Medea, as a Woman

The exploration of the politics of gender is indeed evident in the play Medea by Euripedes.  The play is about a passionate woman named Medea, a sorceress and a princess, who faced a dilemma when she was abandoned by her husband Jason.  This in turn fueled Medea’s revenge that led into a horrifying series of murders.  The play is likely to be seen as a feminist material, but it can be also seen and analyzed in the misogynist point of view.  More importantly, it’s an exploration of the psychological state that women undergo every time they were rejected by their lovers, or faced with extreme anger or alienation.

Medea

The play also challenged the power play between man and woman in the context of strong patriarchal context.  Medea at the early part of the play didn’t have any choice when her husband left her and resolved to cry and lament all day.  Jason can reject the domestic responsibilities that concerns with her former relationship with Medea, and was free to marry the daughter of King Creon.  But as the play progressed the change is evident in Medea’s temperament – from weakness to revenge, suicidal to sadistic fury, feminine to masculine.  In the end, Medea defied gender inequality as she assumed a masculine disposition. She denied her husband Jason to bury their children after murdering them, aggravating his pain.

In Medea’s soliloquy in the early part of the play, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her – she was a woman unreasonably rejected by her former lover, ordered to be banished by the king, a woman who rebels against her own wretchedness.  But the rage in her heart would not disappear without a certain kind of release, to which revenge is only the proper to do it and the most likely to happen.  So as a reader I began to feel what Aristotle’s concept of ‘fear’ in a tragedy would feel like, especially when Medea was brewing her plans to avenge herself.  With cleverness and natural devious attitude, she began to maneuver the course of the play, the gruesome manipulation of her own children in her horrifying revenge that led to their pitiful deaths.

What the play shows us was that human beings are the sole authors of their own misfortunes.  God or any divine being was not responsible for any consequences of the horrible actions that the characters need to bear and endure.  The limits of human knowledge is indeed obvious in the play – this serves as the dramatic irony – the audience are more aware of the deceit of a character to another character than anyone else.  A woman such as Medea, passionate and once deeply in love with her lover, can turn into violent vengeful woman because of her all-consuming love.

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4 thoughts on “Medea, as a Woman

    • Indeed, Medea is a round character that undergoes a “change” that characterizes the conventional play. I love her character mainly because one can love and hate her at the same time.

  1. I read this play years ago and was quite turned off by Medea’s character. I recently reread it and now feel that I understand it more (http://silverseason.wordpress.com/). You picked up on something I noticed also. For the Greeks, weeping and yielding to life’s unfairness is good female behavior. Violent reactions are male and therefore bad in a woman. I can also read it as being about power: having it, abusing it, and asserting it.

    • I agree – when I first read the play I thought it was too violent for me. But in the end I come to realize that explorations like these bring out the most effective catharsis.

      As early as Greek civilization, the power dynamics between men and women have already been explored. Still, the power of the female cannot be underestimated. This reminds me of another strong Greek female character, Lysistrata. 🙂

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