MEDEA Essay, Research Paper

Medea: Summary

Title of Work: Medea

Country/Culture: Greek

Literary Period: Classical

Type of Literature (genre): Drama/Tragedy

Author: Euripides

Authorial information:

Euripides was born in 484 BC and took up drama at the young age of

25. At most drama competitions, however his plays came in last

place until he was about 45 or 50 years old. In his entire life,

he wrote 92 plays of which only five received first place awards

at competition. Euripides despised women. He had been married

twice to unfaithful women and had three sons. This hate of women

is shown in his work of Medea.

Author’s unique style:

Euripides’ characterization of women is considered unique in the

play Medea because the tragic Hero/ine – in this case Jason and

Medea in each one’s own sense – is done over by a woman after

cheating on her with the princess of the King of Corinth. He

places emphasis on human emotions and individual psychology in

order to help the reader produce a clear picture of the

characters. Medea features strong dramatic situations and a

stirring part for the heroine, whose attitude of feminine pride

and tradition is still popular in today’s world.


The entire play takes place on the island of Corinth in present

day Greece. Individual places such as Medea/Jason’s home, and the

palace of the king and princess are also spoken of and used in the

play. It has an ancient Greek setting as well.

Theme: “What goes around comes around.”

The theme of revenge in the sense of Medea’s strong desire to seek

revenge on Jason.

Another possible theme of Medea may be that at times a punishment

of revenge should justify the crime – no matter how severe. Only

a person in such a situation (and greater beings) may know what to

action to take in this position.


Medea – The strong willed woman who would do anything for her

husband is victimized by him and turns deadly. After going to a

great extent to help Jason – killing people to be with him and

married to him – he turns around and marries a younger princess

and leaves Medea and their two children with nothing. This deeply

angers Medea – her tragic flaw appears to be an over excessive

sense of revenge – who goes absolutely berserk and kills the

princess and her children to get back at Jason for leaving her.

She is very decisive and intelligent and had thought through her

actions against Jason before carrying them out.

Jason – The Husband of Medea who leaves her for another woman -

the King of Corinth’s daughter – claiming it would be better for

both Medea and their children if he “got in good with the king”.

Jason obviously is not caring about his wife who actually killed

to be with him. He does however still love his children. His

flaw of apathy or the fact that he is not perseverant causes his

downfall when Medea has his wife (the princess) murdered as well

as his children. This causes Jason to be extremely disturbed -

but it is deserved.

King Aegeus – The present King of Athens who is very sympathetic.

He is friends with Medea and understands her problem. He tells

her that she may come to Athens and seek refuge if she pleases.

He has no children and asks if she will “provide him with some”.

In this sense, he is a jolly fellow who assists friends in time of

need. He also provides Medea with a place to go and be protected

after she goes on her killing rampage.

Nurse – The Nurse plays a somewhat minor role and yet influences

the story of Medea. She is employed by Medea to look after the

children but the Nurse also gossips and provides advice and

assistance to Medea. She provides the audience with background

information on the play and puts pieces together of the “big

picture.” The Nurse begs Medea to not do anything rash because of

Jason but says that she knows Medea will so that foreshadows the

though of tragedy in the play. She also sympathizes Medea but as

soon as Medea is not looking, the Nurse criticizes her as being

somewhat over reactive.

King Creon – King Creon finds disfavor on Medea for many reasons.

Most of all he believes she may decide to kill his daughter out of



? “O God, do you hear it, this persecution, these my sufferings

from this hateful woman, this monster, murderess of children?

Still what I can do that I will do: I will lament and cry upon

heaven, calling the gods to bear me witness how you have killed my

boy prevent me from touching their bodies or giving them burial.

I wish I had never begot them to see them Afterward slaughtered by

you.”- Page 46 Jason crying out to Medea who had killed their two

children to revenge what Jason had done to Medea (cheated on

her). This quote exhibits the idea of a tragic hero. Jason, in

other stories is by far a hero; a common practice amongst Greeks

is to have more than one wife. Medea goes overboard and kills

Jason’s other life and the two children he and Medea had. This

quote shows his misery over the loss of his children.

