critique of greek society

Medea is a play that is a social satire of Greek culture. The play is based on Euripides’ ancient Greek tragedy, Jason and Medea, and depicts them as lovers who end up hurting each other. Medea was a former princess of the kingdom of Colchis who rose to prominence in the Greek world but was betrayed by her husband, who abandoned her for another woman. As a result, Medea exacted vengeance on her husband, his new wife, the King, and finally on her own children. She managed to kill several of her sworn enemies while leaving her husband in pain. After executing her revenge, she escapes to Athens to start a new life. To a more significant extent, the play criticizes the Greek society. Medea met the lover of her life on his way to find the Golden Fleece which was challenging to uncover. The Greece community is presented as a society that sought warfare and intruded other territories in search of fame and wealth. Jason was a hero in the Greek mythology and was used in times of war by the community to bring glory and victory to the people. Therefore, the Greeks are presented as hostile people who were never contented with the wealth within their territories.

Additionally, the Greek society is presented as a male-dominated society where men used to do everything within their power to attain fame and greatness. The husband of Medea is introduced as anti-heroine radical who used to inspire both fear and admiration continuously. As a hero, Jason had the freedom to go into the unknown world and get himself a wife who he starts a family with but in the end decided to leave her for another woman. As a family man of two children, he abandons his responsibilities and decides to start a new life oblivious of his first family. The king, who is a man, approves the relationship of his daughter with a married man and allows Jason to marry Glauce. The society also supports the move of Jason acquiring a new bride. The act of Jason neglecting his family evokes the feeling of vengeance in Medea who vows to make his husband suffer and pay for his betrayal. The Greek society is presented as a society where male chauvinism is the order of the day since men have the freedom to do whatever they please to keep their fame and wealth. The king does not bother whether his daughter was indeed in love with Jason, who was a married man.

The author also illustrates the issue of women and femininity as a thorny issue in the Greek society. Women were the worst treated human beings in the community and were depicted in the way Medea suffers after her decision to marry Jason. She was forced to leave her family in her native land and fled with the love of her life who ended up disappointing her. She was left alone to cater for the needs of her children and the King threatened to throw her out of the Kingdom. Women are left under the mercies of men as Medea had no choice but to plead with the King not to throw her out with her children. Her husband did nothing to stop the King from throwing the family out. Aegeus, king of the Athens who had come to visit the Oracle was the one who gave Medea a place to stay. As a woman, she is left to suffer together with her children which made her to harbor vengeful thoughts towards and everybody who caused her pain. The power of women in the Greek society was underestimated. Medea is a strong woman with magic at her fingertips. Jason underestimated the ability of his wife to revenge, and she was intelligent enough to trick Jason to take the poisonous bait. The talk between the nurse and the attendant revealed the dishonor that was brought to Medea by her husband. Corinthian women were not in a position to stop their men from acquiring more than one wife, and the marriage of Jason to the daughter of the King was fueled by convenience and the urge to expand his territory. He married a younger wife an issue that leads to the element of dumping women after they advance in age. The nurse knew the atrocities faced by Medes, but she was powerless to help. Medea slowly retreated to revenge, and she actualized her plan.

Revenge is another critique of the Greek society. Creon, the father of the new bride of Jason, is seen warning Medea of doing anything to harm him and his daughter as a revenge mission. Therefore, he expects Medea to plot a vengeful mission since he knew well that it was not justified for Jason to leave her and start a new life with his daughter. Notably, Medea was able to execute her plans to harm her enemies without prior detection from her potential victims. Out of the mistreatments she faced, Medea developed a hate for his children and decided to kill them using a sword to harm her husband. The vengeance thoughts in her brain overpowered the love for her children, and she could even give Jason the pleasure of burying his children. Vengeance in the tragedy results to death since the new bride together with her father, the king, were set ablaze by the poison Medea put in the golden ropes and the coronet which were disguised as a present for the new wife. The vengeance spirit in Medea prepared her to lose everything she loved including her children. Creon was ready to chase Medea away from the kingdom since he feared her vengeful agenda against his family.

The Greek society is presented as one that is full of betrayal. The terror and the violence that is witnessed in the life of Medea is caused by the betrayal of her husband. She is motivated by his unfaithfulness to commit horrific acts that resulted in a bloody revenge. Manipulation and trickery are other forms of deception used by Medea to woe her enemies into falling into her traps. She poisoned the gifts to be taken to the new wife of Jason and not even the King could note that the presents were a trap. Medea manipulated her husband into believing that she had accepted his late decision to have a new family and she supported the idea. Jason was quick to forget the pain he had caused his wife and could not foresee the ill motive of Medea. His ignorance caused the death of his second wife and that of his father in law. Medea took advantage of the love Jason felt for her to manipulate him to execute her revenge mission. As a mother, the children trusted the protection of their mother who was always there for them in the hour of need. They remained with Medea even after their father left to be with another woman and they could not foresee a situation where their mother could take away their lives. Therefore, Medea betrayed the love and the trust her children had for her and ended up killing them in cold blood. However, the betrayal of Jason does not justify the revenge of Medea. Jason neglected his duties as a parent, and he deserved a different kind of punishment that does not result in the death of so many people. The daughter of the king betrayed Medea for agreeing to marry a man who already had a family. She could have declined the marriage proposal to protect the reputation of a fellow woman who was to suffer after her husband neglected his parental duties. The second marriage of Jason is a betrayal of the wife and children. He is expected as a father to protect his family and not to neglect his duties. However, he went ahead to acquire an extra wife and never bothered the pain he caused his native family.

