Euripedes lived from ca. 485 to ca. 406 B.C. making him younger thank Aeschylus and Sophocles, and making him the last of the great writers of tragedy in the golden age of Athens. His emphasis on human emotions and the psychology of individuals has proven more widely popular than philosophical beliefs shown in his older contemporary works. Medea, first produced in 431 B.C., features strong dramatic situations and is focused on the heroine Medea. Medea’s attitude of feminine pride and is a contradiction of tradition.
Author’s unique style
Euripedes was a revolutionary during his time, portraying women in a light never before seen in literature. He preferred to dignify women and show men as the villains. Euripedes also used the factor of the women’s role to show the weakness in humans and their believe systems. He would use the common people as characters rather then heroes, as shown in most epics.
Euripedes preferred situations that showed characters torn between conflicting desires. For instance in Medea, the plot to kill Medea’s two children attracts mixed feelings. Her great love for her sons causes her to question, which is greater, revenge or love. The violent obsessions prevail though, bringing the death of her sons and her acquiring revenge upon her husband.
Medea was based in 5th century B.C. Greece during an age when women were seen as inferior to men. Yet Medea is portrayed as the heroine and the as being more clever then the two male characters, Creon and Jason.
The story of Medea takes place in Corinth, in front on Medea’s house. Though many events do take place in other regions of the city, we only obtain knowledge of them through hearsay. Euripedes used this tool in theaters for the audience to visualize the actions instead of cheapening the experience with the few special affects available to them.
Medea had one obvious theme; hell hath no fury like that of a woman’s scorn. It is apparent from the opening statement of the Nurse that Medea is a very heartless towards anyone who has crossed her. Once Jason’s betrayal is exposed to Medea, she immediately starts to thinks of in a murderous mentality toward Jason. She goes through any means necessary to hurt Jason.
Medea was born under king Aetees of Colchis as a witch-princess. As a youth she met Jason the Argonaut and fell instantly in love, as was planned by the gods. This drove her to betray her family and homeland of Colchis by aiding Jason in the retrieval of the Golden Fleece. After this she was forced to leave with Jason, who she later wed. After many years though, Jason fell for another and crossed Medea in a way no one should. This led Medea to thirst for a revenge far more devious then many can imagine. She planned to kill her to children and Jason’s new found love. After succeeding in the destruction of Jason’s whole point in existence she fled in a dragon drawn chariot to Athens where she has been promised refuge.
The Nurse has been the person who took care of the motherly duties for Medea since her birth. Of course, because of this she knows about Medea’s evil tendencies and how vengeful she truly is. She also acts as a reference to the past, as seen in the beginning passage of the play she tells the background information needed to understand the events that follow. Her main goal throughout the work is to enhance Medea’s persona, but also to show true intentions as poetic justice and not as a malicious act.
Jason the Argonaut was the heir to the throne of Iolchus. His uncle, Pelias, sent him on a mission, to retrieve the Golden Fleece, a mission he knew Jason could not overcome. The turning point for Jason was that before he departed he prayed to Aphrodite. She then made the princess of Colchis, Medea, fall in love with Jason and she helped him succeed in his mission. They then returned to Greece, where years later Jason betrayed Medea by wedding a royal virgin. He hopes to persuade Medea to let him live in peace with his current bride. Medea flawed this plan when she viciously executed Jason’s wife, father-in-law, and both of her children bore from Jason.
Creon is the king of Corinth and father to Jason’s bride. He is first introduced through hearsay when the Tutor warns Medea’s Nurse that Creon plans to exile Medea. He actually appears to decree the ostracism of Medea for protection of himself and his daughter from Medea’s rage. This vain warning was countered by Medea’s pleas of mercy; in turn Creon granted her an extra day to acquire any provisions and a sanctuary in which she could survive in after being exiled. This was his downfall, the day extension gave Medea ample time to plan the assassination of Creon, his daughter, and her two sons.
Aeges is the king of Athens and the man who promises refuge to Medea under one condition; she travels by her own means. In return for this, Medea promises to reveal the secrets of why he is sterile. Although Aeges does not appear often through the play, he plays a very important role.
The quote “But now, if you must stay, stay for this day alone. For in it you can do none of the things I fear.” made by Creon on page 12 shows irony since the reader knows that Medea plans to wrong Creon and his family in the following twenty-four hours.
On page 20 when Medea states “A curse, that is what I am to become to your house too.” shows foreshadowing. It has not yet exposed that fact that Medea plans to take the life of her two children, but it sends a message that she plans to hurt someone from her family, be it Jason or her children.
