Monday, March 14, 2011

Medea - Euripides

"For in other ways a woman is full of fear, defenseless, dreads the sight of cold steel; but, when once she is wronged in the matter of love, no other soul can hold so many thoughts of blood."

My first introduction to Medea was with Jason and the Argonauts. She was, at most, a side character despite the fact that it was only with her help that Jason attained the Golden Fleece. He then marries her and brings her back to Corinth, has two children and this is where our story picks up.

Jason has essentially thrown Medea over for another woman from Corinth and marries her, despite remaining married to Medea. As you can understand Medea doesn't take this news well and sees this "other woman" as usurping her rightful place. She still loves Jason but is bitterly resentful towards him. He even recommends she go into exile with his children and would be smart to take his advice. That's enough to make anyone angry.

Medea then commits a horrible crime to avenge herself against Jason and his actions. And the strange thing about the entire reading experience was I did feel some small measure of sympathy for her. I didn't see her actions at all justifiable but I can understand why she would be angry. She's the one who left her home and her family to come to a foreign land only to have the only person she knows well desert her for another woman.

As well, it only serves to show just how much of an idiot Jason is. Not only is he bigamous, he also shouldn't be considered among the great heroes of Greek myth like Odysseus or Perseus. He's always been at best, a B level hero but his lack of heroic deeds in the Argosy and his philandering ways make him less than worthy of the hero canon.

I found the play powerful but also maddening. Both Jason and Medea are acting only for their own self-interest, to the detriment of each other and those around them.

From my Greek and Roman studies classes I understand the story to highlight Medea's position as a foreigner and as such, a barbarian with barbarian ways in sharp contrast to the civilized Greeks. She does not act as a dutiful wife, she has violent thoughts and doesn't accept the position Jason has put her in. Those watching the play are supposed to view foreigners as "other" and uncivilized, a group that must be civilized to avoid what happens in this play.

Rating: Overall I enjoyed this short little play. 3.5/5

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