Medea is a play written by Euripides; it has many powerful literary elements which is why it has brought the attention of different types of audiences. Medea to some might appear as a feminist text because of how Medea deals with her situation, and how she behaves or acts around people in the play, but to other people Medea is seen as an anti-feminist text because of how Medea turns evil after her husband did her wrong, and how she is two-faced when in a dialogue with other characters. Medea is clearly a feminist play, as seen through Medea’s psychological behavior, dialogue, and how she is not manipulated by Jason’s ways or excuses.
Why Medea is a Feminist
Characteristic qualities of women in Greek culture include weak, submissive, and inferior to men. In order to have the best revenge on Jason, Medea decides she must be the person who has the power over all of the circumstances in the situation. She is swapping gender roles while managing the situation, as being in control is not a feminine quality of ancient Greek culture, but she takes hold of the situation like a man would and demonstrates her power and cleverness. In ancient Greek culture it is not acceptable for females to assume qualities such as intelligence and cleverness. Creon, calls Medea “clever” and tells her “I am afraid of you” (Euripides, 32). An intelligent woman may not be submissive to the desires and wishes of her husband. For that reason, their model wife would be attractive and not intelligent. Intelligent women were considered dangerous and unsafe. Medea, being of strong mind, ultimately chooses to overcome her weaknesses and murders her sons to keep them from being murdered by her enemies of the Palace. She rather to choose her independence over motherhood, and any feminine qualities associated with maternity go clearly unnoticed when she murders her sons. Medea emotionally battles between her desire for independence and her motherliness throughout the play. But her independence wins in the end. “O come, my hand, poor wretched hand, and take the sword, take it, step forward to this bitter starting point, and do not be a coward, do not think of them, how sweet they are, and how you are their mother. Just for This one short day be forgetful of you children, afterwards weep; for even though you will kill them, they were very dear, -O, I am an unhappy woman!” (Euripides, 51) Medea must kill her children in order to achieve the level of despair for Jason she wants to obtain, but in doing so the audience loses respect and admiration for her and their support and sympathy is wasted. Earlier in the play the chorus sided with Medea based on how Jason betrayed her and told her that she was true to get back at him. Yet at this point in the play, the chorus no longer supports her plan if she is elects to kill her children. They beg and plead with her not to kill the children, but Medea, being of strong mind, ultimately chooses to overcome her weaknesses and murders her sons to keep them from being murdered by her enemies of the Palace. Medea as mentioned chooses her independence over motherhood and any feminine qualities associated with maternity go clearly unnoticed when she murders her sons. Medea has many characteristics that make her an outsider. She is an intelligent, clever, and independent woman which makes her a dangerous threat to the men. She is not a Greek. She is a barbarian in exile at Corinth. Because of all of these reasons, and simply because she is a female, Medea is treated arrogantly by the men of Corinth. Even though Euripides’ Medea is a struggle between Jason and Medea, it can also be a struggle between the male and female sexes. Medea rejects the typical gender roles she is assigned to, her past or where she lives indicates that she is no average female. She takes on masculine heroic values of vengeance, reputation and pride in her mind. At the end of the play, he carries out these features as she murders the new wife, the King, and her very own sons and escapes back to Athens to avoid the consequences of her revenge. Overall, Euripides’ Medea can be seen as a feminist play in many ways with the contradiction of Medea and Jason such as: female devotion versus masculine freedom, weakness versus independence, or intelligent versus influenced.
How Medea is seen as a feminist
Medea is seen as a feminist in the play through many example such as when, she avenges herself on Jason for betraying her after all she has done for him, and Creon for giving his daughter’s hand in marriage to Jason and wanting to expel Medea, she kills not only Creon and his daughter but also her own two sons, just to make Jason suffer even more. She is constantly dominating her situation, using her cleverness and getting exactly what she wants. One example of this is when she says to Creon: ‘Allow me to remain here just for this one day, so I may consider where to live in my exile” (Euripides 23). Thus she persuades him, by playing on his emotions and weaknesses, to let her stay in the country long enough to carry out her plans, although Creon hates her and wants her out of the country as soon as possible. Or when she makes Aegeus swear that he will give her exile. Another example of this is when she makes Jason believe she has no objections to his marriage with the princess in order to make Jason let her sons enter the palace to give the bride her present. Jason however is shown to hold almost no power at all throughout the play and cannot do anything to stop Medea from ruining his life and escaping unpunished. In many ways Medea is masculine, she does not fear going against men with high power such as Creon and her father. Medea mentions that she wishes to be treated like a man when she says: ‘I would very much rather stand three times in front of a battle than bear one child” (Euripides 44). This is also seen when she says “Or sharpen a sword and thrust it to the heart” (Euripides 45), these quotes show that she is cold-hearted and brutal, also since it is not usual for a woman to kill her own brother and children. The chorus in Medea represents the women of the society, and show Euripides’ feministic views; They support her and sympathize with her. They even encourage her to avenge Jason’s infidelity by saying she has the right to do it and continually condemning men who are unfaithful to their women. Her actions are the result of her strong emotions. She is a passionate person who follows her heart no matter the consequences, as seen when Medea betrays her father and kills her brother she is blinded by her love for Jason, later when she is full of fury and rage as a result of Jason’s disloyalty she thinks of nothing but revenge. In her outrage she kills two innocent children, which shows traces of evil in her lack of sympathy for others and her selfishness. Medea is not rational, she does not reflect wisely on her actions and acts impulsively. Having these qualities, Medea does not make a good feministic role model, simply because of her unjust actions.
In conclusion, Medea is clearly seen as a feminist text, although the text is a feminist one it does not change the fact that Medea herself is an evil person based off her unjust actions, like the murder of the king, her sons, and the bride, this is why Medea is seen as bad feminist role model.
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