Medea by Euripides | Plot Summary

Crazed Mother
Medea relates to real life if you watch the news and hear about ex-lovers ending their relationships with murder or suicide. Medea is willing to sacrifice everything to make her revenge perfect. Medea shows her complete necessity for revenge when she says, “anyone running between me and my justice will reap what no man wants.” Not only does she kill two children, she kills her own two innocent children, because she does not want the kids in Jason’s hands. This type of crazed revenge is seen too often in today’s society. The play Medea can be interpreted as a crazy mother who takes her heart broken anger out on her own innocent children.

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At the beginning of the play, the Nurse talks about the years when Medea and Jason were in love. She mentions how she was broken by saying, “but Jason has turned from her; he calls the old bond a barbarian mating, not a Greek marriage.” Jason harshly betrays Medea and it is obvious that it is going to lead to violence and rage when Medea says, “And when I have ruined the whole of Jason’s house, I shall leave the land and flee from the murder of my Dear children, and I shall have done a dreadful deed.” Medea has set her plan to ruin Jason’s life by taking her childrens’.
Jason is very arrogant, but is he really the hero he is made up to be? Medea knows she made Jason who he is when she says, “I gave him success and fame; I saved him his precious life, not once, many times…I betrayed my father for him, I killed my brother to save him.” The reason why Jason is where he is at in his life is because of Medea. She did all the dirty work for Jason, but he repays her by running off and marrying the beautiful girl. Jason does not understand that the reason he holds power is from Medea. This arrogance is one of the reasons why Medea is so enraged at Jason.
Medea gives many hints throughout the play of her final act of retaliation. As the story progresses the need to seek revenge also builds inside of her. The initial signs of Medea’s potential behavior appear at the beginning of the play when the Nurse tells how Medea is emotionally hurt. The Nurse says, “But Medea lies in the house, broken with pain and rage; she will neither eat nor drink.” It is completely natural to want revenge on something that has stung you in the past. Medea comes right out and tells Jason that something is going to happen, “Something might happen. It is…likely…that something might happen to the bride and the marriage.” Medea bluntly tells Jason that something will happen to disrupt his marriage and she will have revenge for what Jason has done to her.
Medea showed her first signs of craziness when she killed her family members and others to get what she wanted. She offers more signs of her future behavior when she screams out in her mind about what she will do, “What I need: all dead, all dead, all dead, under the great cold stones. For a year and a thousand years and another thousand: cold as stones, cold, but noble again, proud, strait, and silent, crimson-cloaked in the blood of our wounds.” Medea wants all that have betrayed her to be dead. Even though Jason is still living, his pride and everything he had, like his children and the princess, is dead. She says that once it has all been completed she will be proud, and noble. This self-reflection is a major give away toward her crazy inner soul.
In Medea, the three Corinthian women often show signs that they are afraid of Medea. One of the Corinthian women says, “They say she is dangerous. Look at her eyes.” The women tell us that Medea is filled with crazed rage and will do something dangerous. One of the Corinthian women says, “Women hate war, but men will wage it again. Women may hate their husbands, and sons, and fathers, but women will never hate their children.” This statement says that Medea will hate her husband, but she did not hate her children even though she killed them, and this is ultimately what makes her crazy.
Medea also shows many heroic qualities, especially when she is willing to kill her own brother to be with Jason. When she kills her brother, she shows that she is willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. Medea has been not only cheated, but also betrayed by Jason. She will not tolerate this abuse from him and does something about it. Medea says to Creon, “You see a woman driven half mad with sorrow, laboring to save her little children.” Medea builds up enough courage to confront Jason and get revenge.
There are two main reasons why Medea decides to kill her children. The first is that she feels that it is a perfect way to complement the death of the princess in getting revenge on Jason. When she tells the chorus of the plans to kill the children, they wonder if she has the heart to kill her children, and Medea answers, “yes, for this is the best way to wound my husband.” This shows that she believes that by killing her children, she will basically ruin Jason’s life and succeed in her revenge. The second reason for Medea killing her children has nothing to do with revenge. If she left her children with Jason, they would be living in a society that would look down upon them since they do not have pure goddess origins. Since she does not want to leave her children with Jason, they really have no place else to go, “my children, there is none who can give them safety.” Medea decides that killing her children is the best way to get both revenge, and the assurance that her children are not in Jason’s hands.
Medea ends the play with her crazed mind when she stabs her two innocent kids to death. She confronts Jason with the dead children and taunts him as she walks on saying, “I do not leave my children’s bodies with thee; I take them with me that I may bury them in Hera’s precinct. And for thee, who didst me all that evil, I prophesy an evil doom.” Medea shows her craziness throughout the entire play.

