Medea Critical Analysis

Medea critical analysis

Theater was an important aspect of Greek culture and a common event in the lives of citizens. It wasn’t just a form of entertainment, it was a way of living for people in 5th century Athens. They celebrated Dionysus through festivals of the arts, which included plays. Plays were public affairs and followed guidelines that governed the writing of playwrights. Some playwrights actively challenged these guidelines. Other playwrights made their plays conform to traditional Greek conventions of theater. Greek theater conventions include the chorus, messenger speech and logical resolutions. This essay will critically analyse the play ‘Medea’ by Euripides.

One playwright in particular who challenged these conventions was Euripides. The plays of Euripides would have been seen as unconventional to his fellow Greek audience. Eurpide’s play, ‘Medea’ was a tragedy play about a woman seeking vengeance on her husband for leaving her for another woman. The play takes place after a common myth about Jason and the Golden Fleece. ‘Medea’ challenges the conventions of Greek theater. His plays also did not endear anyone since his ideas were unpopular. Euripide’s ideas in ‘Medea’ were especially disliked since most of them were shocking and socially unacceptable. The play raises several issues about gender, infidelity, vengeance and Greek values.

Most plays in Ancient Greek had an association in Greek Mythology and legends. In 5th century Athens, they celebrated Greek gods and their champions. The gods were revered and given cultural significance within Greek society. This Greek convention allows gaps to be filled in the backstory, names to be used or adapted and an established timeline. Euripides made ‘Medea’ as a continuation of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Jason was a greek hero was on a quest to gain the Golden Fleece and reclaim his birthright. Jason had to marry Medea before she’d help him to complete his quest.

The portrayal of women in ‘Medea’ challenges traditional stereotypes of women in ancient Greek society. Medea empowers herself to fight against Jason in order to not be oppressed and sent into exile. Although her deeds are extreme, her actions are understandable in context. Medea is disregarding her duties in a patriarchal society. Medea goes against the traditional stereotype of women in Ancient Greece. Medea doesn’t reflect the image of being a mother and nurturer. Since women weren’t allowed to play on the stage in 5th century Athens, it would have been a man trying to play Medea. This wouldn’t offer comedic relief.

The chorus is a convention of Greek theater. The chorus received the most support in 5th century Athens and specialised training. They work as spectators and can represent marginal groups. The chorus had a role in the Attic festivals within tragedies. Members that stood out were the most versatile and able to take on different roles. Men played women who were rarely seen on stage. They observe the action of the play but are only able to watch Medea and unable to prevent her plans. They commentate on the play from a unique perspective. The chorus of Corithinian women generate sympathy towards the blight of women in 5th Century Athens. Chorus actions in ‘Medea’ are restricted since they can observe only. They can only be horrified by their inability to help the children or the royal’s fate.

Medea’s main objective in the play is to seek revenge because of Jason’s infidelity. Infidelity and divorce would’ve been treated differently in 5th century Athens. Jason would’ve been commemorated for marrying Creon’s daughter who was higher status than Medea. The marriage between Jason and Creon’s daughter would have been seen as a beneficial political move. Medea is rebelling against the king’s orders and Jason’s wishes by plotting against the royal household. Even though Jason betrays Medea for another woman, it would still be accepted by Greek society back then. Divorce would have resulted in men gaining the most benefits and compensation. Medea on the other hand is an outsider and does not retain her status after being exiled from her homeland. Medea’s marriage was the only thing keeping her in Corinth and it was her husband who had control over her and what happened to her sons. Unfortunately Medea is too strong willed to just leave peacefully.

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Ariana Rosenberg
Ariana Rosenberg

Ariana Rosenberg completed her Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing in July 2021. She writes regularly and recently published a picture book.

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May 2020