? “Do not, O my heart, you must not do these things! Poor

heart, let them go, have pity upon the children.” – Page 34 Medea

here is showing her frustration over whether or not to kill her

children to seek revenge on Jason. This exhibits Medea’s internal


? “Zeus in Olympus is the overseer of many doings. Many things

the gods achieve beyond our judgement. What we thought is not

confirmed and what we thought not god contrives. And so it

happens in this story.” – Page 47 This quote from the Chorus

exhibits the theme of the play Medea that the gods only know what

is best and that at times what may seem absurd and excessive may

actually be the best possible thing for a person.


Tragedy – a play, novel, or other narrative depicting serious and

important events, in which the main character comes to an unhappy


An example of tragedy is the work Medea by Euripides in which a

woman who is angry with her husband for leaving her so she kills

the woman he left her for and also kills her own two children she

had with Jason to seek revenge on him for leaving her. In this

way, two tragic heroes exist. Medea – in this story may be the

tragic hero, sacrificing her two children for revenge on Jason.

Jason as well may be considered the tragic hero from former

stories because he loses his wife, “girlfriend,” and children.

Tragic hero – the main character in a traditional tragedy, h/she

is usually dignified, courageous and often high ranking. The

tragic hero usually wins some self-knowledge and wisdom, although

he or she suffers defeat possibly even death.

Medea can be considered to have two tragic heroes. Medea – in

this story may be the tragic hero, sacrificing her two children

for revenge on Jason. Jason as well may be considered the tragic

hero from former stories because he loses his wife, “girlfriend,”

and two children.

Internal conflict – a struggle between opposing needs desires, or

emotions with a single character.

Medea is indecisive whether to kill her two children to achieve

revenge on Jason or that she loves them enough not to sacrifice

them. She eventually comes to the decision that her children

should be killed in order to revenge Jason for what he did to her.

Plot Summary:

Medea, a play written by the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides is

a classic tragic play in which the tragic heroine suffers after

gaining the knowledge she has been searching for. Medea, the

tragic heroine, takes revenge on her husband whom she had

practically killed for to be with, after he “cheats” on her with a

princess. The theme of the classical drama could be stated as

“what goes around; comes around.” It takes place on the island of

Corinth – a place in Greece – about fifth century BC. The play,

rather brief, shows that the author’s experiences with women

carried over into his writings as well as his life.

The play opens with Medea’s Nurse indirectly giving background

information to the story about to unfold. It is quickly

understood by the audience that Jason, the husband of Medea, for

whom she disowned her family and had killed for, has left her for

the King of Corinth (Creon’s) daughter – a beautiful princess.

Medea is outraged by this and is set on seeking revenge on him.

King Creon tells Medea that she will be exiled from the island of

Corinth because he fears for the safety of his daughter. Medea,

however, does not want to leave. She comes to an agreement with

King Aegeus – King of Athens – where she will be able to seek

refuge in the city-state of Athens after her exile from Corinth.

He extends his hospitality to her quite generously. By this time,

Medea has become to formulate a plan to seek revenge on Jason.

Medea’s plan is to kill Jason’s new bride and his two children she

had bore for him and then flee for Athens. The chorus tries to

console Medea and tell her not to do such horrid things to other

people particularly her children. Medea ignores their request and

is stuck with the decision of whether or not to kill her

children. She loves them and does not want to but she knows she

must kill them to get back at her husband who had wronged her

though she had done so much for him.

She goes through with the act of killing Jason’s new bride -

Medea’s children bring her a poisoned gown, which also ends up

killing the King of Corinth. – And then faces the tough act of

murdering her own children who she loves dearly. She does the

awful deed and refuses to allow Jason access to their bodies to

bury them or the ability to say goodbye to them. Ah_ Sweet


This story follows the usual Greek tragedy plot and story line and

Euripides conveys his idea of a woman well. The concept of a

dominant female is still applicable in today’s world. Medea is

still a popular story today because of this. The theme may not be

one, which is “good” – that of revenge – but in the case of Medea

it works well.

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