Medea is a classic play by the Greek dramatist Euripides who flourished at the same time as Sophocles (who wrote Antigone) and Aeschylus during the golden age of Greek drama.
Medea has an enormously challenging story line with a great deal of back story. When Jason led his Argonauts into the Black Sea to find the Golden Fleece he went to Colchis (in modern Georgia) where King Aeetes ruled; the King offered him the fleece providing he could perform certain tasks; Medea the King's daughter fell in love with him and used her magical powers to help him succeed. When Jason fled Colchis with the fleece Medea went with him, killing her brother and dismembering him and throwing the bits of body into the sea so that the pursuing king would stop to pick them up and Jason could escape.
Then, when they stopped at Mount Pelion, she persuaded the daughters of pelias to chop their father up by telling them that this was the way to make him better of his illness.
With Jason she had children. But he, being a typical man, decided when they went to Corinth, that he should marry the King's daughter (he had a predilection for princesses) Glauce.
That's all back story!
The story starts as King Creon, father to Glauce, comes to Medea to tell her she must go into exile because he is afraid that she will use her witchcraft to seek revenge on himself, Jason and Glauce. But she begs for a single day to organise herself which he, reluctantly and against his better judgement, grants.
The King of Athens passes by and Medea persuades him to give her unconditional asylum in Athens.
Jason arrives. He is a little shame-faced but defiant: "It is fair enough that one of your sex, a woman, should fly into a passion with a husband who traffics in contraband love." Then he tells her to "grow up". Medea's problem, in Jason's eyes, is that she can't have sex with him any more. "when your sex life is going well, you think that you have everything, but then, if something goes wrong with regard to your bed, you consider the best and happiest circumstances utterly repugnant." He's moved on, why can't she?
She sends her children with gifts to his new wife, Glauce; the gifts are booby trapped and Glauce dies, as does Creon, trying to save her. The Messenger who conveys the news reflects that "man's life is merely a shadow". Jason rushes to Medea's house, cursing her as an "artist in obscenity" but she appears in the sky in a chariot drawn by dragons with the bodies of his sons, the gift-bearers, whom she herself has killed rather than letting them fall into the hands of the authorities.
It is difficult to see how this play, much of it chanted, with a chorus of Corinthian women who, early in the play, promise Medea that they won't interfere, could possibly appeal to a modern audience. The motivations of the characters are too obscure. Nevertheless, the play has survived for two and a half millennia and it is still performed.
October 2016; 38 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57