In Medea, by Euripides, the two main characters Jason and Medea are forced to leave Lolkos and have taken refuge in Corinth. Jason has the possibility of establishing a position of standing in the community by marrying King Creons daughter. Medea is enraged by Jasons betrayal of her and their two children and she vows to stop the marriage and exact revenge. In the play, Medea and Jason are set up as foils. Medea is completely dependent on the dominance of passion over reason. She is depicted as conniving, brilliant and powerful. In contrast, Jason is portrayed as a a character of little feeling; he is passionless, obtuse, witless, and weak.
Medea first enters the play and greets the women of the chorus. The chorus has just witnessed her wild lamentations, where she prayed for death and threatened to avenge herself on Jason and his new wife. Medea proceeds to tell the chorus about Jasons betrayal and her own humiliation. She explains how heartbroken she is and the difficulties of being exiled in a city were she knows no one. She has no family or friends in Corinth and has been completely dependent on Jason. She laments the gloomy despair into which she has fallen.
During this exchange she reveals to the chorus that she intends to devise a plan to break up the marriage and seek revenge against Jason. She explains that while most women would not stand up to for themselves, she will not remain defenseless: but, when once she is wronged in the matter of love, No other soul can hold so many thoughts of blood. In this scene Medea is not speaking calmly or reasonably. She is undoubtable distraught, and her thoughts and actions are being controlled by her hatred. The emotionally irrational elements of Medeas character are exhibited through her inability to control her passion , consequently leading her to vengeance.
Later in the play Jason does the reasonable thing and tries to reconcile the problems with Medea. He is obviously not aware that he has done anything wrong. He feels he has merely done what any man in his place would do. Through his marriage to the princess he is now the the heir to the throne of Corinth, which is ultimately something that will benefit Medea and her children. He wants to regain status for his family and give his children to opportunity to have royal lineage. Jasons plan is to achieve a better life for himself and bring his children out of poverty. All of this would eventually benefit Medea, and he does not understand why Medea can not see things his way.
His contention is that his plan would have worked out perfectly if Medea had only acted sensibly. He blames her for crying out for justice and for making threats against the royal family. If she had not threatened Creon and his daughter, Medea would not be facing exile. Because of Medeas threats, Creons animosity spreads to the children and he insists that they all be sent away. Through their entire conversation Jason does not permit himself to be controlled by passion.
He keeps his head clear and simply lays down the facts. It is not like him to let his feeling free play like Medea does. He is there to offer her money and a tell her about her place of exile. He explains that it will be painful to see his children go, but Medea alone is to blame for that. When she refuses his offer of money, Jason calls to the gods to to witness that he has tried to help and absolves himself of any responsibility he may have had for Medea and the boys.
Medea loses her temper completely in response to Jasons smug summary of the events: Oh coward in every way that is what I call you, with bitterness reproach for your lack of manliness….it is worst of all human disease, shamelessness. Medea reminds Jason of everything she has done for him, how she betrayed her own father and family and and followed him to Corinth. Now he has taken on a new wife and deserted their two children. She is enraged that she has given up everything for him and still it does not bother him that they have been exiled and basically condemned to a life of begging and poverty. Medea refuses to accept Jasons money saying that there is no benefit in the gifts of a bad man. Jason leaves and Medea calls after him to go to his wench.
This scene shows the absolute opposing personalities of these two characters. Throughout the entire scene Jason shows no passion, he is not there because he is big hearted.
Instead, he is there because Creon has granted her one more day in Corinth and offering her money for her exile is the appropriate thing to do. However, Medea on the other hand is consumed with rage, she is obsessed by vengeance and refuses to look at things rationally. At this point her and her children’s future is uncertain and if she is to be exiled she will need money. But Medea cannot see things this way, she is aroused into a frenzy of hatred and passion, a combination which makes her incapable of being sensible.
