"Medea" by Euripides: A "revenge tragedy"

Essay by randyrahulCollege, UndergraduateA, March 2006

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"Medea", a play by the Greek playwright Euripides, explores the Greek-

barbarian dichotomy through the character of Medea, a princess from the

"barbarian", or non-Greek, land of Colchis. Throughout the play, it becomes

evident to the reader that Medea is no ordinary woman by Greek standards.

Central to the whole plot is Medea's barbarian origins and how they are related

to her actions. In this paper, I am attempting to answer questions such as how

Medea behaves like a female, how she acts heroically from a male point of view,

why she killed her children, if she could have achieved her goal without killing

them, if the murder was motivated by her barbarian origins, and how she deals

with the pain of killing her children.

As an introduction to the play, the status of women in Greek society

should be briefly discussed. In general, women had very few rights.

In the

eyes of men, the main purposes of women in Greek society were to do housework

such as cooking and cleaning, and bear children. They could not vote, own

property, or choose a husband, and had to be represented by men in all legal

proceedings. In some ways, these Greek women were almost like slaves. There is

a definite relationship between this subordination of women and what transpires

in the play. Jason decides that he wants to divorce Medea and marry the

princess of Corinth, casting Medea aside as if they had never been married.

This sort of activity was acceptable by Greek standards, and shows the

subordinate status of the woman, who had no say in any matter like this.

Even though some of Medea's actions were not typical of the average

Greek woman, she still had attitudes and emotions common among women. For

instance, Medea speaks...