In Euripides’ ancient Greek tragedy ‘Medea,’ he explores how women are disadvantaged in society in terms of welfare under the authority of men. Firstly, Euripides speaks against men dehumanising women in their pursuit of higher social standing, criticising such actions as morally wrong. Moreover, Euripides exposes how the patriarchal society places men in positions of authority, inevitably leading women to be seen as inferior. This is demonstrated through how Medea possesses power, however, due to her excessive loyalty towards her husband, she lacks to establish dominance as Jason is in possession of masculinity. Nonetheless, while Euripides exposes how men are provided with more advantages, he proclaims that male and females are equal in terms of power, as seen through Medea’s manipulation of Aegeus’ inability to father children, exploiting his vulnerability for the purpose of revenge against Jason.
Firstly, Euripides asserts that men dehumanise females in order to gain social status, criticising such actions as selfish and immoral. Euripides exposes how ancient Greek society has patriarchal values that have males prioritise social status and power over the well-being of women. Through the character Jason, it is evident that he is capable of leaving “his lady and own children” “for a princess’ bed,” showing that social status is of greater value than his own wife. In marrying the princess, Jason is able to escape poverty and place himself in the line of claiming the throne. Jason’s lack of empathy for the females in his life and desire to gain control is an extension of Euripides’ representation of men in Greek society, showing how women are disregarded when the power play of men is involved. He blatantly believes that joining his two families together would “ensure” him a life filled with “prosperity” and disrespectfully proposes it is in Medea and his children’s “best” interests. This further reflects his narcissism as his intentions proved to be most beneficial for himself as “he has gained more than [she] has”. Furthermore, Jason disregards the princess’ name and only refers to her as her noble title, indicating how her worth to him is equated only to her wealth which is of significant value. Jason exploits her nobility for self-gain as he “wanted to raise his sons in a manner ... worthy” in order to place them on an “equal footing” in fear that his children may denigrate his reputation. This further emphasises Jason’s avaricious desire for prominence and the lengths he is willing to get to in order to accomplish them--even objectifying the women in his life and taking advantage of them. Euripides portrays Jason as a man of questionable morals as a result of his misogynistic actions, as it is evident that Jason’s interests are solely focused on building social status, ultimately painting him as an egocentric figure. Hence, Euripides suggests how the selfish whims of men result in the dehumanisation of women thus allowing men to achieve a social status of substantial value, condemning such behaviours as pompous. Therefore, Euripides argues that patriarchal societies allow men to justify a woman’s importance based on their affluence.
Additionally, Euripides explores how men are the only ones in positions of authority, indicating that females have a more inferior place in society which he condemns as unjust and narrow-minded. Medea is arguably the most powerful character in terms of abilities as she is a sorceress, yet she is still subjected to the patriarchal authority of her society. Although Medea has the capacity to 'br[ing] ... many sorrows... on mankind' as 'she is no ordinary woman', it is the 'king' Creon who has the supremacy to banish her as the presiding monarch. Evidently, Creon abuses his jurisdiction by banishing Medea, a “woman” into exile as her malicious intent for revenge may cause conflict to his standing. His title as the “Corinthian King” establishes his dominance to those lower than him within the Greek social hierarchy, especially women. Thus, Medea is forced to “[sink] to her knees and [seize] Creon by the hand” indicating Creon’s wishes were fulfilled, as the threat to his 'sovereignty' was “banished” despite the significance of her sorceress powers. Nonetheless, his control as 'king' wasn’t enough to avoid the death of his daughter which he indirectly caused by igniting Medea’s thirst for revenge towards his sexist repressions. Furthermore, Medea is under the authority of Jason as 'in [marriage] she cannot refuse her husband' in spite of her 'nature being more savage than a Tuscan Scylla'. Euripides displays women as 'emotional creatures' who are meant to serve their 'husbands' and 'reproduce', thus, forcing Medea's 'love' for Jason to be 'greater than [her] wisdom' resulting in the oppression of her supernatural capabilities. Therefore, allowing Jason to degrade her self-worth as he accuses that 'without female[s], 'this would rid the world of all its troubles' in order to further establish his dominance. Clearly, the society in which Medea is in does not value strength as much as it values one's gender. However, the unfair treatment resulted in Medea's 'scowling fury', ultimately proving that although Jason is in a position of power due to his gender, it was unable to prevent the inevitable death of his children because Medea was avenging herself as a result of his misogynistic actions. Despite her immoral actions, Euripides rewards Medea with a “dragon chariot” to freedom accentuating how her power triumphed, arguing how society mistreats Medea, and by extension, the female sex and therefore should be corrected. Hence, Euripides asserts how although women may be in possession of power, the patriarchal society inevitably places men in a position of control, which Euripides warns will result in detrimental consequences. Thus, the patriarchy results in women to be inferior as males are in positions of control.
While Euripides exposes how society provides men with more advantages, he declares that female emotion triumphs over male authority, suggesting that both genders are equal in terms of physical power. Within the patriarchal society, Euripides has established, it is evident how men have supremacy over women, making them “the most miserable of specimens” as they are unable to “refuse [their] husbands” and are merely their “husband’s plaything[s]”. Whilst women are portrayed as passion-driven individuals, Euripides argues how passion is their source of empowerment which allows them to reach a point of superiority against men. It is through Jason’s betrayal of Medea’s love that led her “soul [to] hold so many thoughts of blood”. Although women are painted by their male counterparts as “timid creature[s]” who are “coward[s] when it comes to fighting” men, Medea contrasts from these incorrect stereotypes as she refuses to submissively tolerate Jason’s act of infidelity, but rather seek vengeance for the injustice he has caused her, as she wishes “him and his bride in utter ruin”. She refuses to “grieve so much for a husband” as it “wastes away your life”. Even proving she is capable of “Kill[ing] the fruit of [her] womb” and would rather “go to war than suffer childbirth once” which completely destroys her image of femininity, bringing upon her masculinity as mothers are meant to “love” their children unconditionally. Thus, Medea’s ability to acknowledge her right for revenge ultimately places her in an equal footing with the male sex as a “woman” who dares to challenge a male-centric society. However, Jason’s deception exemplified how women are significantly dependent on their “husbands” as it led Medea to question “what benefit is it to [her] to continue living”. This indicates how she is unable to understand the value of life, as she is left without a husband. Furthermore, when Medea’s love turned into a “mighty curse”, she reveals the deceptive and cunning behaviour of women as she manipulates Aegeus with the use of “honeyed words”, exploiting his inability to father children for self-gain, ultimately allowing her to destroy Jason. Therefore, Euripides suggests how the emotions of women significantly impact one’s purpose to live, exposing how such passion causes destructive suffering. Hence, through male deception, females are able to surpass male authority implying how the strength of women is dependent on the actions of men.
Ultimately, ‘Medea’ explores the unfair treatment within a patriarchal society that females receive through the selfish acts of men as they dehumanise females for self-gain. However, although males are granted with more advantages, females and males are argued to be equivalent in terms of physical abilities by Euripides. Such as how women are dehumanised by men for social status, furthermore, the patriarchy ultimately forces women in an inferior state as well. However, Medea demonstrates how women who act upon their passion will be driven to become stronger than men. Hence, Euripides criticises the patriarchal society as corrupt.