As the play continues on, Medea moves forward with her scheme against Jason. She talks to Aegeus and works out a plan where she is guaranteed asylum in Athens after she kills Jason and the Princess. With her future secure Medea discloses the steps of her plan. She will ask Jason to convince the princess to let the children remain in Corinth. With that, Medea will send the children to the palace with gifts. One gift a beautiful frock, embedded with poison. When the princess puts it on, the poison will eat her alive. Whoever attempts to take off the gown will themselves be killed by the acid. This will destroy the princess father as well.
Next comes the most savage part of Medeas plan. After killing the king and princess she will perpetrate the most heinous crime of all, she intended to kill her children. She admits that it will be difficult because she loves them, but it is more important to see Jason suffer. Medea will stop at nothing to ensure that Jason remains miserable until his dying day.
The chorus tries to persuade her to reconsider her plan, but Medeas responds with: So it must be. No compromise is possible.
In the scene where Medea is asking Jason to get the children pardoned we see another perfect example of the two characters opposing personalities. Medea pretends to be submissive and she begs for Jasons forgiveness. She is using her intelligence as a weapon against him. She humbles herself to him and tricks him into believing she is sincere. She plays upon his trust and feeble mindedness and use flattery to convinces him to obtain permission for the children to live in the palace at Corinth. Jason is too oblivious to even be suspicious of Medea. Medea is calculated and powerful, while Jason appears clue less and weak.
Medeas plan also reveals her passionate intensity to exact revenge. It is not enough that Jason have to deal with the death of his new wife and father, she insists that he incur the deaths of his children as well. Her passion drives her to the point of savagery, her obsession overcomes any love that she holds for her children.
The death of her children was part of her plan of vengeance that was meant to pierce Jason in the heart. But towards the end of the play Medea becomes torn between her love for her children and her hatred of Jason. She sends her children away because she cant not look at them anymore is she plans to maintain her vengeful anger. At first Medea feels she can not do this foul deed and she plans to take her children with her to Athens: Ah, what is wrong with me? Do I want to let go my enemies unhurt and be laughed at for it? I must face this thing. Oh, but what a weak women even to admit to my mind these soft arrangement. For a brief moment she cannot decide what she should do. In the end she will suppress any maternal love she has for her children and kill the two boys: I know indeed what evils I intend to do, But stronger then all my after thoughts is my fury, fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evil.
At the conclusion of the play Medeas plan finally comes to fruition. Both the princess and the king die from the poisonous garments. Jason rushes to Medea in attempt to save the children from royal vengeance, but he is too late. When he arrives at the house the chorus informs him of what has happened and that his children are dead at the hands of their mother. Above the roof of the house a flying chariot appears with Medea and the bodies of the two children. Jason begs Medea to let him have the bodies so he can bury and mourn to them, but she refuses. He begs her to let him kiss them one last time, but of course she will not. Jason is left weeping and groaning, while Medea rides off triumphant. She will bury her children at Heras temple on the prometory and then fly to her sanctuary in Athens.
In the final scene of the play Jason is once again cast as Medeas foil. Throughout the entire play he has been clue less as to what she is capable of. At the end Medea is portrayed in a almost mystical aura, she is victorious and powerful. She is in control of everything and she has successfully accomplished what she set out to do. The king and princess are both dead, and Jason will live out his dying days in misery. Jason remains completely powerless at the hands of Medea, all he can to is beg for his children and plead with the Gods to punish Medea: Oh God do you hear it, this persecution, these my suffering from a hateful women, this monster, murderess of children? Still what I can do that I will do: I will lament and cry upon heaven, calling the gods to bear my witness how you have killed my boys and prevent me from touching their bodies of giving them burial. Jason is portrayed as helpless against Medea.
Medea is a strong proud women, she is dominated by her passion and her refusal to submit to injustice. Despite her unrestrained emotions she remains calculated and controlling. Medea is lead by her heart and by her passion. Her husband Jason is the complete antithesis of Medea, he is her opposite and foil. Throughout the play he is depicted as passionless and weak. He uses pure logic to guide his every decision. He is void of most worthy qualities. Medea embodies strength, intelligence and passion, while Jason represents weakness and feeble mindedness.