Medea Occur Without Just Explanation
Many actions in Euripides’ Medea. The psychology behind these actions appear unpredictable, but still control key parts of the play. The play begins with a heartbroken Medea, angry and depressed because her husband, Jason, has left her for a new bride. However, the rage Medea exhibits is a byproduct of the backstory of the play. While Jason pursued his quest for the Golden Fleece, Medea had done everything in her power to let this happen, including the murder of her own brother and aiding Jason in completing three seemingly impossible tasks assigned by her father. When Medea hears of Jason’s new bride, the fury and desire for revenge overcome her, and she devises a plot to kill the new bride as well as her own children. Although seemingly justified in her anger, the unpredictability of the way the play unfolds represents Medea’s psychological state, especially through two driving emotions: fury and power. From Euripides’ portrayal of Medea, her pursuit of revenge on Jason seeds from her characterization of masculine-like qualities as well as the desire to maintain such characteristics rather than the insecurity over her self-image. The strength of Medea’s passion for Jason drives the murder of her children instead of the fear of being mocked at by enemies; however, this fear still ignites the feminine irrationality.
The notion surrounding Medea’s revenge upon Jason seems as though it is sheer insecurity. Yet, it is her strength and dominance throughout the play that point towards agreed of maintaining such dominance instead. Mainly during this man vs. self-conflict, hesitating on whether to murder her children and inflict even more suffering upon Jason, she says “What is the matter with me? Are my enemies to laugh at me?” (Euripides 49). Euripides instead uses this line to further mock her emotional chaos, almost as an excuse to kill her children. Still, this account cannot be trusted due to the great distraught she faces. The monologue from Medea includes both sides of the coin, at once deciding against the children’s murder, but followed directly after with conflicting lines. Not only does this inner battle refute any claims in the monologue made by Medea, but also Euripides’ portrayal of her as an irrational female through the conveyance of intense, conflicting emotions. Descriptions of Medea weeping throughout this monologue and feelings such as pain and anguish reveal her comments as driven by emotion and are not the true logic behind her actions. However, Euripides consistently represents Medea through masculine traits such as power and anger, and the focus of the play is driven through these traits. During the time, stereotypical women were more submissive and conforming to the authority of men, but in the play, the audience hears mostly of Medea’s feelings and rage, allowing her to control the play and be seen as more dominant. Jason, on the other hand, is the more tranquil of the two and is seemingly more professional, responding calmly to Medea’s outburst: “Well, your angry words don’t upset me” (30). Such dialogue from Jason characterizes him in a weaker position, opposing stereotypes, and thus leaving a lesser impact on the play. For instance, Medea’s strong emotion persuades the audience of her innocence, which excuses her plans to seek revenge on Jason. Hence, it is more reasonable to infer Medea’s desire to maintain dominance as the primary motive for murdering her children, as it is consistent with her character portrayal, compared to the insecurity of her enemies.
While also proving Medea’s monologue improbable, the self-proclaimed “fear of mockery” results from the conflict of her instinctive feminine characteristics and Euripides’ portrayal of masculine characteristics. When discussing the pain of killing her children, Medea says, “Anger, the spring of all life’s horror, masters my resolve,” pointing towards an unbreakable desire for revenge on Jason (50). Medea confirms her masculine qualities of anger and rage as the driving force of her actions and believes the strength of it shall trump all else, including the instinctive feminism which she subconsciously possesses. Despite having such certainty in her cause, Medea foils during this monologue, revealing her feminism. This feminism accounts for this fear, that Euripides failed to show previously. During this moment only does a one-time fear of mockery excuse Medea to gain the determination to kill her children, but in no way can be marked as the catalyst for the murder since the anger initially provokes this plot and continues to over the course of the play. Medea further proves her desire for revenge by saying “This is the way to deal Jason the deepest wound” when deciding whether to include the deaths of her children in the plot, proving her desire for Jason to suffer and debunking the notion of her fear of humiliation from enemies (42). Euripides uses this mental breakdown instead to show the adamant determination of Medea and her anger towards Jason.
The crimes Medea committed for Jason before the play begins could already arouse laughter, yet Euripides makes none of this during the play, disproving the notion of fear of mockery by others. Being in a society primarily of male dominance, the audience would find Medea’s previous actions of sacrificing her connection with her family as well as killing her brother to result in a failed marriage with Jason as comical and common female irrationality. As Medea foolishly secured everything in her power for Jason to acquire the Golden Fleece, including the murder of her brother and leaving her family, one could easily shame her for this fact alone. Despite this, Euripides expresses no insecurity through Medea until her feminine nature conflicts with masculine traits. Still, Medea powers herself through and never worries about her self image much again. Furthermore, Euripides associates Medea with great feeling and emotion, and he allows her to express anguish for how Jason has wronged her. In this way, Euripides convinces the audience of Medea’s innocence, one way being reminding the Gods of the antagonist in the play: “Great Zeus, remember who caused all this suffering!” (27). This victimized portrayal makes it more difficult for the audience to mock her rather than condole with her. Certain lines from other female characters in the play such as the chorus of Corinthian women also serve to let the audience sympathize with Medea, often saying “The thing is common; why let it make you angry / Zeus will defend your cause” (22). Here, the chorus brings the Gods onto Medea’s side, excusing her actions devised from anger, rather than fear. Because of her great passion for Jason, who she sacrificed greatly for, is the reason why she feels betrayed when he pursues a new bride, thus enabling her to plot revenge against him. As the chorus notes, “The fiercest anger of all, is that which rages in the place of dearest love”, confirming Medea’s revenge to be associated purely from the betrayal she has endured from Jason (32). As Medea ignored any possible reaction from her enemies by fleeing with Jason to Iolcus and abandoning her family, she even acknowledges herself as “Showing much love and little wisdom” (31), proving her passion for Jason and justifies revenge from anger over embarrassment.
Through the length of the play, Medea manages to control her determination to plot revenge on Jason despite certain obstacles enacted by the author Euripides, one being the withstanding of her subconscious feminine nature. It poses a great threat to Medea’s satisfaction of revenge on Jason, as she was on the brink of sparing her children out of the woman-like nature, lying beneath all of her masculine traits and even overlooked by her own self. However, for just a brief moment, Medea forced herself to maintain an unwavering determination, and in the process making some rash claims which seemingly brought her back towards the rage felt throughout the play against Jason. Still, the true meaning of one particular reckless line “Are my enemies to laugh at me?” cannot be taken to heart given her conflicted mindset. Being dominant throughout the play in Euripides’ depiction, Medea looked to maintain her power by killing her children and continue to assert dominance which extends to the actions made before the play resumes in medias res. Having been granted masculine traits, Medea’s power is unquestionable, especially in comparison to Jason, opposing stereotypes at the time, giving her the fury which she possesses. Medea’s anger, the anger which guides the direction of the play, bases revenge on the absolute suffering of Jason, not from fear, but from great passion, to ultimately overcome all that Euripides throws in its way.
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