Medea’s last words to her children- “I wish you happiness, but not here in this world.”- expose her intentions and that they are, for lack of a better term, dead men walking. It is foreshadowing in a way even though we had future incentive that she plans to murder her children to gain vengeance on Jason. In a way, it is foreshadowing that this is the final time we will see them alive and that Medea will finally gain her vengeance.
The following literary terms are used through Medea. With these literary devices, Medea was made to be one of the greatest Greek plays ever.
Tragedy is a story whose ending possesses a powerful feeling of sorrow and remorse, usually ending in the death of either one or more of the main characters or a great lose to the cause of the hero or heroine. Medea is a tragedy because of the great loses to both Medea and Jason at the end of the play. Although, this is what Medea planned, the death of her two sons and the fact that she was the murderer is saddening to the audience.
A tragic hero is a hero is which starts out at a high point, being very wealthy and/or admired, and slowly falls to the having nothing and being looked upon as lowly and worthless.
Foreshadowing is when the author reveals later parts of the story through hints and irony. Medea uses foreshadowing throughout the play. For instance, when King Creon says that he will extend Medea’s stay for a day because nothing drastic can be done in that short period shows foreshadowing in an ironic way. Since the reader knows what Medea plans they get the hint that she will, in fact, be able to perform her assault against the Jason in the allotted time.
Internal conflict is the battle between a character and his conscious or two conflicting moral beliefs. In Medea, there is the internal conflict of whether she can bring herself to kill her two sons or not. Although this will hurt Jason, Medea cares more for her children then Jason ever did. The conflicting arguments is if fulfilling her vengeance towards Jason is worth the lose she will endure.
To truly understand Medea the preceding story of Jason the Argonaut’s quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from the land of Colchis. This quest was a fatal one for any brave adventurer. Because of this, he prays to Aphrodite for assistance in this dangerous deed.
Aphrodite offers her assistance by having the witch-princess Medea fall deeply in love with Jason. Therefore, she betrays her whole family and land by giving Jason safe access to the fleece and passage out of the land unscathed.
The play then sets off in Corinth, where Medea has just learned that Jason has left her for a royal virgin bride. With Medea’s evil nature, she immediately plans revenge upon her adulterous husband. Medea’s nurse and her sons’ tutor discuss the rumors of the possible ostracism of Medea from Corinth. The scene then transfers to Medea just as King Creon, kill of Corinth, arrives to order Medea’s banishment from the city. She pleas with Creon to give her a day extension, so she fulfill her plans against Jason and his future bride’s family.
After she cleverly convinces Creon to give her time to plan a sanctum and provisions for herself and her sons, she was able to finish her plans against the royal family. Once she left Creon and constructed her sinister plans, she needed a place to flee, but was unable to remember any allies after her assault against her homeland for Jason. Luckily, Aegeus, King of Athens and an old friend of Medea, was on a journey to seek advice from the oracle of Phoebus. He was questioning the oracle for guidance on childbirth so that he has an heir to his kingdom. Medea promises to reveal the secret to his childlessness if in return he promises her refuge after her banishment from Corinth. He agrees on the sole condition that she travels by her own means, asking him for no assistance.
Since Medea is now guaranteed a safe place to reside in, she initiates her attack upon Jason. She goes about her ploy very cleverly; first, weakening their defenses with kindness; then strikes maliciously. She calls for Jason and apologizes to him and begs him to let her bring gifts to his bride if order to win her favor so that her children could stay with him and not be exiled as well. After much arguing, Jason concedes his disagreements with Medea for the sake of his children. Little does her know what a fatal mistake it was.
The gifts Medea outfits for the bride are cursed by her magic to bestow a deadly poison upon the flesh and a ring of fire around the crown of whom ever adorns the fine woven gown and tiara. She sends her two sons to relay these two items to the princess, not knowing of the crimes they are assisting in.
Once the princess has worn the gifts she shows immediate approval and adores herself in her mirror. Suddenly she sends out a blood-curdling scream and the spells take their affect upon her. After hearing this her father, King Creon, rushes in to aid his fallen daughter. In turn too is taken by the spells placed upon the dress and tiara.
Jason rushes to confront Medea about the evil acts taken committed against his marital family. He returns to late though, hearing the death cries or both of his sons at the hands of their mother, Medea. Before he can become a witness to these atrocious acts, Medea boards the chariot of Helius, drawn by dragons, with the bodies of their children. She once again curses Jason to a life of suffering that will end in a pitifully death without any distinction. Medea flees to Athens where she lives until her death, and Jason dies from after being struck by a timber from his ship, dying without any distinction just as Medea said.