughout the course of the play. this generality is untrue. Remember that the Other is a complex and multifaceted concept: it comprises the foreign. and he often pointed out the ways that Greek society attempted to efface or excuse the injustices it perpetrated. who have suffered and become twisted by their suffering. without friends or shelter. Jason. the exotic. He gives us real women. Medea's opening speech to the Chorus is Classical Greek literature's most eloquent statement about the injustices that befall women. Exile Modern audiences have difficulty conceiving of how horrible exile was for the ancient Greeks. At the same time. was nonetheless a city that depended on slave labor and the oppression of women. without slave labor. hero of the Golden Fleece (although Euripides emphasizes that Medea . Their position is vulnerable. The ideas Greeks have about themselves are often false. Barbarians are superstitious. Barbarians are savage. for the sake of her husband. There is much. Athens. The Other The Other is a key theme. reminds us that Medea comes from a distant and exotic land. Euripides shows the difficulties that befall women. He also recognizes that the position of women. Greek society functions thanks to injustice. but a war between the sexes in which all emerge scarred. to wander. is inextricable from the very core of social order in Greece. A person's city-state was home and protector. even in the ancient world. has made herself an exile. Medea is not exactly a feminist role model. Jason cannot return home. She is far from home. and their subordination to men. In her overzealous advocacy of her husband's interest. we Greeks are not. Many societies were more generous in their treatment of women than the Greeks were. a city that prided itself as a place more free than the neighboring dictatorships. Medea. What we see is not a story of female liberation. Several points should be born in mind when reflecting on this aspect of the play. the feared. was considered a fate as horrible as death. she has also made their family exiles in Corinth. without family or friends to protect her. Because of her actions in Iolcus. but he does not give us tinny virgin heroines. that we do not know about ourselves.The position of women Euripides was fascinated by women and the contradictions of the Greek sex-gender system. and many societies functioned.
Creon has made a profitable match between his daughter and Jason. denied an empire to build. Manipulation Manipulation is an important theme. Medea is despised for talents that should win her praise. Because she is an outsider to normal order. The Greeks. When emphasizing the circumstances women must bear after marriage (leaving home. as she is an exile in the ordinary sense and also an exile in the sense that all women are exiles. and her strength of will all exceed her station. will instead be used on the smaller playing field of personal revenge. but he has a point when he argues to Medea that something needed to be done to provide their family with security. But Medea is the master of manipulation. she uses his own shallowness. She is surrounded by people less intelligent and resourceful than she. This theme is linked to the theme of pride and the theme of woman's position. Her genius. Part of her difficulty is that she has no real outlet for her gifts. his unmerited pride.was the true agent behind the success of the quest) is now a wanderer. which should be admired. These traits. Medea plays to Creon's pity. living among strangers). Her force. Remember that Aristotle considered the "unscrupulously clever" woman so distasteful as to be a subject unfit for drama. Medea tells Creon that it is better to be born stupid. . Eleanor Wilner calls Medea "a Machiavel without a country to rule" (4)." Cleverness Euripides emphasizes Medea's cunning and cleverness. also cause suffering for Medea. Medea plays perfectly on the weaknesses and needs of both her enemies and her friends. Her position. she behaves without restraint or morality. and so to the Greeks she will always be "barbarian. Jason. Jason buys the act. then. often treat her smugly because of her sex and her barbarian origins. and to the old king's costly underestimation of the sorceress. demonstrating his lack of astuteness and his willingness to be duped by his own fantasies. Euripides links the themes of exile and the position of women. he now manipulates the royal family of Corinth to secure his own ends. She plays the fawning and submissive woman. and his desire for dominance. Jason used Medea in the past. she is also terrifyingly free. for men despise the clever. his statement reflects typically Greek attitudes. Medea. hoping to benefit from Jason's fame as the hero of the Golden Fleece. and Creon all try their hand at manipulation. She is also a foreigner. but social power and respect is theirs. she uses her skills as a bargaining chip and takes advantage of the king's soft-heartedness to win a binding oath from him. Medea is reminding us of the conditions of exile. her intellect. to her husband's delight and gratification. With Aegeus. His marriage is shrewd and calculating: he takes a bride of Corinth's royal family. He is faithless. is doubly grave. Against Jason. though they have some respect for her.
