Medea written by Euripides is based through Greek society where only men were allowed to take part in politics, law and war. Men were regarded as superior to women, but were not seen as equal to each other and saw themselves as very strong, powerful humans. Male power is the capability or ability for men to direct or influence the behavior of women. This idea of male power is explored through Medea and is very significant to the play as it is demonstrated through the characters Jason, Creon and Aegeus. The reader acknowledges that this incorporation of male power is significant in shaping Medea’s actions and the entirety of the play. Euripides captures the idea of male power through Jason and Creon representing men in this society and Aegeus as a contrast to men’s position in this time.
Jason is identified as a symbol of the intensely patriarchal society of this time, he views himself as superior and more powerful to women especially Medea. In this play, Jason illustrates his power and control over Medea and the drastic effects this causes on their relationship. He abuses his power to gain control and abandon Medea, and despite his justifications, he demonstrates that his primary reason for abandoning Medea and marrying the mistress is to “ensure [his] prosperity” (Euripides, 2003, line 65) illustrating his only desire is economic and status, moving up the ladder. He abuses his power with the desire of maintaining his status. Medea truthfully states to him that it “was the marriage to a foreigner that [he] felt would detract from that great name of [his]” (Euripides, 2003, line 93). Here, Medea outlines the truth and reason and introduces the main idea of his true intentions behind his betrayal and the divorce; this demonstrates Jason’s power over women manipulating them to maintain his own status. Jason speaks to Medea in a derogatory mocking tone as he views himself as superior and more powerful to women and is more concerned with defending his indefensible actions and appear the victim, demonstrating the male power of the society.
Jason’s power causes anger and revenge to build up catastrophically, this power motivates Medea to commit certain actions. The nurse “already saw her glaring at [her children] like a bull, as if she wanted to do something awful” (Euripides, 2003, line 92) this demonstrates the torment Jason puts Medea through, foreshadowing the events of the play adding dramatic tension for the reader and building the anticipation of the coming events. This demonstrates that male power is significant in the play Medea as it illustrates what the extent of Jason’s power is and how he utilizes this to destroy Medea influencing her to take revenge and ponder on awful actions. Additionally, the incorporation of animalistic imagery “like a bull” demonstrates how the society isolates women like Medea resulting in them feeling less significant and isolated from society. This imagery is incorporated to enhance and alter the reader’s perception of Medea. Here, Euripides draws comparisons between Medea and a bull, for the reader this illustrates her as a powerful and violent male-like animal. This establishes the effect Jason’s power has on Medea and the feud this causes between them. It indicates the intensity and anger built up from the abandonment and isolation caused from society and Jason. Medea states “women are the most miserable of specimens!” (Euripides, 2003, line 230) demonstrating that the power men hold of women is incredibly frustrating and the treatment of women is extremely horrifying in this time. Medea appears to be envious of the freedom men have and the physical power that they hold.
Although, through the play, Medea demonstrates the female power she possesses which overrule Jason’s male power, Medea possess emotional and mental power over Jason. She claims that she would “rather face the enemy three times over than bear a child once.” (Euripides, 2003, line 150). This proves that women are stronger and braver then men despite the stereotypes of men in this society holding a stronger sense of power than women. The power from male characters influences Medea to become stronger as a character.
In Medea, Creon represents that idea that men were superior in society and may do what they please. He encourages Jason to marry his daughter and is not concerned that Jason would be breaking a sacred oath he has with Medea. He then attempts to banish Medea showing no empathy towards her. He uses his power to banish them to protect Jason and himself from Medea’s possible revenge and retribution for those crimes. His use of derogatory language towards Medea for instance “you there, Medea” (Euripides, 2003, line 271) belittles Medea resulting in her feeling powerless and insignificant. His fear of Medea is the primary reason for banishing Medea as proven when he states, “I fear you” (Euripides, 2003, line 281), this is ironic as Creon fears Medea despite being a women, yet men were typically viewed as superior at this time. The incorporation of irony for the reader is to emphasize the idea of male power and develop the reader’s interest in the character of Creon. It is deemed ironic as the King fears Medea and uses his power to banish her due to his fear, revealing Creon’s emotional weakness as he allows Medea to overpower him emotionally. Creon fears that Medea will “do some harm to the three of [them], [his] daughter, her new husband and [himself]” (Euripides, 2003, line 287) foreshadowing the final events of the play and allowing the reader to gain insight into the actions Medea will commit. It creates suspense and allows the reader to prepare for the death of the characters.
Creon is significant to the play Medea as he embodies the patriarchal society and displays no sympathy towards her. His actions reinforce the harsh, selfish nature of males in this society towards foreigners and women. Through the passage Creon banishes Medea yet is willing to “grant [her] request” enabling her evil doing and giving her the right to stay in Corinth for one more day. Here, the reader is able to acknowledge the fault in Creon’s male power as he allows Medea to gain more power over him. Creon is aware that by allowing her to stay he is “making a mistake” (Euripides, 2003, line 337) and he recognizes what she is capable of. However, through this grant of request Creon makes a massive error by provoking her anger and allowing her to stay in close proximity giving her power to hurt him. Since, he is aware of his mistake, the reader recognizes that he does not have the strength of willpower to do what must be done with Medea. Euripides, identifies to us the Medea is stronger and possess stronger willpower than that of Creon. Euripides demonstrates that Medea is much stronger, powerful and forceful than that of the male King. As displayed again, irony is used to identify to the reader that this is not the primary view of society at the time and emphasizes that this is the opposite view. Medea has overpowered the King using his weakness and manipulating him with her use of skillful convincing language. Thus, Creon is significant as he represents the fault in men and the idea that women like Medea can manipulate to gain power.
Aegeus is a minor character through the play however is primary role is to act as a savior through the play, which contrasts significantly between the other male characters. He offers a place of refuge in Athens for Medea, which was unsolicited behavior at this time. The appearance of Aegeus in the play is significant and marks an important turning point. He is sympathetic towards Medea and disgraced by Jason’s behavior unlike other men in this society. Aegeus defies the natural actions of a man, and is surprised to hear of Jason’s betrayal. Medea and Aegeus bound an oath in order to assist each other. Medea manipulates Aegeus in gaining power. In this time, intelligence was not highly regarded as characteristics for women. Despite this, Aegeus “swear[s] by Earth and the bright light of Helios and all the gods” swearing to the Gods to give Medea refuge. This serves to highlight the motif of oaths and the broken oaths that Jason and Medea had bound together. Thus, Aegeus provides a contrast to the men in society as he seeks to help Medea.
It can be viewed, therefore, that the characters of Jason and Creon portray the significance of male power through the play Medea. They use their power to overrule women and foreigners and disregard Medea to gain and maintain their status. Here, male power is highly significant as it stands to represent the context at the time and builds on Medea as a character as she defies the role of women at this time. Aegeus, is an important minor character as he stands as a powerful contrast to Jason and Creon and does not conform to the patriarchal society.