Euripides Hippolytus Essay

Illustrate the importance of the themes of self-control, shame and desire in Euripides’ Hippolytus. How does Euripides connect these themes to the world of the Athenian audience?
Euripides’ Hippolytus (1972) is a paradoxical play that, at its heart, deals with the outcomes of conflicting human emotion. As Charles Segal suggests in his study Euripides and the Poetics of Sorrow (1993) commensurate with a great many of the playwright’s other works – Alcestis, Hecuba etc., Hippolytus examines the divisions and conflicts of male and female experience (and) all three also experiment with the limits of the tragic form (Segel, 1993: 3).

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There are no clear cut moral demarcations in Hippolytus,the ethical sense and movement of the piece is symbolised by the figures of Aphrodite and Artemis who straddle the drama both symbolically and physically being as they are present in both the first and last scenes. As we shall see,the outcomes of the narrative veer more towards a psychological questioning of what it is to be human than any moral proselytizing and the characters show both weakness and strength in their dealing with the Gods and their quixotic natures. With this in mind, in this essay I would like to look at this concept in Hippolytus but more specifically how it relates to the notions of self control, shame and desire, all subjects that form an integral part of the drama’s ultimate socio-ethical meaning.
Firstly, I will look at the drama itself, attempting to illustrate and draw out instances of moral thinking within it, then I will move on to examine the ways in which these are blurred and made complicated by Euripides before going to suggest ways in which this might have been specifically tailored as both a critique and a lesson to the contemporary Athenian audience.
Aristotle, in his Poetics(1965) calls Euripides our most tragic of poets (1965: 49) chiefly through the misfortune that befalls many of his leading characters at the conclusions of his dramas. However, Aristotle also criticises Euripides for the faulty management of other aspects of the plot, and the moral and ethical position of his characters must be one of these. Let us, for instance, consider the character of Hippolytus himself. On the surface, he seems to fulfil the rubric set by Aristotle that states a tragic hero must be better than average (Aristotle,1965: 52) in terms of morality and humanity; Hippolytus is a follower of Artemis, the Greek goddess of constancy and self control, as is stated by Aphrodite in the opening passages:
that son of Theseus born of the Amazon, Hippolytus, who holy Pitteus taught, alone of the all the dwellers in this land of Rroezen, calls me the vilest of the deities. Love he scorns, and , as for marriage, will none of it. (Euripides, 1972: 225)
It is this self control that is the main focus of the play, as Hippolytus is shown to be, as Aristotle states of better than average moral worth. However, there are subtle psychological suggestions that beneath the external veneer of moral constancy, Hippolytus is as weak and as human as his audience. We can witness, for example his misogynistic tirade after the Nurse reveals Phaedra’s actions:
Great Zeus, why didst thou, to man’s sorrow, put woman, evil and counterfeit, to dwell where shines the sun? If thou wert minded that the human race should multiply, it was not from women they should have drawn their stock (Euripides, 1972: 230)
This scene could be interpreted, as indeed Barnes and Sutherland do in Hippolytus in Drama and Myth (1960:82)as the reaction of an overtly moral consciousness to the very object he sees as threatening it. However, this scene could also be indicative of what Melanie Klein called projection (Klein, 1991; 1997) in which the subject attributes traits and failings of their own self to another. With this in mind, it is easy to see that what one witnesses in Hippolytus’ misogyny is much deeper than a mere hatred of women and the projection of his own self hatred, brought about by the constant repression of his desire.
This, at once, adds a psychological layer of complexity to Euripides’ characters and also distinguishes them from the, relatively, simplistic tenants of Aristotle.
What then are the outcomes of Hippolytus’ moral conflicts? What are the tragic results? According to Aristotle, the tragedy is characterised by a change in fortune from prosperity to misery (Aristotle, 1965: 48) and we can see this is certainly the case with a number of the characters. Theseus makes this journey in what we could think of as a typically Attic manner. We can note his initial moral position as being one of conviction as he defends the honour of his wife against the perceived laxity of his son, as in this passage:
Behold this man; he, my own son, hath outraged mine honour, his guilt most clearly proved by my dead wife (Euripides, 1972: 232)
We can also see, however, that this is short lived, as we become witness to what Aristotle called the anagnores is,or the discovery; the goddess Artemis being the facilitator of this action. In the character of Phaedra, however, this situation is, to an extent, reversed. She begins the play as an innocent victim of Aphrodite’s wish to reap revenge on Hippolytus:
Aphrodite: So Phaedra is to die, an honoured death t’is true., but still to die; for I will not let her suffering outweigh the payment of such a forfeit by my foes as shall satisfy my honour. (Aristotle, 1972: 225)
