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Medea As Woman, Hero And God In Euripides' Play

2197 words - 9 pages

Medea as Woman, Hero and God

In Euripides' play the title role and focus of the play is the foreign witch Medea. Treated differently through the play by different people and at different times, she adapts and changes her character, finally triumphing over her hated husband Jason. She can feasibly be seen as a mortal woman, Aristotle's tragic hero figure and even as an exulted goddess.

Medea's identity as a weak woman is emphasised at the very start of the play. It is made very clear that she has come to misfortune through no fault of her own and is powerless in her problem ("her world has turned to enmity"). Being unable to change her situation is an example of her portrayal as a ...view middle of the document...

With this said though, it is not a murderous, maniacal rage. She makes clear reference to the fact that she is part of the group of wretched women and that she is simply striking back as a woman "scorned". When Creon comes on the stage, she continues with the pitiable appearance, begging ("I kneel to you, I beseech you"). She tries to persuade Creon that he has no threat from her, using the fact that she is a woman to make him disregard her power ("I'm in no position - a woman - to wrong a king"). However, after this scene is where the image of Medea as a feeble woman ends. The Chorus indicate their pity and that Medea's plight "touches our hearts". But at this point, Medea becomes the murderous and dangerous woman that will kill her children and cackle with glee at the thought of Glauce's death. She declares that she manipulated Creon, fawning on him "to gain my purpose". She still holds our pity but not in the same intensity (until eventually she finally loses pity almost completely in her double-infanticide).

As a mother, Medea on the surface is not the best, as she eventually kills her children, ignoring their pleas for mercy ("Mother, don't kill us"). However, we must not ignore the heartache and pain that Medea endures in killing them. It takes incredible conviction to carry it out ("parted from you, my life will be all pain and anguish"). Medea's pain is definitely expressed but it is not enough to prevent her from doing what she believes must be done, though she does have difficulties before she carries it out with convincing herself ("I won't do it...What is the matter with me?...I must steel myself to it").

Medea is not a typical woman. Playwrights enjoyed portraying strong and dangerous women in their plays (e.g. Antigone or Clytaemnestra). It was not normal for females to defy men off the stage, let alone the King and the Palace. It makes the play all the more startling for the audience that a woman is able to commit such atrocities as killing the King. Medea shrugs off men's usual superiority over the women, with their charged emotional state, that prevents them from much of the male role. She is able to kill her children to attack her enemies, something that not even most male heroes would do (consider the terrible grief of Heracles after his madness sent by Hera leading him to endure the 12 tasks). Some of her savagery can be associated with her foreign origin and thus barbaric nature but Euripides was careful to emphasise that Medea keeps oaths and it is her husband who has been dishonourable. To hit back at your enemies is also a very Greek characteristic. Medea seems to use the fact that she is a woman to her advantage, whilst portraying few characteristics of one. She uses her weak appearance to evoke pity and to achieve her purpose with Creon. However, when he leaves the stage, Medea becomes this dangerous and very male figure. When she is trying to manipulate Jason later in the play, she once again reverts to this...

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