and tells Medea that she and her two children are to be banished immediately. sorrowfully telling the audience what has recently happened to Medea. with the two small children of Jason and Medea. Men must bear arms. She is a powerful sorceress. she tells the Tutor to bring the children inside. The Tutor enters. but warns him to keep them away from their mother. they make the Nurse afraid. Marriage is necessary. speaking to the Nurse. Medea enters. and he fears for his daughter's life. The Nurse enters. so that they might comfort her. The Chorus does as she asks. but they also seem to think that a woman should learn to endure. Medea is heard cursing Jason and the children. And Medea tells the Chorus that her problem is still worse: she is a foreigner in Greece. king of Corinth (not to be confused with the Creon of the Oedipus myth). Although Medea has committed crimes on Jason' behalf. Without knowledge of the backstory. telling her she is right to seek revenge. presumably because they remind her of Jason. speaking regretfully of what she did to her own family to help Jason. Medea secures a promise: if she can find a way to get revenge. distraught. The setting is before the house of Medea and Jason.Medea Detailed Summary Lines 1-356 For the mythological background of the play. Medea is heard crying out. 38). for Medea is a powerful and dangerous woman. Creon enters. When Medea. Medea is not the first to have an unfaithful husband. Medea has been sick with grief since the new development. We hear Medea's cries coming from the inside of the house. The Chorus asks the Nurse to bring Medea out. delivering a monologue on her sufferings and the sufferings of woman. and with marriage comes servitude. They pity Medea. and Jason has treated her like a prize won in a foreign land. And though men are free to indulge their appetites and enjoy the company of their friends. asks why. the Medea cannot be properly understood. Women. in Corinth. Jason's new wife is the daughter of Creon. wishing for the whole house to fall. must endure terrible indignities. The Nurse is horrified that Jason would allow his family to be treated so. The Tutor brings more bad news: he has heard a rumor that Creon intends to drive Medea and the children out of Corinth. he has now left her and taken a new wife. The Nurse fears what Medea may do. she asks the Chorus to vow that they will remain silent. Creon admits that he is afraid of her. The Nurse muses that the great are not an enviable group. she turns even from her own children. Medea speaks about the . women must remain in the house and live for their husbands alone. though creatures that can think and feel. with attendants. please consult the Short Summary. The Chorus enters. but women must bear children. "for her heart is violent" (l. without a family or home.
and in Medea it overlaps with the theme of passion. Passion has its dark side: possessiveness. and they are canny enough to predict events. An important feature of his work is allowing slaves to speak. But if she or her children are found in his lands at dawn tomorrow. a Nurse and a Tutor. The Nurse confides to the audience that "Love is diseased" (l. But though we know that in the past passion was the motivation for heroic acts. pride was something of which one had to be wary. 16). She is loyal to the house and to Medea. at the same time. is the embodiment of humility. The Nurse's fears foreshadow the terrible fate of Medea's children. The Nurse and the Tutor provide their perspective on the events in the house they serve. There are differences of attitude between the two slaves. their tempers swerve wildly. She continues to beg. But passion also consumes: we here Medea's cries from offstage. the Medea cannot be properly understood. To win back his rightful place in Iolcus.) Passion and love motivated Medea to help Jason: it is thanks to her and her mastery of arcane arts that he won the Golden Fleece. Medea's power and passion were enlisted for his aid. This theme is very typically Greek. The Nurse reminds us that Medea is here because she followed Jason back to Greece out of love. pleading to be allowed one more day. while the Tutor cynically remarks that everyone looks out for himself. and speak well. will now become destructive. The main hero of Christianity. Significantly. For the Greeks. For Christians. Because the great always have their own way. they will die. so that she can prepare for the journey and decide where to go. it was also the motivation for Medea's terrible crimes: to help Jason escape. but she fears Medea and her violent heart. the means by which love becomes hatred. As long as Jason returned her love. unchecked. is already welldefined as a character. grants her request. Creon. Creon and his attendants exit. as she curses Jason and her own children. both of them condemn Jason. but Creon will not allow it. Without knowledge of the backstory. She begs to be allowed to stay. (For the mythological background of the play. she turned the daughter of Pelias into murderers. pride is one of the seven deadly sins. The Nurse. the incredible force of Medea's passion. The Nurse speaks of the dangers of great people's passions. and these differences seem to break down along the lines of gender: the Nurse seems to be shocked by Jason's behavior. The Son of God is born poor and subjects himself to a . opposite of the virtue of humility. they had a much more complicated understanding of pride than the Judeo-Christian concept that we have inherited. And yet the slaves are completely powerless to alter the course of events. please consult the Short Summary. promising to submit to authority. The slaves provide an outsider's eye on the action. jealousy. after a few brief moments on stage. Greatness and pride are two more themes.hatred all people have for the clever. believing that one day is not enough for Medea to do her enemies harm. she killed her brother. Jesus Christ. Passion is an important theme of the play. Analysis: Euripides has the opening of the play delivered by two slaves. closely connected. infected by Jason's betrayal.