Of course, because of this it is Phaedre’s desire that is the motivating force behind the tragedy. She is, in many ways, the human manifestation of the drives of Aphrodite as Hippolytus is of Artemis. Like Hippolytus, also however, she is caught between the two poles of desire and self control by, firstly, not acting upon her sexual drives and,secondly, by committing suicide. It is only in her letter that, ultimately,damns Hippolytus, that she shows her true nature:
I can no longer keep the cursed tale within the portal of my lips, cruel though its utterance be. Ah me! Hippolytus hath dared by brutal force to violate my honour, recking naught of Zeus, whose awful eye is all over. (Euripides, 1972: 232)
Phaedre’s character here alters from one of innocent victim of the gods to one of false accuser. Interpreted in a contemporary light, however, could we not suggest that her actions are not the products of an innate maliciousness but of her own shame? Trapped between the desires instilled in her by Aphrodite and that which she knows is socially correct she not only chooses to take her own life but, in a psychological sense, refuses to acknowledge her sin. Again Euripides displays the concept of projection only this time it is Phaedre’s self loathing and shame that is projected onto Hippolytus.
The enormity of this act, the sexual longing of an older woman for a younger man and the suggestion of an incestuous relationship is stressed by James Morwood in his essay on Euripides:
The Athenian legal speeches attest to the domestic conflicts to which this could lead. But it could also cause sexual confusion, and the canonical Greek articulation of the illicit love of a married woman for a single man, the famous love of Phaedra for Hippolytus, is compounded by the quasi-incestuous connotations of the step parent-stepchild bond. (Morwood, 1997)
In this, the play must have had a definite political subtext to it; Euripides serving as a guardian of public morality, suggesting that tragedy arises out of illicit love between near family members.
There is, however, another deeper meaning to play, I think, and one that would be just as relevant to an Athenian audience as a warning against incest. What we see in the play’s structure, in its very narrative form, are circles within circles. Each character, ultimately suffers and they suffer not only from their individual desires, shames and lack of self control but through each other’s. Phaedre suffers through her desire for Hippolytus and through the actions of the Nurse, Hippolytus suffers through the actions of his father and stepmother and Theseus suffers through the actions of his wife and son. Through structuring his narrative in such an interconnected way Euripides suggests that personal desire and lack of self control affects not only the individual but those around them; we are, in a sense, connected and our actions resonant outwards to those around us.
As Sophie Mills suggests in her study Theseus, Tragedy and the Athenian Empire (1997: 19) there is a further thread to the play, one that concerns the relationship man has to the Gods. It must not be forgotten that the tragedy in Hippolytus ultimately emanates from the Goddess Aphrodite, it is her actions after all that sets in motion the entire drama. The two Goddess, as I stated in the earlier parts of this paper, form a binary that entraps the main characters of the play and forces them along predestined paths. Euripides’ ultimate philosophical subtext is, then, one of man’s position to the Gods and to the fate that they represent and he achieves this by not only the psychological polarity that the characters find themselves in but also a physical polarity of the two Goddesses.
As Mills suggests, the character of Theseus, in many ways, represents the very populace of Athens:
Where he is the representative of Athens in tragedy, Theseus embodies Athenian civilization in all its manifestations, so that he is usually less an individual character with his own fate than a symbol of Athenian virtue. He is consistently given characteristics which are considered as especially commendable in Athenian (and often Greek) thought, and such characteristics are usually marked as uniquely Athenian, (Mills, 1997: 57)
Could Euripides be offering a warning to his Athenian audience concerning their own desires and self control?After all, the sexual desire and control of Hippolytus and Phaedre pails into insignificance when compared to those of Theseus who loses control and loses as on. Could Euripides also be warning his audience about the vagaries of the Gods and gently reminding them of their humanity both in terms of their self restraint and in their mutability?
As we have seen, Euripides’ drama is a complex and, surprisingly, contemporary play suggesting as it does a wide variety of critical and psychological areas; from Melanie Klein’s notions on projection of one’s own frustrations and self hatred, to Aristotle’s concepts of anagnoresis and tragic heroes; from issues concerning Athenian politics to their moral and ethical systems. It is, however, in the combination of the set hings that, I think, Euripides achieves the play’s true meaning. The complexity of life is mirrored in Hippolytus by the complexity of the character’s interconnected lives and finely wrought psychologies that must have been as affecting to an Athenian audience as a modern one.

