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Medea: The Treatment To Women In Ancient Society

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In the play Medea, the author Euripides emphasizes that the harsh treatment the main character, Medea, receives throughout the play reflects how women are treated in Greek society. The hardships of women in Greek society can be mainly seen by Medea passionate soliloquies. Medea speaks about how looked down upon, due to the fact that she a woman from a foreign country that holds more intellect than most men in the city where she currently resides. Even Jason, her husband, betrays her trust by marrying another woman because he deems her as useless to him. Though it causes Medea great despair, the people around her do not frown upon Jason for finding another woman even though he already has one. Instead, these people advise Medea that she is overreacting and that she should forgive Jason so she can live a financially stable life with her children. These reactions show that is was normal in Greek society for a man to have more than one wife because they had the power to do whatever they pleased while women were given nothing.

During this time period, women were seen as inferior to men because they were considered weaker and were given no equal rights. Even placing a female as the main character in a story was unheard of during this time period because it was always educated, strong men that were the main characters of every single story. However, Euripides rejects societal views by showing how crucial women are to males through Medea. Even though he was looked down upon for bringing attention toward the treatment of women in society, he continued to create the path toward feminismReaders can interpret that Medea is a strong woman who can be perceived as ‘hero’ for speaking up about the inhuman roles that women are expected to do and their importance in the lives of men.

Deep in despair, she complains to the Chorus, a group of women that live in town, that men are ignorant so they cannot comprehend the difficulty of birthing a child. She states, “They say that we live lives free from danger while they go out to fight wars with spears, but their logic is flawed. I would rather stand shield to shield three times than give birth just once,” (258-261). Medea shows that the pain women must suffer through is dangerous when giving childbirth by saying that she would rather go to war three times than to give birth to one child. During this time era, there were no technological advancements like the ones we have today. Many times, women were likely to die during childbirth due to complications. Childbirth was very dangerous and more often than not, had effects on the mothers, such as death and paralyzation. So, Medea urges other women to wonder if childbirth is really worth the risk of their life if they are just doing because their husbands told them to. By saying “three times than give birth just once” Medea emphasizes that childbirth is not twice, but three times more painful than fighting in a war. Since fighting in wars is a man’s duty, the author’s choice of words shows that the job of a man is three times easier than the job of a woman. So women should receive the credit they deserve by men if they are going through the difficulty and excruciating labor of childbirth.

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Medea continues to complain about the role women play in society without holding anything back by saying, “First, we must buy a husband at a high price and take a master over our bodies, an even more painful evil than the other” (242-244). Medea is comparing that the process of getting a husband is like buying yourself to be sold into slavery. Women cannot have the benefit of choosing whether they want a husband or not because having a husband is crucial in Greek society during this era. It was a law that women had to be represented by a guardian, who was normally the women’s fathers or husbands. Women were not given rights to be independent or take care of themselves. So in order for a woman to ensure her survival, she must flatter a man into becoming her husband with either money or personality.

Personality wise, women must be obedient because men view women as their trophy and believe that the only reason for their existence is to give birth. Men “take a master over our bodies’ suggest that a husband’s ownership even goes to the extent that the bodies of their wife/wives do not belong to them anymore. Men control what they want and put a label on what they deem is necessary to claim in order to make women feel dependent on them. The powerful diction of the use of the word ‘evil’ suggests that the thought of a woman’s body not belonging to them anymore is far worse than the process of gaining a husband. Taking possession of a body completely breaks a woman because it is their pride and joy. Once you break it, it will never be the same again and women will feel helpless.

However, They must comply with the wishes of their husbands or else they will face the dire consequence of violence and abuse.The roles are women are completely unjust and Euripides wants to show other men that women should be treated as equals rather than inferior. Medea contradicts the role of a typical woman in Greek society by showing off how important she is to Jason, her husband. When Medea and Jason are arguing, she tells him, “You got all this from me, you the worst of men, and then you betrayed me…” (514-516). Medea truly believes that Jason would not have been able to achieve anything great in his life without her help. For example, when Medea and Jason first met he tricked her into falling in love with him because he was on a journey to obtain the golden fleece from her father. After Medea played right into his hands, she stole the golden fleece for him and they sailed away together. She helped Jason achieve anything he desired because she was clouded by love. She did all the dirty work for Jason and gave him everything he could have ever wanted while he was off being praised for her gift of prophecy. She blindly followed Jason’s commands and it left her with nothing and him with everything.

The treatment Medea receives in the play does reflect how women are treated in society, but it does not mean that it has to continue this way. Euripides conveys to his audience that Medea represents the truth behind the woman in their society, they are strong and influential. Men need to learn how to appreciate women and realize their great potential. While more women need to understand how to stand up for themselves and what they believe in.

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