she has made their family exiles in Corinth. when she marries. Another key theme is the position of women. each new play presents its own vision. Euripides pointed out the injustices and blind spots of his society. Medea. Modern audiences have difficulty conceiving of how horrible exile was for the ancient Greeks. and one of his most discomforting ones. Euripides shows us injustice without giving us heroes who can correct it: instead. She is therefore always an outsider. We are not brought to greater order through struggle. women are expected to stay at home. Another key theme is exile. was considered to be a fate as horrible as death. A person's city-state was home and protector. A woman. without friends or shelter. but one learns to moderate one's pride after a tragic fall. most of Euripides' characters fall far short of that mark. The greatest victory a Euripidean tragic hero can claim is to learn compassion and wisdom through suffering. But what can be said with certainty is that Euripides was fascinated by women and the difficulties of their position. A society's hypocrisy must be paid for. In contrast. and smart enough to recognize that many of the cherished myths and fables of the Greeks reinforced male-dominated order by teaching women to accept (and enjoy) subjugation. has made herself an exile. we are given the cold reaction of revenge. is that the oppressed do not automatically become noble. without family or friends to protect her. hero of the Golden Fleece (although Euripides emphasizes that Medea was the true agent behind the success of the quest) is . and by this act she secures the loyalty and secrecy of the Chorus. To say that Euripides was a feminist would be a terrible oversimplification. a reader would be hard-pressed to find a truly humble Greek hero. Also consider that in her overzealous advocacy of her husband's interest. but she will soon be revealed as a terrifyingly self-centered and ruthless woman. She is far from home. By examining the treatment of women.humiliating death by crucifixion. however. One of Euripides great insight. while men roam wild. must leave her own home and join her husband's. He was also extremely savvy about the ways that art has been used to defame woman's character. Jason cannot return home. indulging sexual appetites or enjoying the company of friends. Women are not free to socialize in public space as men are. and the price is high and bloody. the Greeks recognized pride as a necessary part of greatness. for the sake of her husband. to wander. Nor are his views on women (or any other subject) consistent throughout his career. At the same time. But it would be too simple to see the play as a proto-feminist diatribe against the excesses of patriarchy. its own revelations. and he may be deeply sympathetic to the position of women. Their position is vulnerable. as well as an anachronism. Medea may earn our sympathies in her first speech. And both lead to her corruption. Medea makes herself the spokeswoman for the suffering of women. Because of her actions in Iolcus. His plays teach us that those who suffer often become monstrous. Medea points out many specifics of Greek life that are nearly universal to pre-industrial societies. Medea sets up parallels between pride and passion: both make Medea's great acts possible. but he does not grant Medea and the women of Corinth the moral high ground. Euripides may be deeply critical of male-dominated Greek order. Jason. There is sacrifice and suffering.
Medea is despised for talents that should win her praise. But throughout the course of the play. Another theme is Medea's cleverness. Although we cannot know if Jason was sincerely attracted to her or if he merely used her to secure his own ends. and so to the Greeks she will always be "barbarian. the exotic. would not be possible without strange and fearsome lands to visit.now a wanderer. for men despise the clever. Part of her difficulty is that she has no real outlet for her gifts. He will show. she is also terrifyingly free. reminds us that Medea comes from a distant and exotic land. these syntheses/subordinations of seemingly opposite forces lead to order and harmony. Several points should be born in mind when reflecting on this aspect of the play. it is an attempt to join the struggle and danger of adventure with the return to home and stability. Because . She is also a foreigner. we Greeks are rational. the exotic. Medea describes herself as "something he won in a foreign land" (l. The marriage can be seen as Jason's attempt to subordinate the foreign to the Greek. Medea is reminding us of the conditions of exile. For Jason. There is much. Jason's quest. woman to man. Remember that Aristotle considered the "unscrupulously clever" woman so distasteful as to be a subject unfit for drama. 256). we Greeks are not. the unknown. as he does in other plays. Euripides destabilizes these easy binaries. voicing no surprise that men always act in self-interest. living among strangers). and her strength of will all exceed her station. it is probable that Medea's uniqueness drew Jason to her. that we do not know about ourselves. from the very opening lines. then. that the Other is not exclusively something external to Greece. She is surrounded by people less intelligent and resourceful than she. we hear again and again that Medea is different from Greek women. as she is an exile in the ordinary sense and also an exile in the sense that all women are exiles. though they have some respect for her. Her force. When emphasizing the circumstances women must bear after marriage (leaving home. Barbarians are superstitious. In Aeschylus' Oresteia. The Other is also essential for self-definition: as the Greeks ascribe certain traits to barbarians. or both. Medea's foreignness is emphasized from the start: the Nurse. Jason's marriage to Medea can be seen as an attempt to bring the adventure home with him. Euripides links the themes of exile and the position of women. but social power and respect is theirs. The Greeks. often treat her smugly because of her sex and her barbarian origins. In Medea. the feared. Medea's Other-ness may have had something to do with her initial attractiveness. The Tutor points out the shrewd nature of Jason's actions. they lead to chaos. Her position." The Other is a key theme. her intellect. His marriage is shrewd and calculating: he takes a bride of Corinth's royal family. Another key point to remember is that the Other (the foreign. Throughout the play. Remember that the Other is a complex and multifaceted concept: it comprises the foreign. is doubly grave. Barbarians are savage. Eleanor Wilner calls Medea "a Machiavel without a country to rule" (4). his statement reflects typically Greek attitudes. they are implying certain things about themselves. the terrifying) is an essential component of adventure. Medea tells Creon that it is better to be born stupid. and all the quests of Greek heroes. for the Greeks and for us.
