Guilt as a weapon in Medea

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Often times, people use guilt as a weapon to get what they most desire. The characters in the dramatic play, Medea, use guilt as a means by which to attain little, as well as big, wants and desires.

Perhaps the most minor case of guilt as a weapon, happens in the very first pages of the reading. Medea's nurse, wishing to find out gossip uses her pitiful cry to gain the attention of Jason's attendant. "… Don't hide anything from your fellow servant! Tell me; and, if you wish, I'll keep it a secret." (Euripides 200) Essentially, the nurse is saying, "But, sir, we are family!" Servants comprised the lower class and know one another's struggles so well that one would expect them to be close. The nurse is using this commiseration as a means of making the attendant feel guilty enough to tell her his secret. And her plan works wonders, because the attendant finally tells the nurse the awful news about Medea's banishment.

Medea, upon finding out this awful news, again uses guilt as a weapon to try to reverse the King's decision. "Many times before has this strange reputation done me harm. A sensible man should never nowadays bring up his children to be too clever or exceptional… I have been wronged, but I shall remain quiet, and submit to those above me." (Euripides 208) Medea tells the King of all the terrible hardships her intelligence as brought down upon her. She blames it, however, not on herself, but upon her father, for teaching her too much, and society, for not accepting her intelligence. She is asking for his pity, for it is not her fault that she has been misunderstood all of her life. She then swears, in an attempt to secure his pity, though she has no intention of standing by her promise that she will be the proverbial "good little girl" and "submit" to his rules and regulations.

When this attempt fails, Medea again tries to use guilt to gain pardon, using a different angle, this time. "Take pity on them, Kreon! You too have children of your own; you too must have a soft place in your heart for them. What happens to me now no longer matters. I only grieve for the suffering that will come to my children." (Euripides 209) When Kreon shows no remorse in condemning her, like so many others have, she appeals to his paternal side. She claims that the only thing she worries about her children and she begs him to take them into consideration. What will happen to them if they are banished? They won't have the comforts of home or the security of the city. She attempts to build a brick wall around herself, using the guilt as the paste to hold the bricks together. Unfortunately for him, Kreon can't totally see through her transparent wall.

When her efforts to trick the King failed, Medea turned to Jason for help. "And for your sake I made enemies of others whom I need never have harmed." (Euripides 213) She is putting in that last stitch effort to save her own hide by going to Jason and appealing to him through guilt. She did things she never would ordinarily to for him and made enemies of friends. It is his fault she is being banished and his fault that she has nowhere to turn. Hoping his guilt will cause him to convince the king to let her stay, Medea uses guilt as a weapon against Jason.

Jason is much too smart for Medea, though, and he uses some guilt of his own to try to make her leave without a fight. "As for your bitter attack on my marriage to the Princess, I think I can prove first of all that it was a shrewd move; secondly, a thoroughly sober one; and finally, that I did it in your interest and that of your children." (Euripides 214) Jason, using his powers of persuasion, attempts to make Medea think he married Kreon's daughter for Medea's good and the good of her children. Certainly, after she went off on her little tirade, if she really believed Jason had done anything for her good, she'd feel pretty guilty and maybe leave with her tail tucked between her legs.

As if to further cement his guilt-laden victory, Jason continued to attempt to convince Medea that he married the King's daughter for Medea's own good. "No, it was this, first of all; that we might live in comfort, and not in poverty. Believe me, I know how a man's friends desert him when he's penniless" (Euripides 215) He claims to be doing everything for his children. Jason uses the boys to make Medea feel guilty by claiming that he is looking out for their best interests in the same way that Medea used the boys to stir Kreon's guilt earlier in the story.

Also like Kreon, Medea didn't buy a word of Jason's argument, and yet he continued to defend his stance to the bitter end of their fight. "…Because I wanted security for you, and also to be the father of royal children bound by blood to our two children: a thing which would have brought welfare to all of us." (Euripides 216) Again, using the children to cause Medea guilt, Jason continues to try to convince Medea that he only committed adultery so she and her children could have a better life. Though she isn't convinced, one could see how lesser women would fall victim to the guilt laid on by the seemingly charming Jason.

Unable to guilt Kreon or Jason into doing her bidding, Medea turns to her friend, Aegeus. "I implore you, but your beard and by your knees, I beseech you, have pity on me! Have pity on a friend who is in trouble! Don't let me wander around in exile! Let me come to your land of Athens, let me find refugee in your halls!" (Euripides 220) Medea, really desperate now, is turning on the crocodile tears and begging on her knees. She uses her current situation and plays innocent. Hoping Aegeus will take pity on her and allow her to come to his home and stay with him.

After securing her ability to seek refuge with Aegeus, Medea proceeded to formulate a plot designed to make Jason pay for his adultery. She then sent the nurse to go and get Jason, leaving her with a warning. "Say nothing of the plans I have prepared; don't say a word, if you are loyal to your mistress and loyal to the race of women." (Euripides 223) Medea ensures the nurse won't say anything of her plot to Jason by appealing to her womanhood by telling her that she is not a real woman if she snitches. Everyone wants to belong and the nurse would surely not want to be booted from the sisterhood of women just to warn Jason.

Medea is the prime brandisher of the sword called guilt. Just before the climactic homicide of her children, Medea even uses guilt as a weapon against herself! "Am I willing to see my enemies go unpunished? Am I willing to be insulted and laughed at? I shall follow this thing to the end. How weak I am! How weak to let my heart be touched by these soft sentiments!" (Euripides 229) Medea, as a means by which to strengthen her resolve, makes herself feel guilty for second-guessing herself! She uses her own weakness to make herself stronger.

Characters in Euripides' Medea use guilt as a weapon to break down the walls of their opposition's defenses and get what they need and want. For Medea and Jason, though they didn't always get their way, guilt is defiantly their weapon of choice.