Euripides’ ‘‘Medea’’ explores the themes of revenge and conflict. Through the characters, Euripides demonstrates the troubles of women in Ancient Greece as well as the conflict between emotion and reason. Jason’s character in the play could be said to garner the audience’s sympathy but the same could also be said of Medea. There are also times in the play however, when neither of the two characters gain the sympathy of the audience but rather the audience’s sympathy lies with the other characters who fall victim to Medea and Jason’s bickering.
‘‘Jason you are to be pitied’’ are the words of the Chorus as they take note of his plight. Jason’s story in Euripides’ play has a heartbreaking end as he loses everything he holds dear to his vengeful wife, Medea. His abandonment of his family ‘‘for a princess’ bed’’ can be seen as reasonable at a time when males were often viewed as the superior gender. Jason defends his actions by stating that he was only ‘‘looking to [Medea’s ] future’’ by marrying the Princess of Corinth. He reasons that he was merely looking after his family. Jason’s actions and his reasons for doing so are completely reasonable as he is fulfilling his role as a father by ensure his children’s ‘‘perfect safety.’’ He cannot be blamed for wanting to keep his children safe from harm. Jason’s betrayal of Medea is the result of his wish to ensure that his family could ‘‘live comfortably and not go without anything.’’ He gains sympathy from the audience because his hard work and his plans for his family are destroyed by Medea’s need for revenge. Jason’s role as the archetypal Greek male makes his relatability to the audience of ancient Greek men stronger. He plays the role of family breadwinner and provider like many of his Ancient Greek counterparts. Jason’s distraught at what has happened at the end of the play gains him sympathy from the audience as it is made explicitly clear by Euripides that he loved his children tenderly. For all Jason’s work to provide a secure life for his family, there is no fruition to any of it and he is a broken man at the end of the play.
Jason’s other reason to leave Medea’s side for the Princess of Corinth was to ensure that he
could ‘‘raise [his] sons in a manner worthy of [his] house.’’ Through this, Jason can be seen to be a responsible father who values and loves his children. He wishes to give them the best
possible life that they can have and raise them properly.
Jason is not the sole beneficiary of the audience’s sympathy as his wife, Medea, also manages to gain some sympathy from the audience. Euripides makes it clear from the beginning of the play that Medea is a victim of Greek society. ‘‘Abandoned’’ and homeless as well as a ‘‘cruel husband’s plaything’’, she is powerless to stop Jason’s betrayal of her. Medea’s role in the beginning of the play is very much a reflection of the troubles encounted by Ancient Greek women. She is unable to deny Jason his new marriage and cannot bear the thought of divorce as it ‘‘brings disgrace on women.’’ Medea’s plight could be seen as Euripides highlighting the troubles of Ancient Greek women and opening his audience’s eyes to it. Medea gains sympathy from the audience because her great love for Jason is rejected in favour of a princess and the promise of power. Medea’s situation is compounded by the fact that she, as a foreigner, is distrusted by locals and consequentially, is isolated from society. She laments that she has nowhere to turn to for help and this further deepens the audience’s feelings of sorrow for her plight. Medea’s isolation from society mirrors the troubles that foreigners go through in Ancient Greece. Euripides challenges his audience to think about the troubles of both women and foreigners in Ancient Greece demonstrates some issues faced by both parties through the eyes of Medea.
Conflict always exists in society and the actions taken are mostly motivated by self-interest.
Euripides ‘Medea’ can be interpreted as a case study into the human nature and its role in
creating conflict. While there are many victims of betrayal and abandonment that deserve
sympathy, the very same people could be the cause of someone else’s misfortune. As
demonstrated by Euripides, the real victims of an argument are not always clear-cut and well-
defined but each party deserve some sympathy in their own way.