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.

How Are Women Represented in The Iliad?

 

“[Achilles] will kill me, unprotected as I am /

my gear laid, defenseless as a woman.”  Hector to Andromache

 

Different types of women are represented in the epic poem The Iliad: strong-willed andBriseis, portrayed by the actress Rose Byrne shrewd women, damsel-in-distress types, wicked and vengeful women, or even women who cause the downfall of the protagonist male hero.  Moreover, there are also women depicted as possessions (war prizes) or women who have little or no control over her destiny.  The epic poem, generally regarded as “a male-dominated world” focuses centrally on the rage between men but it also happen that most of the time this rage is affected, initiated, and inspired by a woman.

Take for example the case of women characters such as Chryseis and Briseis, considered in the epic poem as “war prizes” – captured maidens and spoils of war, with little control over their destinies.  But in Book 1, the major conflict was fueled due to some concerns about these two women – since Chryseis (Agamemnon’s war prize) needs to be returned to his father to stop the plague sent by Apollo, Agamemnon demands in exchange Achilles’ war prize Briseis which angered the warrior Achilles.  Thus Achilles after the incident withdraws the battle, leaving the Achaean army futile against the Trojans’ assaults.

There are also women who are the stereotyped mothers, like Thetis (Achilles’ mother) and Queen Hecuba, who in the course of the epic poem are seen to be either weeping or troubled with the affairs of their sons.

Some women in the epic poem serve as the “partner” of the male hero, like Helen of Troy to Paris and Andromache to Hector.  Although they don’t have the power to dominate over their lovers, these characters are sometimes used by Homer to portray a more human side to the male characters – Paris is vulnerable with Helen, Hector is both a sympathetic husband to Andromache and a heroic father to their son.  These women does not wholly affect the male characters (even Andromache fails to convince Hector not to fight Achilles) but with their presence, the male character assumes a multidimensional persona (Paris, a coward who indulges on pleasures than fighting in the war).

Another set of women characters in the poem are the women gods – the wicked, shrewd, vengeful, or the women who has too much control over the mortals and over other gods.  Hera in the epic is seen as a strong, dominant character and at some point she even tricked Zeus through her forceful and cunning attitude.  Athena is endowed with wisdom and skill, capable of inspiring Achaean warriors.  Aphrodite rescues Paris and sends Helen to his arms in Book III, sending the conflict to a higher notch.  These women are considered to be the powerful forces of the book – their decisions and their control over mortal affairs sometimes change a course of plot, conflict and action.

Helen of Troy, portrayed by the actress Diane KrugerBut the most celebrated woman figure in the poem is probably Helen of Troy – her illicit love affair with Paris is one of the most distinct events of the poem unforgettable.  People around her sees her as the cause of the war (Antenor suggested that Helen should be returned to Menelaus to end the war) with exception of King Priam who welcomes her like his own daughter.  But even Helen knows that she is the reason for the downfall for the male heroes, and considered herself as a wanton (“that man is Agamemnon…brother to the husband of a wanton.”).

Whether it is a dominant, powerful kind of woman in the form of gods, or submissive, damsel-in-distress types in the mortal world, the concept of a woman is explored very much in the epic.  There is a clear-cut definition between the two sexes but at times there are certain ambiguities that cloud over these distinctions.  Even though the deeds of men dominate in the work and mortal women are protected from the wickedness of the world by these heroic men, women in the Iliad serve a much greater role in humanizing the male characters, advancing the course of plot, and sometimes they play pivotal roles in inciting men into action, without them knowing it.

It’s Nothing Really

One of my favorite Shakespeare play is Much Ado about Nothing. It’s a lighthearted comedy about love and misidentification. It’s a double plot – the story is focused on the comedic game wit of Benedict and Beatrice and the love problems of Hero and Claudio.

The dominant themes of the play are love and misidentification. Love is shown between Beatrice and Benedict, Hero and Claudio, as well as in other minor characters such as Leonato and his love for her daughter and Beatrice and her sympathy to her cousin. Misidentification, on the other hand, is exemplified when Margaret is misidentified as Hero, which in turn made Claudio assume that Hero’s sweet nature is a false quality of her, thereby calling her ‘rotten orange’ and a disgrace. There is also misidentification on Don Pedro’s part, in which at the start of the play he believes that Don John has changed for good and that he deserves a second chance.

But on the lighter note, my favorite parts of the play are those parts in which Benedict and Beatrice are in their witty conversations, and take note on the transformation of this sour bachelors into romantic lovers – it is definitely what makes the play enjoyable and comical.

What I notice on this play is that it is focused on the plot and its structure than the character development. It focuses more on ‘what would happen next’ and much attention is given to the effects on the discovery of truth that is blurred by deception and misidentification. So that’s why in the context of the play, although Don John is generally claimed to be the antagonist, still for me, Don John has no ‘justifiable cause’ for his villainy mainly because Shakespeare didn’t focus on the development of his character. He is just this villain who hates seeing other people happy because it makes him sad. However, had Shakespeare focused more on his character development, he would’ve explained Don John’s background for his villainous actions.


I love Dogberry’s character too. Laughs. Really, much attention is taken into nothing.

Dr. Faustus

 

“If we say that we have no sin
We deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us.
–Faustus to himself, Dr. Faustus

 

 

No one can deny Dr. Faustus remains to be one of Christopher Marlowe’s famous plays. Personally, I think the play The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus is far better than any plays of Shakespeare and can be equated with the standards of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

The story is about Dr. Faustus, a famous scholar in Wittenberg, whose obsession was to know more, and whose passion geared towards studying necromancy, or conjuration of the spirits of the dead. While he was still in his study, the good angel and the bad angel went to him. The good angel persuaded him to stop his ambition to become a necromancy practitioner and fear God, while the bad angel persuaded him that by studying necromancy he could be rich and powerful above all. Things got really dark when Faustus told Mephistopheles that he was ready to surrender his soul to his master Lucifer in exchange of luxurious life and power for 24 years. And so, Faustus made a pact with Lucifer, and for 24 years he traveled the world with evil in his mind. Some of these were drugging the Pope’s ministers with a sleeping potion, convincing the Pope to condemn a man named Bruno, performing annoying tricks to some people, and most of all, condemning the existence of God.

After 24 years, Lucifer and Mephistopheles were now ready to take Faustus’s soul. Although throughout the play he was bothered with repentance and fear of damnation, it was in the end that he finally realized the folly of his actions. But it was already too late for him.

What’s good about Dr. Faustus is that Marlowe incorporated the conflict of the good and evil in the form of good angel and bad angel, and this conflict became Faustus’s internal struggle. But due to his insatiable desires and thirst for more knowledge and supreme power, Faustus is bound to be damned. The readers would feel his moments of contrition, but since he always ended up choosing evil in the end, then we also feel that he should be doomed. He was too driven with greed and ambition.