2017-08-29

Hell has no fury like a woman scorned. Euripides’ Medea explores the way both the head and heart define a human being and human relationships and underlines the consequences when one is devalued or dominant. Medea and Jason each embodies passion and reason in excessive amounts. The foreign princess loves and hates with great strength, her once passionate love turns into furious hatred when Jason betrayed their marriage oath for his ambition. Euripides suggests men and women are both emotional and the safest way of living is in moderation, a balance of both emotion and reason.

Medea’s ‘‘passion is master of [her] reason, passion that causes the great suffering in the world.’’ She loves and hates with extremity. To win Jason’s love, she betrayed her own family, murdered her brother and persuaded Pelia’s daughters to kill their own father. She suppressed her pride to take on the submissive role of a royal wife who ‘‘seeks to please her husband in all she does.’’ In the first episode, her ‘‘anguish’’, her extreme emotions are fully exposed and are directly contrasted with the Nurse’s principle of moderation. Euripides does not support her excessively passionate nature but warns his Athenian audience through the downfall of Jason and Creon’s royal family that the world of emotions needs to be respected.

Medea is not mere human, her ‘‘noble father is the Sun’’. As the grand daughter of a god, Medea has an excessive amount of pride and fears the ‘‘mockery of [her] enemies’’. This excessive pride eventually led to the death of her ‘‘beloved’’ children and brought her ‘‘a lifetime of sorrow’’. Her extreme love that turned into extreme hate compounded with her excess pride resulted the tragedy of the play: death of innocent people and the down of Corinth. There is a degree of similarity of what Medea did to her family for the love of Jason and what Jason has done to his family to fulfil his ambition.

Euripides explores not just the capability and danger of excess passion but also the consequences of extreme reason. Jason sees love as a tool to gain success. He is willing to use Medea’s power to acquire the golden fleece and his status as a hero. Then disregard her contribution, calling it as ‘‘compelled’’ by the Cryprian, for a political marriage to advance his prosperity. His betrayal and rationalisation is condemned by the voices of true reason, the Nurse and the Chorus, and by the wise king of Athens,Euripides explores not just the capability and danger of excess passion but also the consequences of extreme reason. Jason sees love as a tool to gain success. He is willing to use Medea’s power to acquire the golden fleece and his status as a hero. Then disregard her contribution, calling it as ‘‘compelled’’ by the Cryprian, for a political marriage to advance his prosperity. His betrayal and rationalisation is condemned by the voices of true reason, the Nurse and the Chorus, and by the wise king of Athens,

Women at Euripides’ time is considered to be emotional and thus less rational and intelligent as men. The ancient Greek valued sophrosyne: self-control and reason above all things. Euripides challenges this ingrained belief; this ‘‘ill-repute’’ and presents the Nurse and Chorus as wise and insightful. They show sympathy for Medea and establish the audience’s initial sympathy for her too. The Nurse fear Medea may hatch some ‘‘unheard of schemes’’ and the lives of the children, while Creon and Jason are unable to see pass Medea’s ‘‘honeyed words’’. The Choral odes raises the moral standards in which the main characters’ actions are judged against. They believe Medea’s anger is excessive and Jason has been ‘‘unjust’’. They represent the ideal way of life Euripides admires; ‘‘moderation’’, the safest way to not invite ‘‘heaven’s anger’’.

Medea is the sole victor, despite triumphing over her enemies, it is far too simplistic to say she is truely happy and passion is superior. The deus ex machina enables Medea to fly away in her dragon-drawn chariot to the safety of Athens. Euripides is not celebrating the triumph of extreme passion over reason which has been fairly represented by Jason and Creon. He suggests the gods are capricus and will not reward pure reason. His ultimate message is reflected in the last words of the choral ode, ‘‘for the unexpected, heaven finds a way’’, always expect the unexpected.




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