Looking at Medea: Essays and a translation of Euripides' tragedy
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Euripides' Medea is one of the most often read, studied and performed of all Greek tragedies. A searingly cruel story of a woman's brutal revenge on a husband who has rejected her for a younger and richer bride, it is unusual among Greek dramas for its acute portrayal of female psychology. Medea can appear at once timeless and strikingly modern. Yet, the play is very much a product of the political and social world of fifth century Athens and an understanding of its original context, as well as a consideration of the responses of later ages, is crucial to appreciating this work and its legacy. This collection of essays by leading academics addresses these issues, exploring key themes such as revenge, character, mythology, the end of the play, the chorus and Medea's role as a witch. Other essays look at the play's context, religious connotations, stagecraft and reception. The essays are accompanied by David Stuttard's English translation of the play, which is performer-friendly, accessible yet accurate and closely faithful to the original.
Pronomos Vase, showing a tiara on an actor’s mask, top left (© Leemage/UIG via Getty Images) 55 56 Looking at Medea which will end in Medea killing her children. As she puts it, on hearing about the deaths her gifts have caused: ‘My friends, the die is cast. I must lose no time now, but I must kill my children and so ﬂee this land’ (1236f). The audience’s response to these signiﬁcant objects could have been mediated through the performance history of the Dionysia and the previous use of both
with. You must not let Jason’s marriage make you a laughing stock among Corinthians, compatriots of Sisyphus, for you trace your family from a noble father and from Helios, the Sun. So get to work. Medea’s other special relationship is with her grandfather Helios, who, indeed, lends her the chariot in which she can escape at the end of the play. The Sun is also invoked by Aegeus, when he swears his oath to Medea, as it is by many other oath-takers in Greek tragedy, and this reﬂects standard
brother into agreeing to send Oparre back to her country. This Jason character thus does not abandon his wife for another woman, but surrenders to the forces of hatred and materialism. Oparre remains loyal and pleads with Nathaniel to return with her, even if they are penniless. But Nathaniel is not strong enough. He has been aﬀected by the attitude of his family and the other Puritans and now even feels some of the racial prejudice himself. The resolution of the drama takes a similar path to
omission of a chorus, but the most striking aspect of the French play is the reinterpretation of the relationship between Médée and Jason. Jason’s new marriage is not the root cause of the rupture of their relationship, but the ﬁnal symptom of an unbearable tension that has been building up between them for years. Médée’s outsider status is indicated by making her a gypsy, squatting in a caravan outside the town. Her hatred for Jason is vividly depicted, but this is the other side of her ﬁerce
yet to come. For in this getting of a husband is the greatest lottery of all – will he be cruel or good? There are no ways a woman can divorce and keep her honour, and she can’t deny her husband. So she comes to a strange house, a whole new set of rules and expectations – and she needs to be clairvoyant, for she’s not learned this at home: how best she should break in her husband. And if in this great undertaking we succeed, so that our husband lives contentedly and does not ﬁght against the