depriving him of any excuse to take another wife. All was to protect Jason. rather than Medea. thanks to their marriage. speaking of the pain of exile. He offers to provide money for Medea. Finally. but Jason responds that she is too irrational. she was the one who slew the giant serpent that guarded the Golden Fleece. Finally. women will be paid their due. The Chorus delivers an incredible ode ("Flow backward to your sources. . but she has ruined herself. Medea is determined that no man will wrong her and then live to tell about it. The Chorus tells Jason that he has spoken well. Jason enters. lives among Greeks and is quite famous. He also tells her that she.she is an outsider to normal order. denied an empire to build. will instead be used on the smaller playing field of personal revenge. but unmoderated or ill-chosen love brings suffering. He has tried to speak on behalf of her and her children. they came to Corinth as exiles. telling her that she has brought her exile on herself. He tells her he will make sure that they do not go penniless. his new bride. but their remains the matter of safe haven afterward. Jason's responds with enumerated arguments. She also provided Jason with two children."). but she assures them that twenty-four hours is all she needs to destroy Jason. . She reminds him of the many things she made possible for him: she helped him yoke the firebreathing bulls. about how Medea has benefited more from their marriage than he. and she killed Pelias. / And let the world's great order be reversed . Medea lashes back. calling Jason a coward. Her genius. he argues that he took the new bride to save their house. If he has children by the new marriage. and that he still does not hate her even if she despises him. reprimanding Medea for her loose tongue. The Chorus delivers an ode on the dangers and benefits of love: love brings great rewards. He accuses Medea of being irrational and caught up in womanly concern for love. He tells her that her love compelled her to act. Medea and Jason bicker: Medea tells Jason that he should have discussed the plan of a new marriage with her first. . his children by Medea will have siblings to protect them. and Creon. and so he owes his life to Aphrodite. she behaves without restraint or morality. Lines 357-662 The Chorus pities Medea. they seem to have been won over to Medea's side. and they needed to secure their position. neatly organized. she proudly rejects the offer. as well as send her to the houses of friends. goddess of love. but also says that he has still betrayed his wife. sacred rivers. They continue to sing. and they are living vicariously through her and her plans for revenge. She will use her skill in the arts of poison to destroy them.
Medea has a powerful effect on the Chorus. The Chorus points out that if women were allowed to be poets. He is calculating. and as soon as she promises that she will have her revenge the Chorus responds with glee. Medea has been completely humiliated by Jason's decision to take a new bride. When considering how to kill her enemies. Jason sees marriage as a social/financial arrangement: he speaks in terms of wealth and security. justifying its injustices. effacing its wrongs.Analysis: Medea is a complex and fascinating character. Jason and Medea show two different ideas of marriage. A culture has an interest in covering its tracks. In their bickering. though well-organized. she saved his life and completed the quests that he could not. popular legends. and condescending. and unquestioned beliefs. but the professionalism of his arguments is off-putting. there is someone with something to gain and someone else with something to lose. a civilization accomplishes these tasks in part through art. When the Chorus says that Jason speaks well but still has betrayed his wife. she would rather destroy all than accept help from one who has wronged her so horribly. she rules out the direct approach. we learn immediately that she has manipulated him. Jason is depicted as a hollow shell of a hero. Their Choral Ode is a reproach against men: the Chorus recognizes that the domination of women is inseparable from the very order of their culture. when he used Medea. She . She has played the role of weak and vulnerable woman. He uses rhetoric to reconstruct truth as he wishes it to be. Significantly. Medea. still speaks of a more idealistic fashion. After Creon has left. and through it she has secured enough time to destroy her enemies. Her pride shows again when she refuses Jason's aid. they speak of the negative depiction of women in the popular imagination. 410-1). in art and literature. seem to skirt the important issues. he now uses the family of Corinth for gain. she has made them complicit to her plans. the stories would be quite different. She is also fiercely proud. sacred rivers / and let the world's great order be reversed" (ll. though she earlier described marriage as a kind of bondage. He is pointing out that art exists in the context of power relations: for every story and every work of art. He is an opportunistic man. as in the past. Medea's revenge is a chance to strike back. His arguments in defense of his actions show that he has studied rhetoric. Euripides is questioning the fundamental stories of his culture. smug. The fear of being shamed is one of Medea's driving motivations. more full of hurt pride. In this ode. and the rareness of the event is like a miracle: "Flow backward to your sources. Works that people take for granted as "universal" art are in fact products of a very specific political positioning. Though her situation is difficult. Jason's smugness is particularly unattractive because he owes so much to his wife: again and again. The loss of Jason is not only a matter of passion. fearing that she might be caught and give her enemies cause to laugh. they speak for most audience members as well. His reasons are tidily enumerated. and his excuses. Living as a barbarian among Greeks has made her more defensive. there is a guiding ideology.
