It seems like Greeks had a thing for bringing their heroes to a bad end. Heracles, Theseus, and many more all achieve some pretty awesome things, but in the end die kind of a pathetic death. Jason joins the ranks of his fellow fallen heroes when his head is randomly crushed in by a rotting chunk of the Argo after many uneventful years of unhappiness and depression. Wow, what kind of reward is that for the hero who brought back the Golden Fleece?
Like many of his hero buddies, Jason's downfall comes up because of his treatment of a woman. When Jason betrays Medea by marrying Glauce, the Princess of Corinth, Medea takes a horrible revenge on him by killing their two sons, Glauce, and Glauce's father Creon. This reminds us a lot of Heracles, whose wife, Deinara, accidentally poisons him in an attempt to keep him from leaving her for another woman. Unlike Heracles, Jason doesn't die quite yet, but instead lives on, feeling lonely and miserable. He never gets to be the king of anywhere, and everything else in his life is awful because the gods are mad at him for betraying Medea.
So, what's the moral here? Hmm, how about "don't cheat on your wife or she might kill your children"? That's a possibility. Or maybe... "it's awesome to be a hero, but anybody who rises to great heights is bound to fall"? You see this theme all through Greek mythology, when heroes become guilty of hubris, or overweening pride, and are destroyed because of it. Could it be that it was hubris that allowed him to think he could betray Medea and get away with it? Like in many of the great tragedies, Jason is inevitably brought down despite his greatness... or maybe because of it.
How do you solve a problem like Medea? Is she a terrible villainess, or a misunderstood heroine?
Jason would be nothing without her. If it weren't for Medea, he never would've been able to complete the quest for the Golden Fleece. She doesn't even seem to get mad that Jason gets all the credit, even though she's just as big of a hero as he is. It seems like Medea really does love Jason with all her heart. Buuuut... she's also kind of a serial killer. And not always the good kind of serial killer that only kills other serial killers.
Over the course of Medea's life, she chops up her own brother, tricks Pelias's daughters into bleeding him to death, melts the skin off of the king of Corinth and his daughter, and even kills her own children. Later on, she also tries to poison Theseus, another famous Greek hero. Is Jason really that awful for wanting to marry someone else? Someone who maybe isn't a murderer?
On the other hand, is Medea really that different from a lot of Greece's famous male heroes? Pretty much every single one slaughtered tons of people. A lot of times these killings were for flimsier reasons than Medea's. She killed her brother to save Jason and the Argonauts and assassinated Pelias only after he broke his oath to return the throne to Jason if the hero returned with the Golden Fleece. Ancient Greek society was really sexist, so it's possible that the character of Medea is shown in an evil light because men were intimidated by the idea of a woman with any real power.
We're guessing most people would agree that Medea crosses a line when she kills her sons to get revenge on Jason, but Heracles is famous for killing his own children as well. Why isn't he ever thought of as a villain? Usually, Heracles is excused for this because Hera drove him mad, but you could also say that Medea was driven just as crazy by Jason's betrayal. Could it be that the myths are making excuses for Heracles because he's a man?
In recent years, Medea has become a symbol of feminine revolt, and she is sometimes seen as a lady living in a man's world, just doing her best to survive. Some see her violent methods as an answer to the violent and oppressive world she lived in. What do you think? Is Medea bad or good... or both? Does she get shown in an evil light because she's a woman, or does she deserve her bad reputation?
Like most every evil king in every story, in the end Pelias gets what's coming to him. We guess it's payback for the way he stole power from his half-brother, Aeson, and then went back on his word to Jason by refusing to give up the throne. It's interesting the way that the myth of Jason veers from the formula a little bit.
When Medea tricks Pelias's own daughters into killing him, without even asking Jason first it definitely puts the story into less charted waters. Usually, it's the male hero who slays the bad guy. In Jason's case however, his wife convinces a gaggle of young girls to do it. Of course, Pelias's murder ends up being a curse on Jason's life. Because of it, the hero never gains his throne and never lives up to everybody's great expectations. So, in the end, does Pelias actually win?
Aeson, King of Iolcus, is most famous for being the father of his famous son, Jason. He gets kicked off his throne by his half-brother, Pelias, and spends most of his time in a dungeon, where he grows old and decrepit. In some versions of the story, he kills himself while Jason is on his quest, while in others we see him made young again by Medea. We choose to believe that the latter is true. Hey, it's pretty much the only happy thing that happens in Jason's later years. Can't at least one person have a happy ending?
Glauce is the princess of Corinth, whom Jason. marries despite the fact that he's already married to Medea. To Jason, Glauce represents a chance to finally live up to his royal heritage. By marrying her, he might actually get to be a king one day. In the end, though, marrying Glauce is the cause of his demise, when Medea takes a horrible revenge by killing Glauce, Creon, and Medea and Jason's own children.
For more on Glauce's tragic death check Shmoop's coverage of Medea by Euripides.
Creon is the king of Corinth, who welcomes Jason into his city when the hero is forced to flee from Iolcus. Later on, Creon signs off on Jason marrying his daughter, Glauce. This causes Jason's other wife, Medea, to go nuts and kill Creon, Glauce, and her and Jason's kids. So, Creon's attempt to make his family look cool by having a hero as an heir goes totally wrong and ends up destroying them all.
Note: Sometimes this Creon is confused with the Creon of the Oedipus plays, but they aren't the same guy. (Way to make things confusing, ancient Greece.)
For more on this Creon's awful death, check out Shmoop's coverage of Medea by Euripides.