Medea in Medea
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Medea is a straight up serial killer. Let's take a look at her bloody career. Back in her and Jason's Golden Fleece days, she killed her own brother and chopped him into pieces. Later on, she tricked King Pelias' daughters into chopping him into pieces. During Euripides's play, she incinerates King Creon and his daughter, Glauke. She concludes this bloody rampage by slaughtering her own two sons. Medea, what in the name of Zeus is wrong with you?
Though Medea is a highly intelligent woman, she lets passion rule her actions. When her husband, Jason, marries Glauke, Medea goes totally nuts. This, of course, is understandable. When your husband takes another wife without telling you, you definitely have the right to be more than a little angry. Of course, burning the flesh from the bones of his new bride is an extreme reaction. Add to that the assassination of her amiable father, and Medea's actions appear even more drastic. When you top all that off with the killing of she and Jason's innocent sons, Medea, the underdog, becomes nearly impossible to root for.
We should point out that Medea is not a total monster. Though she revels in the gruesome deaths of Creon and Glauke, she shows a good amount of motherly affection towards her two boys. This is shown when she says things to them like, "So sweet […] the mere touch of you: the bloom of children's skin – so soft […] their breath – a perfect balm" (173). She wrestles with herself before she finally decides to kill them. This emotional conflict creates in Medea the kind of psychologically complex character for which Euripides is celebrated.
Medea's rage also goes beyond anger at Jason's betrayal. She's mad at the whole of society. She's definitely has it bad. 1) She's a foreigner, making the people of Corinth distrust her. 2) She's a woman, so she has next to no rights in the male-dominated Greek society. 3) She's an intelligent woman, which makes the men even more uncomfortable. When Jason takes a new wife and Creon banishes her, Medea's plight becomes symbolic of the struggles of all women. Therefore, her violent reaction becomes a form of radical political resistance. With his Medea, Euripides created one of Western literature's most archetypal symbols of feminine revolt.
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