We see more of Medea's fierce pride. King of Athens and Medea's old friend. promising that through her medical expertise she will help him to have children. Revenge is an important theme. bringing death to the princess and all who touch her. To take pity and gifts from the man who wronged her is worse than exile. mindful that Medea has been exiled by the powerful king of Corinth. Now. She will beg him to allow her children to remain in Corinth. Medea begs Aegeus to help her. She is constantly at the mercy of those less clever than she. the judges favored others. her spell over us is as strong as the hold she has on the Chorus. Aegeus asked the god to help him. Medea makes Aegeus promise that he will not hand her over to her enemies. and part of the wonder of the play is the fact that despite Medea's monstrosity. asking if the divinities of Athens will bless Medea. Medea wishes him well. He is coming from a visit to the oracle of Apollo. with promised safe haven from Aegeus. in us. Aegeus swears by all the gods. and treats Medea as if she irrational. He is in Corinth to see an old friend. who owes her everything. and the depth of her rage usually has some echo. has cast her aside. adapting a conciliatory tone. her arguments are brushed aside as womanly irrationality. to discuss the oracle's reply. tells her that he cannot help her to reach Athens. Still childless. a wise man.speaks of vows and reciprocity. the same pride will drive Medea to unspeakable acts. These deeds done. The Medea itself. Jason brushes this talk aside. but proudly scorns Jason's offer of aid. At the Dionysia. she can execute all of her plans. They sing of the holy rivers of Athens. but if she comes he will provide her safe haven and hospitality forever. And though in many ways righteousness is on her side. Euripides was a genius who was not given his due. Medea informs him of the sorrows that have befallen her of late. Though her pride may seem admirable in this case. The Chorus delivers another ode ("From of old the children of Erechtheus are splendid"). enters. but the oracle's answer only baffled him. Lines 663-975 Aegeus. and she will send the children bearing gifts to Jason's new bride. now recognized as one of the greatest works of the ancient world. Her husband. She bemoans her fate as an exile. The Chorus urges Medea not to continue with these plans. Her revenge becomes our fantasy. The gift will be a poisoned dress. Medea is overjoyed. The depth of Medea's passion now manifests itself as rage. and Aegeus is sympathetic and shocked by Jason' behavior. was beaten by now-forgotten plays. She will kill her children to wound her husband. Medea will then murder her children. or the citizens of . and no wonder. however uncomfortable. She will call back Jason. no matter what. Many critics have speculated that Medea often speaks with Euripides' rage: like Medea. and the kindly king exits. Aegeus. Medea replies evenly that there is no room for compromise.
to her husband's delight and gratification. and his desire for dominance. She calls out the children to greet him. He exits. Her cunning manipulation of others is the act of a desperate woman. his unmerited pride. congratulating Jason on his good sense and his new marriage. he promises to try. In a bad situation. outside the structures of power and the bonds of kinship. Medea then sends an attendant to get the dress and diadem for the princess of Corinth. he accepts Medea's submissive woman act because it is exactly what he wants to believe. we see Medea as master manipulator. but Medea insists. she has the cunning to manipulate both enemies and friends. Medea tells the truth. With Aegeus. Jason enters. Manipulation is an important theme. Against Jason.e. She has the know-how to make deadly poisons and drugs of fertility. Analysis: In her exchanges with Aegeus and Jason. The scene where Medea weeps for her children to some extent humanizes her. She asks him to try and arrange for the children to be allowed to stay in Corinth. Just as he has successfully convinced himself that his marriage to the Corinthian princess is a noble act. although he is puzzled by her tears. she uses her skills as a bargaining chip and takes advantage of the king's soft-heartedness to win a binding oath from him. We are reminded of Eleanor Wilner's comment that Medea is a Machiavel without a kingdom to rule. Unable to rule the system. too. Her children will bring these gifts to her. though she omits important details (i. Medea is fawning. she remains nonetheless capable of tearing it all down. we see Medea use the partial truth to achieve maximum advantage for herself. But we also are reminded that Medea is barred from the highest circles of power. Jason approves of Medea's change of heart. becomes teary-eyed. we see the depth of Medea's cleverness and skill. 901) reaching out their arms in this way when they die. after such an abominable act. apologizing for her anger. She plays the fawning and submissive woman. In these various manipulations. As they reach out to their father. The also sing of the horror of the act itself. and her own survival. though not without great cost to herself. although the effect remains chilling rather than sentimental. She imagines the children. Jason objects to the extravagance. The Chorus. Note that with Aegeus.Athens shelter her. "after a long life" (l. She begins to cry. she uses his own shallowness. demonstrating his lack of astuteness and willingness to be duped by his own fantasies. With Aegeus. Earlier. Presenting her children to Jason. Medea speaks of a feeling of foreboding. she . Jason buys the act. with attendants. single-minded revenge. followed by the Tutor and the children. she is planning to kill the Corinthian royal family). Manipulation is more complicated than simple lying. we watched as Medea played to Creon's pity and underestimation of the sorceress. and the coldness of heart it will require. with attendants. Medea uses her wits secure two ends: a brutal. She plays perfectly on the weaknesses and needs of both her enemies and her friends.
