The Tragedy of Medea

Medea by Euripides

Medea by Euripides is exceptional among Greek tragedies in that it is the only play in which a "kin-killer" is not punished or otherwise held accountable for their acts by the end of the play. It depicts the conflict between passion and logic by telling the horrible story of a woman's vengeance against her philandering hero-husband, Jason. Medea is portrayed as employing murder to redress an injustice done to her by Jason, with the Corinthian culture supporting her argument that the fiercest, most incurable wrath is that which rages in the place of dearest love. At the beginning of the play, Euripides presents Medea as the victim. The nurse, while addressing the tutor, spells out the injustices committed against her mistress by Jason. Additionally, the Chorus identify that Jason knowingly abandons Medea in favor of the royal family (990). As Medea makes her case, she makes a manifest- like speeches to the Chorus stipulating the restrictions surrounding women (230-51). Euripides cleverly illustrates Medea as a committed wife and mother who had sacrificed her family and home for Jason only to be abandoned (476-483).

Medea's Motives for Committing Infanticide

Medea's motives for committing infanticide and her invocation of the gods for their intervention may have saved her from pursuit by the furies. She views her actions as justice for the betrayal she had suffered in the hands of the heroic yet callous Jason. Jason's lack of concern for his children and the vows he had made to Medea is seen by his lack of opposition to her and the children's banishment. Her actions are presented as the destructive potential of devotion turnt into obsession. She considers murdering her children as necessary claiming that if she fails to do it by her hand others will surely do (1236-43). This claim is strengthened by Jason's feigned concern for his children's whereabouts at the end of the play. Euripides aids the claim that Medea was the aggrieved party by portraying Jason as a non-hero, an opportunistic and selfish man who was only dedicated to his well-being. Additionally, King Creon's rush to evict Medea coupled with the previous knowledge that she had been banished from Colcus before, and also from Iolocus, point out the injustices committed against Medea.

Medea's Response to Jason's Fidelity

From the Chorus, it is clear that Medea's irrational and uncontrollable response to her husband's fidelity is rooted in her belief that she was solely responsible for Jason's successes (476-483). From their interlude from (1081-115 they express support over her claims of injustice and avoid any engagement with the wrongs she planned to commit. In so doing, the Chorus seem to endorse the infanticide (1109– 111). This further shields Medea from pursuit by the Furies. Notably, Medea is conscious that her decision is unjust as she states, "Why damage them in trying to hurt their father?" (173). Her monologues emphasize that Medea's character was stronger than that of Jason's. She did not delude herself into justifying her actions as is predominantly seen of Jason's character. Her motherly instincts are evident as she debates with herself over whether she could go through with her plan to kill her sons (1057). She however does not give into the pity and proceeds with the malicious act showing that she was no longer willing to accept an existence marred with subservience.

The Final Scene of Medea

The final scene of Medea is marred with contradiction and conundrums. Euripides makes a bold exploitation of the deus ex machine convention. Medea, the protagonist in the play is let off the hook after having committed four murders and appears above the palace in a divine chariot carrying the corpses of her two slain children. The ending points to the fact that Euripides was sympathetic to the fate of women at the time. The author cleverly depicts sympathetic portrayals of characters located at the outcasts of society and in this case, women. The ending seems to suggest that Medea's actions and violence were informed by the injustices she suffered throughout her life. Her bloody revenge could be seen as here response to the unfair treatment from her husband and the society at the time. Notably, the ending is unsettling given that the society at the time expected the intervention of the gods especially Furies. Euripides might have intended on leaving the all- male Athenian audience with a stun warning to take note of those they oppress. The scene successfully present Medea as having a higher moral ground, having a noble birth with her only fault having loved selflessly and having such strong will that she was willing to wreck her whole life to achieve vengeance.

Works cited

Euripides., Grene, D., & Lattimore, R. (1972). Euripides I-V. New York: Washington Square Press, Pocket Books.

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