As depicted in the play, the ancient Greek culture had a deep suspicion of foreigners, and they thought that many of them were barbarians. The author of the tragedy chose to go against the tradition and decides to honor a foreigner and gave her the best attributes of being cunning and assuming the roles of a tragic heroine and above all, a character who possesses the most intelligence in the play. Medea was able to execute her revenge mission without suspicion, and she was able to walk away from her committed crimes scot free. However, the Greek people had several stereotypes about Medea who they could view as a foreigner who was vengeful, overly passionate, and wild. According to the King, Medea had no rights to claim her husband, and he expected her not to argue what she deserved. The society could not fight to ensure that Jason got back to his family but encouraged him to continue pursuing his dreams. Despite his betrayal, he was the hero who could bring glory to his community. The suffering of Medea was not visible to anyone else, and she was left alone to bear the consequences of raising her family alone. No one came to her aid, and the only thing she got was an embarrassment that she had not caused. The King decided to kick her out his kingdom since he thought Medea as a foreigner did not deserve to live in the territory. As a foreign woman, Medea did not warrant to claim anything in the efforts of returning her husband home. She sought refuge in a foreign nation since no one else among the Greeks could accommodate her. Her magical powers and the ability to heal the impotence of Aegeus, King of Athens were the ones that enabled her to seek refuge in his county. Therefore, if foreigners did not have anything to offer, they had no place in the Greek community, and no one cared about their welfare. Notably, as a foreigner, she presented as a woman who is evil, but all that she was trying to fight for is her happiness and that of her family. Jason who is a native is presented as the victim while indeed the one responsible for all the deaths that followed the vengeful acts of Medea.

Marriage as an institution in the Greek society does not attract mutual respect and love. Medea loved her husband unconditionally, and she was willing to leave all her blood family behind to follow her passion. She deserted everything in her native Indian land behind and married Jason the love of her life. She bore him two sons, and she was looking forward to having a happy life ahead. To her disappointment, Jason decided to neglect her and marry another woman. As a man, Jason never respected his marriage and the princess she was marrying also never regarded the first marriage of her husband. Jason was ready to gamble for his future and happiness irrespective of how many people he hurt. The marriage of Medea is clear indication of the consequences of a bad marriage where love turns into hate and death is the ultimate result. The aspect of matrimony in the Greek society is full of darkness where the couple pursues their happiness without being mindful of the feelings of their partners. Suffering in marriage results in the emergence of destructive forces that that usually explode and results in the permanent destruction of the parties involved. Medea was willing to do anything within her power to destroy everything that gave her joy in her Marriage. Notably, when anger, hate, and revenge define a marriage especially among the parents, the innocent children are the ones who suffer the most. The children beard by Jason and his wife were not responsible for the pain their mother was going through and their father leaving to start a new family. However, they ended up being part of the revenge mission of the mother, and they lost their lives. The children deserved to live, and no one had the right to determine their fate and bring them to their untimely death.

As a woman, Medea is trapped in the world of men, and her intelligence surpasses the expectations of the Greek society towards a woman. She was able to heal a King from his impotence, something that even the healer of the Greek people was unable to do. Therefore, women are presented as people with an equal capacity to contribute to the well-being of the society and not just as objects of childbearing. The princes were not given a chance to choose her potential husband, and her father had already decided her fate. Therefore, women in the play are depicted as weak creatures who did not have the right to choose the destiny of their lives. However, the intelligence possessed by Medea proves that women were equally compelling and could execute agendas of their choice. Noe of her enemies was able to stand in her way and against her superb intellect. She was able to demonstrate that women had a share of knowledge which can be used to get whatever one aspires. However, as a result of the mistreatments, she got from her husband, all the intelligence she possessed was used to plan and execute the murder.

References

“The Mythopoetic Study Of Mask In Euripides’S Play Medea: A Sign Of Plurality”. International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature 4, no. 12 (2016).

Barlow, Shirley A. “EURIPIDES’ MEDEA: A SUBVERSIVE PLAY?”. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 40, no. S66 (2016): 36-45.

Bartel, Heike. “A Medea Called Wally: Race, Madness And Fashion In Paul Heyse’s Novella Medea”. German Life and Letters 64, no. 1 (2010): 56-70.

Lloyd, Charles. “The Polis In Medea: Urban Attitudes And Euripides’ Characterization In Medea 214-224”. Classical World 99, no. 2 (2015): 115-130.

Shanahan, Ann M. “Un-“Blocking” Hedda And Medea Through Feminist “Play” With Traditional Staging Forms”. Theatre Topics 21, no. 1 (2014): 61-74.

Šimić, Lena. “On Medea/Mothers’ Clothes: A ‘Foreigner’ Re-Figuring Medea And Motherhood”. Feminist Review 93, no. 1 (2017): 109-115.

Wilczynski, Ania. “Murderous Mothers And The Medea Myth: A Commentary On ‘Medea: Perspectives On A Multicide’”. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences 27, no. 1 (2014): 6-12.

Wilson, Vivian Deborah. “Medea: An Original Play In Two Acts”. Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 5, no. 2 (2014): 203-263.

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