hyperbolically wishing. waiting for the messenger to bring the news of her revenge. thinking the convulsions a result of diving ecstasy. She spends last moments with the two children. holding their hands and pitying them. and her later speech in which she talks sorrowfully to her uncomprehending young sons. and he died as his daughter did. The Messenger recounts that the girl was not pleased to see the children. telling the Chorus that she watches the horizon. weeping. a nurse. even if the child turns out well. their care for her in her old age. . their ritual washing of her dead body. nor is she a sociopath. blood and fire oozing from the girls school. she was overjoyed by her own appearance. She tried them on soon after Jason left. and the poison of the dress ripped the girls flesh from her bones. but she was won over by the beauty of the gifts. as grievers do. The princess has accepted the gifts. These moments. He cried out pitifully. show us that Medea feels remorse for her actions. The Tutor returns. All are doomed. but chooses to follow the dictates of rage. And the death of a child is the greatest of griefs. they also sing with pity for Medea. She comprehends the difference between right and wrong. After all of the troubles of parenting. But it soon became clear that the girl was dying. who will wet her hands with her own children's blood. Medea enters again. cried out praises to God. He does not seem to understand Medea's distress. but she soon began to convulse. She seems to hesitate. and how they will make him wretched. But she steels herself and resolves once again to carry out her revenge. children in tow. When the old king tried to get up. He comforts Medea: they will be allowed to stay in Corinth.becomes wet-eyed thinking about her children's mortality. Lines 976-1250 The Chorus sings with pity of the horrible fate awaiting Jason's bride and Medea's children. that he had died with her. He is shocked by Medea's calmness. speaking to them of how sorrowful she is to be leaving in exile without them. She speaks of all she hoped to witness: their marriages. She sends him inside. and her unwillingness to flee. The Messenger enters: the poison has worked. Medea is not without feeling. Medea now has a long speech as she addresses her children. The sing of Jason's choices. he found his flesh was stuck to the dress. The Chorus sings of the pains of rearing children. The death was terrible: the diadem seared her with flame. Creon came and clasped the dead body to him. and announces that she will not go through with her plans. the possibility of death remains. She imagines their deaths "after a long life". the dramatic irony is that her children do not have long to live. The poison worked a second time. Medea and the children exit. for Medea's pleasure. She entreats him to tell the story of the girl's death.
the allies of Corinth will seek terrible revenge against the children. There is a strong contrast between Medea's false plan. Medea remains one of the most popular of all ancient Greek plays. wronged in love. But she decides to go through with her plan. in part because of her incredible pride. Paradoxically. She later says that unless she hurries and does the act herself. . she continues to fascinate us. Medea cannot stand the thought of being victimized: "This shall never be. Despite her sorrow. She is moved to tears by sentimental thoughts of being cared for in old age. and she fears that they will be mocked. we have the opposite end of the spectrum.The Chorus observes that this day has given Jason much grief. the children were murdered by Medea's enemies in revenge for the death of Creon and his daughter. In part. Analysis: Although Euripides makes Medea an eloquent spokesperson for the evils that befall women. Medea is incredibly selfabsorbed. One of Medea's greatest frustrations is that she has been beaten by fools." (ll. Euripides also adds another complicating element to Medea's revenge. As always. in older versions. proposed to Jason. she speaks of her children's uncertain future. Her husband is hollow. she will "suffer my children / To be slain by another hand less kindly to them. how many have not?" (10). the horror of their being dead seems secondary. Medea will not only slaughter her children. She thinks selfishly of how she will miss them. 1238-40). and it effectively robs Medea of the moral high ground. In the true plan. we see the ultimate act of selflessness: a mother separating herself from her children for their own good. Although Medea is clearly a monster. he refuses to give us a simple story of revenge justly taken. Many scholars now believe that Medea's murder of her children was Euripides' original addition to the myth. The power and pleasure of revenge are a central theme here. and her real plan. Even as she grieves for her children. 1060-1). Again and again. but he has deserved it. "How many have dreamed of that satisfaction? Or better. it is because she ruthlessly carries out what most of us are too controlled to do. Force every way will have it they must die. Their blood is not wholly Greek. She must steel herself and murder her children. Medea cannot bear the thought of her enemies destroying her children. . In the false plan. But she has the means to destroy all who have hurt her. She is deprived of institutional power. she decides to prevent this grief by killing them herself. With a shriek. Also. humiliated by her enemies. that I should suffer my children / To be the prey of my enemies insolence" (ll. . but she seems to be thinking more about her own grief than the actual deaths. she would have the children brought up in Corinth because of the greater future it offers them. Eleanor Wilner writes. she seems more moved by what she is depriving herself: she speaks tearfully of how she hoped that her children would one day tenderly wash her body for burial. Rage and reason are played against each other as Medea's resolve wavers. They speak of their pity for the girl. The shocking addition of having a mother slaughter her own children makes a dark story even darker. Medea speaks now of the final part of her plan. she charges into the house.
