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The tragedy “Medea” was written in 431 B.C. by the Greek playwright, Euripides. It is based upon the myth of Jason and Medea. Euripides was a Greek tragedian, and his works were modern and attic at the same time. He touched upon problems of customs, traditions and beliefs. From his early literary career Euripides showed interest in psychology, trying to depict different characters of people as bright as he could. Medea is not an exception. She has always been a figure of mad, outrageous passion. In Rome and late in Greek mythology she is an image of sorceress. There are two main tragedies, dedicated to Medea: the Euripide`s and the Seneka`s one. Euripides collected all the peculiarities and obstacles of Medea`s life. She is quite different from the women of her epoch. In Ancient Greece women were treated as weak, submissive creatures and they didn’t have chance to express their opinion and to choose what is better for them. They were always near their men, and the ones who didn’t have a husband were put to a great shame.
In the case of Medea all was not the way it was in ancient Greece. She has a lot of features, which are not up to women of those times. She is a firm woman, who really has strength to stand for herself and to demand a proper attitude to her and her feelings. But her deeds are not always right; her measures of revenge are extreme. Euripides here touches the problem of gender: male and female behavior and its norms. What are men to do and what are women are?
So, Medea begins her marriage being an ideal wife for Jason, and she sacrifices herself to him, she leaves her homeland, her relatives in order to be with him, she lives for him. But with the flow of time, her image of ideal marriage disappears. After the betrayal of her husband, after distortion of all her hopes, something breaks inside her and she begins to demand respect and sympathy for herself.
It is evident that her husband doesn’t love her, for him she is a woman who once saved him and he feels that he ought to take care of her:
But by saving me you got in return
more than you gave, as I will demonstrate.
First of all, you now live among the Greeks,
not in a country of barbarians.
You’re familiar with justice and the laws,
rather than brute force. Besides, all the Greeks
know that you’re clever, so you’ve earned yourself
a fine reputation.
Jason tries to give her everything she wants, but for Medea this is not enough. She doesn’t want to be the woman who bears his children but to leave him would be the biggest shame:
First, we need a husband, someone we get
for an excessive price. He then becomes
the ruler of our bodies. And this misfortune
adds still more troubles to the grief we have.
Then comes the crucial struggle: this husband
we’ve selected, is he good or bad? 270
For a divorce loses women all respect,
yet we can’t refuse to take a husband.
She cannot understand how her happy marriage is turning to the servitude. She doesn’t understand why women are to wait at home when their husbands enjoy the company of their friends with the glass of wine, why men’s affairs are wars, whereas women’s are children, home, total sacrifice to their family. She isn’t totally against it, but she wants something in return. She wants to know exactly that all that she is doing is for the sake of something and is appreciated by her husband. But her husband doesn’t seem to appreciate, he only takes everything for granted, which puts Medea in despair. And soon her passion and insane love to her husband turns into revenge after the betrayal of her beloved husband with Glauce, the daughter of Creon, ruler of Corinth.
Medea is a good example of a situation, when the emotions go too far. Emotions, in fact, are a very difficult thing and one should be very careful with them. It is a talent to have an ability to put up with them, to hide them when it is necessary and not to let them influence your actions. As Medea lets herself be led by her emotions and passion, she is not that strong, she is not strong spiritually. She is strong even to kill her children and to lie to everyone, but she is not strong enough to put her emotions and her inner world into order.
Her mind thinks in extremes. I know her well.
She’ll not put up with being treated badly. 50
I worry she may pick up a sharp sword
and stab her stomach, or else she’ll go
into the house, in silence, to that bed,
and kill the king and bridegroom Jason.
Here is the proof of her weakness, she cannot solve her problems inside and she even ready to kill herself or her beloved husband. She says: “I want death to come and sweep me off-
let me escape this life of suffering!”, considering it to be the best way of solving her problems.
Besides thinking of killing herself she thinks that it will be a great idea to kill her husband’s new bride and her father, the King of Korinth. (Euripides) And she does it, feeling satisfied. She has nothing to lose already, her reputation is finally damaged and there is only one thought in her mind: “revenge”. Aren`t revenge and jealousy considered two of the greatest sins? How can we think of the strength of a woman if she does everything to satisfy only the need of herself and she doesn’t care of anybody’s lives? She is a mean, cruel and very dangerous woman, a real witch. Everybody is afraid of her after her actions, even the king of Corinth, Creon refused to talk to her before death, being afraid of himself and his daughter. Nothing can stop her from realizing her horrible plans.
But soon she goes even further and makes the most terrible deed a woman can do. She leads her children into the house and kills them herself, thinking that the death from the hands of their mother is better than the death from the hands of their enemies. Before killing them, she says:
In vain, my children, have I brought you up,
Borne all the cares and pangs of motherhood,
And the sharp pains of childbirth undergone.
These words prove one more time that she is totally disappointed with her marriage and understands that all the sacrifices she did for her husband, servitude, bringing up children are now all in vane and she decides to get rid of them. Medea doesn’t even let her husband to see their dead children for the last time, to say goodbye to them, to feel their tender skin. She believes that her actions will make Jason suffer, as well as she does, but this is too egoistically. Poor children are not to be blamed for their parents` mistakes, but Medea does not care. She soon takes the bodies of her children with her to bury them in Hera’s precinct, and saying the last words to her husband, curses him: “And for thee, who didst me all that evil, I prophesy an evil doom.” (Euripides)
So, what is Medea`s mistake from the very beginning? She let herself hope that Jason would love her in their marriage, she risked and was punished. The other thing is that perhaps she was too gentle with her husband, too good, too obliging, and too loving at last. And may be there was a chance for Jason to treat her in the other way, but she missed it. So she says:
Love with too much passion
brings with it no fine reputation,
brings nothing virtuous to men.
But if Aphrodite comes in smaller doses,
no other god is so desirable.
Who knows, maybe there is some truth in these words, anyway we cannot call Medea a heroine and a strong woman. She destroyed the most valuable thing a woman has in life. And after doing that she will never be happy, and when the time comes, she will never be able to forgive herself.
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