The Role Of Women In Medea Essay
, Research Paper
Medea is the tragic tale of a woman scorned. It was written in
431 B.C. by the Greek playwright, Euripides. Eruipides was the
first Greek poet to suffer the fate of so many of the great
modern writers: rejected by most of his contemporaries (he
rarely won first prize and was the favorite target for the
scurrilous humor of the comic poets), he was universally admired
and revered by the Greeks of the centuries that followed his
death( Norton Anthology ). Euripides showed his interest in
psychology in his many understanding portraits of women ( World
Book ). Euripides choice of women support characters such as the
nurse and the chorus is imperative to the magnification of
Medea s emotions. The very fact that the nurse and chorus are
female deepens Medea s sadness, impassions her anger, and makes
the crime of killing her own children all the more heinous.
Medea s state of mind in the beginning of the play is that
of hopelessness and self pity. Medea is both woman and
foreigner; that is to say, in terms of the audience s prejudice
and practice she is a representative of the two free born groups
in Athenian society that had almost no rights at all ( Norton
Anthology 739). Euripides could not have chosen a more
downtrodden role for Medea. Here is this woman who has stood by
her man through thick and thin. She has turned her back on her
family and killed her own brother while helping Jason capture the
Oh my father! Oh, my country! In what dishonor
I left you, killing my own brother for it.
Despite all of her devotion to her husband he has fallen in love
with someone new, Glauke. The Nurse and the Chorus understand
and sympathize with Medea as only other women could. Euripides
develops the heart of Medea s character by the sympathetical
approach of the Nurse.
…calling out on her father s name,
And her land, and her home betrayed when she came away with
A man who now is determined to dishonor her.
Poor creature, she has discovered by her sufferings
What it means to one not to have lost one s own country.
The Chorus are sympathetic to Medea s heartache also, and offer a
more simple and acceptable approach to help Medea deal with her
Suppose your man gives honor
To another woman s bed.
It often happens. Don t be hurt.
God will be your friend in this.
You must not waste away
Grieving too much for him who shared your bed.
The truth of the matter is that in Athenian society during this
time it was acceptable for men to take new wives on a whim, and
getting mad and upset were the only choice, or result of the lack
of choice, women had.
We women are the most unfortunate creatures.
A man, when he s tired of the company in his home,
Goes out of the house and puts an end to his boredom
And turns to a friend or companion of his own age.
But we are forced to keep our eyes on one alone.
Medea s tears soon dry with the thoughts of revenge. After
Kreon grants her one last day before exhile, Medea uses her
cleverness to produce plots of revenge.
… he has given me this one day
To stay here, and in this I will make dead bodies
Of three of my enemies, –father, the girl and my
husband. (Medea 369-379)
Medea never lets societies norms of a female discourage her from
doing the justice she sees fit. Weak and submissive are not
something she s going to settle for. Medea talking about
You have the skill. What is more, you were born a woman,
And women, thought most helpless in doing good deeds,
Are of every evil the cleverest of contrivers.
Her rage empowers her with liberation and free thought that far
surpasses the women of her time. Although the Chorus never adds
to Medea s frenzy directly, they add fuel to the fire of the
audience and evokes a certain You go girl! attitude that makes
the justification of Medea s actions seem limitless.
It is the thought of men that are deceitful,
Their pedges that are loose.
Stories shall now turn my condition to a fair one,
Women are paid their due.
No more shall evil-sounding fame be theirs.
The Chorus develops a protectiveness of Medea, and quickly sides
with her in scolding Jason.
Jason, though you have made this speech of yours look well,
Still I think, even though others do not agree,
You have betrayed your wife and are acting badly.
Medea soon loses her supporters and crosses the line with
the plot to kill her own children.
I weep to think of what a deed I have to do
Next after that; for I shall kill my own children.
My children, their is none who can give them safety.
And when I have ruined the whole of Jason s house,
I shall leave the land and flee from the murder of my
Dear children, and I shall have done a dreadful deed.
The killing of Glauke and Kreon loses significance with the
Chorus who are dreadfully anticipating the harm of Medea s
children. Euripides uses a female chorus to signify the atrocity
of a mother killing her own children. The Chorus no longer
sympathizes with Medea, yet still blames Jason for the events
which have taken place.
You too, O wretched bridegroom, making your match with
You do not see that you bring
Destruction on your children… (Medea 964-966)
Euripides role of female characters to sympathize with
Medeas heartache in the beginning, and magnify the unscrupulous
murder of her children in the end is brilliant. The reason for
the female support is evident. If the Nurse or Chorus had been a
male servant or a mixed crowd in society the plot of the play
would have been lost. Medea is a woman suffering from a broken
heart, and it seems only fair that she be given sympathy and
judgment from peers who can relate. Hell hath no fury like that
of a woman scorned!