He tells her that no Greek women would have done as she has done. will die without distinction. the Argo. She laughs at Jason's vain efforts. Thanks to the poison of the dress. The chariot is a gift from Helius. Medea responds coldly. The corpses of the two children are with her. And Creon. his rhetorical wish is fulfilled. He asks the Chorus where Medea hides. From inside the house. Jason is aghast. Medea appears above the palace. Jason brings us back to the theme of the Other. He berates himself for taking this evil bride. and the horrible deaths of his boys. saying that Zeus knows all she did for Jason and how Jason repaid her. With sinister irony. The play mocks stock sentiments and piety. Lines 1251-1419 The Chorus cries out to the god Helius. in a chariot drawn by dragons. so that he can bury them. we are reminded of the difference between Medea and Greek women. Euripides often targets piety in his plays. and he speaks of how he will repay her for her crimes. They deliver another ode on the horror of infanticide. The Chorus ends the play. She will bury them herself. who is Medea's ancestor. for fear that the royal house will seek vengeance against them. the Chorus considers interfering. They bicker. we hear the cries of Medea's children as she slaughters them. He has come to take the boys under guard. Once again. her father's father. and establish a holy feast and sacrifice to Hera to atone for her sin. He will die in an accident. The Chorus tells Jason that his children are dead. but in the end they stay out of it. Medea destroys her through her own vanity. Analysis: Facing his wife. who appears in the sky in a divine chariot. Jason demands the bodies. the dress and diadem kill the girl while hideously disfiguring her once-lovely face and body. But Jason .The woman for whom he has left Medea is a vain and silly girl. by Medea's hand. cries out in overdone fashion that he wishes to die with his daughter. They bicker again. appropriately. Medea refuses. each blaming the other for what has happened. She thinks she is witnessing a miracle. And Jason. As the children cry for help. Jason enters. They sing of the horrible act Medea is about to commit. Jason reviles her. singing that the gods contrive events in ways that are surprising to man. where safe refuge awaits her. Jason bewails his fate. with attendants. She will go to Athens. the foolish old woman mistakes the condition as divine possession. struck on the head by a piece of timber from his old ship. saying that no Greek woman would dare to do as she has. when the princess begins to die. When an old nurse sees the princess's convulsions. she foretells. He orders his men to break down the doors. Speakers of conventional pieties are made to look like fools. god of the sun. the sorceress will surely die for her act. weeping over his daughter's body. but she is proven wrong a moment later.
