Summary: The play by Euripides is about a woman named Medea who begins to plot revenge against her husband Jason, who has married another woman named Glauce, who is the daughter of Creon, the king of the Greek city Corinth. After this, she begins to plot the demise of Jason. She convinces Creon to let her live in Corinth and then convinces Jason that she is perfectly fine with his new marriage. Afterwards, she then kills his new wife by giving her gifts that are cursed, leaving Jason distraught with grief. To further his suffering, she then kills their children and flees the city of Corinth, leaving Jason distraught and completely emotionally destroyed.
Analysis of Most Important Characters:
Medea is the protagonist of the play. Her homeland is Colchis, an island in the Black Sea, which princess, she used her powers and influence to help Jason secure the Golden Fleece. After Jason secures the Fleece, they run away together and get married, and eventually gave birth to two children. At the time of the play, Jason divorces her and marries someone else, leaving Medea mad with grief. In order to avenge Jason’s betrayal, she commits a series of murders, including the murder of Jason’s new wife and concluding the murder of their children.
Jason is considered to be this play’s villain, whose evil stems more from weakness than strength. A former adventurer, he abandons his wife, Medea, in order to marry Glauce, who is the beautiful young daughter of Creon, the King of Corinth. This act of abandoning Medea in order to further his own goals only fuels Medea’s desire to inflict vengeance on Jason, who eventually kills his new bride and her father, along with his children. Jason’s tactless self-interest and whiny rationalizations of his own actions make him a weak and unsympathetic character.
The children are the offspring of Jason and Medea. The children are presented as naïve and oblivious to the intrigue that surrounds them. Medea uses them as pawns in the murder of Glauce and Creon, and then kills them in the play’s culminating horror. Their innocent deaths provide the greatest element and example of pathos, which is the tragic emotion of pity, in the play.
Creon is the king of the Greek city of Corinth. He banishes Medea from Corinth, which lends an urgency to her plans for revenge. Despite the fact that Creon is a minor character, his suicidal embrace of his dying daughter provides one of the play’s most dramatic moments.
Glauce is the daughter of Creon, the king of Corinth. Jason abandons Medea for the young beautiful princess to further his own goals, driving Medea mad with grief and makes her want to make him suffer greatly. Throughout the whole play, Glauce doesn’t utter a word, and yet, her presence is constantly felt as an object of Medea’s jealousy.
Aegeus is the king of the Greek city of Athens. He passes through Corinth after having visited the Oracle at Delphi, where he sought a cure for his sterility. While passing through, Medea offers him some fertility-inducing drugs in exchange for sanctuary in Athens. His appearance marks a turning point in the play; for at this point, Medea moves from being a passive victim to an aggressor after she secures sanctuary in Athens from King Aegeus.
The play Medea takes place within the Greek city of Corinth soon after Jason’s quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece and is derived from a collection of tales that circulated informally around him. Euripides lived during the Golden Age of Athens, which is where he lived for most of his life. His birth in 484 BC saw the repulsion of the invading Persian army, a military victory that secured Athens’ political independence and eventual dominance over the Mediterranean world. He died in 406 BC, as Athens was surrendering it’s supremacy to its main rival of the Peloponnesian War, Sparta. The year that Euripides produced this play was when the long and devastating Peloponnesian War began (431-404 BC) and tension between the Greek city states was high.
Types of Conflict (Man v Man, man v self, man v society, man v nature, man v technology):
Within Euripides’ play Medea, there are several different examples of a few different kinds of conflicts. Medea has a man v man conflict within it because of Medea’s desire to inflict tremendous amounts of emotional pain and suffering on Jason to avenge him abandoning her for Glauce, the daughter of Creon, the king of the Greek city of Corinth.
Passion and Rage is a theme that is common throughout the play. Medea is a woman of extreme behavior and extreme emotion. She sacrificed almost everything she had for her passionate love of Jason, committing unspeakable acts on his behalf. His betrayal of her, however, has transformed passion into rage. Her violent and intemperate heart formerly devoted to Jason, is now set on his destruction. Medea is an example of passion carried too far, in a woman perversely set on choosing rage over mercy and reasoning.
Another theme that is common throughout the play is the theme of revenge. Medea is willing to sacrifice everything she has to ensure that her revenge is perfect and Jason is left emotionally destroyed. She not only murders Jason’s new wife and her father, but she even murders her own children to ensure that Jason is left with nothing and also to protect them from the counter-revenge of her enemies.
Pride is also another theme that is common throughout this play. Medea’s pride drives her to unnecessarily brutal action. She fully exacts her brutal and cruel revenge, leaving Jason destroyed and distraught, and then takes this brutality to a whole new level by murdering her own children.
Manipulation is another important and reoccurring theme, along with pride. Jason used Medea in his quest to get the Golden Fleece, and he now manipulates the Corinthian royal family to secure his own private goals. Despite the fact that Jason used Medea to get the Golden Fleece, Medea is the master of manipulation. She perfectly preys on the weaknesses and needs of both friend and foe. Medea manipulates Creon into letting him stay in Corinth, which eventually costs Creon his life. With Aegeus, Medea uses her skills as a bargaining chip to take advantage of the king’s desperateness and soft-heartedness to win a binding oath from him. Finally, against Jason, she uses his own shallowness, unmerited pride and desire for dominance against him. Jason buys it, demonstrating his lack of astuteness and his willingness, only to be beaten and broken by his own fantasies.
Medea murdering her own children is symbolic in a few ways. The children are a very clear representation and product of what was once a loving and healthy marriage and relationship. After being divorced by Jason for Glauce of the Corinthian royal family, Medea feels betrayed by Jason and that he has soiled their marriage and relationship by leaving her. As a result of this, she’s determined to destroy every last remnant of their former union and to inflict as much pain as she can onto Jason by killing everyone that he loves, including his wife, her father and even the children that he had with Medea.
Divine entities are often used in almost all Greek dramas for symbolism. The golden diadem and the gown which Medea gave to Creon’s daughter were from the Greek god of the sun, Helios. When the crown and the gown shoot out flames, it is like Helios himself is attacking Glauce. Along with the cursed gifts she gave to Creon’s daughter, the chariot that serves as Medea’s means of escaping is a blessing from Helios. As Medea is escaping, it’s as if Helios has sanctioned her vengeful and evil misdeeds.
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