The story revolves around a woman who seeks vengeance against betrayal by her lover. The play is set in the city of Corinth where the lady Medea has been invited to by Jason following the Golden Fleece. Jason decides to leave her for another woman, Glauce whose father happens to be a King.
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In the opening scene of the play, Medea is beating herself over the loss and present to console her is an elderly nurse. The nurse tries to console her and she is afraid that Medea might end up harming herself and her kids. King Creon, Glauce’s father has gotten wind of the incident and he shows up with the intention of sending her to exile. He is extremely afraid of what she might do.
Later, Jason arrives, sits her down and tries to explain his actions. He justifies what he did saying that it would have been unreasonable for him to let the chance to marry a princess pass him by. Medea is barbarian and according to Jason, there is no pride in marrying her. He however supposes that in the future he could consolidate the two households and maintain Medea as a mistress.
He promises to take care of her even after he is married to the princess. Medea and fellow women do not trust his word and she goes ahead to remind him that she moved away from her people on his account and that she was her salvation from the dragon.
In the succeeding scenes, the King of Athens pays Medea a visit and he is saddened by the fact that he does not have children. Medea promises to help his wife conceive as long as he promises to offer her protection. As scenes unfold, Medea strategizes on how best to kill King Creon and his daughter Glauce. She finally decides to poison them by placing some toxic substances in the royal robes.
She hopes that both father and daughter will be poisoned once they put on the attires. She also plans to kill both her children as an act of revenge against Jason. Her plot to kill King Creon and Glauce materializes and she also manages to murder her two sons. Knowing very well that Jason will be looking to kill her after the heinous actions she packs up and escapes to Athens taking the children’s bodies with her.
The play is written in a style that suits the time in which the events were based. The constant interaction between human beings and gods follows the trends of most Greek mythologies and the action of the play happens unbelievably. It is however hard for anyone modern times to see the justification of Medea’s deeds. It almost seems selfish that she decided to cruelly kill her children and then run off to another city to continue with life as usual.
The story appears to show the challenges that women face in a dominantly patriarchal society and tries to explore the inner strengths that women can summon in their defence. Euripides uses Medea’s unique character to bring out the themes of passion and revenge.
The element of class distinction is also well illustrated with Medea’s barbaric heritage being contrasted with Glauce’s royal lineage. Euripides clearly illustrates that the higher class will always strive to maintain dominance over the low class even if it means sometimes forcefully taking the desirable acquisitions that the lower class have secured.