/ But stronger than all my afterthoughts is my fury. although he is not admired for this act. Consider the Chorus. cunning. and powerful. Barbarian and Greek. More directly. as his wife proves to be more adept than he.makes this pronouncement without seeming to understand the implications. Agamemnon. But her position is one of weakness: she is not a ruler or a warrior on the battlefield. and yet. he fails. He has attempted to bring part of his adventure home with him. Our reaction to Medea's infanticide is one of unmitigated horror. For the thoughtful audience. Jason's easy distinctions between Other and Us. an opportunistic and selfish man who tries to manipulate others to serve his own ends. She is ruthless. Remember Medea's line. rather than become ennobled. By granting unlimited self-absorption and ruthlessness to a woman. Consider. Consider also that Jason has shown us how Greek men behave. Agamemnon also kills his own child. watching Medea's infanticide changes how we view Agamemnon's. for example. but instead has shown us a vicious war between the sexes in which the oppressed. if only she were a man. Deprived of a state to rule. Euripides exposes these traits for what they are. Euripides emphasizes Jason as a non-hero. who betrays his wife and children like the fortune-seeking coward that he is. turn against their oppressors with the viciousness that they deserve. in which attempts at easy categorizations do not hold. making the playing field one of marriage and spurned love. Jason manages to deceive himself with his ideas of his own righteousness. Although in some ways we still admire Medea. / Are of every evil the cleverest of contrivers" (ll. brilliant. 1078-80). He is showing us a world. Medea has many traits that would be admirable. The greatest difference between Medea and Jason is that she is aware of the gap between ethical behavior and her own actions. he changes how we view Jason. 408-9). but he puts them in a woman and reduces the scale. Even in this chosen task. our world. in which synthesis of supposed opposites does not work. And Euripides will go farther: he uses Medea to expose the bankruptcy of popular Greek ideas of heroism. and she is fully aware of what she does: "I know indeed what evil I intend to do. docile woman and righteous man. and all has ended in disaster. which has stood by mutely and allowed this slaughter to take place. In . the genius becomes a destroyer. Euripides has refused to hand anyone the moral high ground. we are not allowed to feel as comfortable about this admiration as we are with. spoken not without irony: "And women. / Fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evils" (ll. and then pretends that he has done right by them. Compare this level of honesty with the sanctimonious speeches of Jason. though most helpless in doing good deeds. Euripides calls sacred ideas about heroism into question. all seem too simplistic after the events we have just witnessed. the character of Agamemnon as he is portrayed by Aeschylus in the Oresteia. We become aware of the double standards we use for heroes and heroines. after his death Aeschylus still gives him his due as a great man and hero. Euripides gives us qualities that are considered heroic. In this play. say. in which the very terms by which we know these opposites turn out to be a product of our self delusion. The fine Homeric speeches of warriors on the verge of combat are reduced to the bickering of an enraged wife and a petty husband.
The Chorus ends. but that possibility does not exist here. even by the standards of Greek tragedy? Where we nonetheless watch with fascination. and considering also the elusiveness of divine will in Medea. one by one. Medea's rage is as central here as Achilles' rage in the Iliad. and suffering falls on the innocent and the guilty with equal brutality. musing about the unpredictability of fate. having achieved her final victory over her enemies only at the cost of her children's lives. the home that is also her prison. yet how or why is anyone's guess. in all their glory. unchecked and unchanged. Below her. and terrifyingly brutal. And one must also remember that Medea's supernatural escape was part of the original myth. We are left the final tableau of the barbarian sorceress. Jason wails in impotent fury and grief. until she has nothing left? Where the Chorus watches but does not interfere. Euripides' universe is one where the intentions of the gods do not make sense. She will bury them herself. Medea. life does not make sense. is a woman who is powerless but yet has access to surprising resources. there is the question of the gods and their role in these events.this final part of the play. In later plays. every death requires an atonement in blood. where every death comes about through Medea's unchecked rage? Where many deaths are undeserved. after all. she coolly brushes the prediction aside. and the final transformation of that rage into understanding and compassion. as many Choruses do. Furthermore. Medea foretells the last part of Jason's story. So what can we make of Medea. one in which heroism is rare. Medea establishes the Euripidean universe. once again. an unheroic end for an unheroic man: he will be killed by accident. Like many Euripidean plays. one begins to see why this play must have been an unsettling spectacle for its first audience. In this way. although Euripides makes sure to remind us that they could? Considering these questions. the gods are at worst malicious and at best absent. and the Chorus sings that the gods have had their hand in these events. as Medea's escape becomes possible thanks to a chariot that was a divine gift. his vision is deepened by the possibility of compassion. His fall. Her hatred indicts her world. who will die in ignominy. the gods help even Oedipus to achieve a kind of redemption. the end seems fitting for his intentions. and even satisfaction. carries us from the opening of the play to its final horrific moments. And finally. What can we make of this ending? In the Theban plays of Sophocles. too. exultant and destroyed at the same time. has a kind of terrible logic. The play . but no redeeming transformation occurs in Euripides' play. until Athena and Apollo. the injustices and hollow pieties of Greek civilization. The Iliad is the story of Achilles' rage. we end with a kind of deus ex machina. In the Oresteia of Aeschylus. she is an interesting counterpoint to Achilles of Homer's Iliad. as Medea coldly destroys her enemies and children. But although he has been criticized by critics for this device. descend and help set the world right. The final argument between Jason and Medea has echoes of the Oresteia. and through the aid of the goddess Hera she will atone for their deaths. by a falling timber from his own ship. after having suffered through the death of his new bride and his two sons. Medea's rage. Jason tells Medea that the avenging ghosts of the children will curse her. It is Jason.
remain unnervingly and immediately recognizable. the grim satisfaction she takes in her revenge.also implicates us. as her hatred and rage. though extreme. bears at least some resemblance to our own secret and unfulfilled fantasies. however brutal and self-destructive. .
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