The Role of Women in Medea by Euripides

In the ancient Greek tragedy Medea by Euripides, Jason is given the task to capture the Golden Fleece and needs Medea’s help for this task, so she helps him using her magical powers. Not only does she help him, she falls in love with him, and marries him. She also went against her family and left them “All those she betrayed / when she left with the man who now rejects her” (lines 32-33). Medea then makes plans to murder Pelias and the couple becomes exiled from Corinth. They have two children together, but Jason wants to become more powerful. He then leaves Medea to marry the princess of Corinth. He says he wants to give his children protection by fathering royal siblings. This leaves Medea feeling betrayed. From then on, she wants revenge. She planned to kill the mistress and her children to hurt Jason. Women of ancient Greek have limited roles and this makes Medea angry. These limitations causes her to act out. The role of ancient Greek women are not on the same level as Greek men.

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Traditions have caused men and women to determine certain gender roles in society. Gender roles are defined as what a person does (duties) and how the person expresses their feelings (emotions). The duty of ladies in Greek society is an important subject in Euripides’ Medea. In old Greek society, ladies are fragile and willing as indicated by men. Their economic interest comes second. Woman’s rights is the idea of men being dealt with in comparison to ladies and the male strength over these women. When Jason betrays Medea, she is a test to the conventional perspectives on old Greek society dependent on her activities. Medea disregards female characteristics and questions Jason’s beliefs. It’s a battle on the inside between herself and being a mother. In tragedies women usually play the main role because the author tries to highlight how women were being treated in that society. Euripides uses this to show a feministic perspective in his play. Medea showed both male and female tendencies.
Women are under the politics and influence of men. They want to do more and are smart enough to do more, but they cannot. Medea says “I would rather face battle/three times than go through childbirth once” (246-247). Women have two roles, being a housewife and being a mother. They are expected to stay in and take care of the house and children, while men do whatever they please. Men get to have sex with whomever they want and women are expected to be ok with it. Men also can do whatever they want to these women. For example “To make things worse, he gets to be the master of your body” (230). They are being mistreated and are not getting any justice for it, which also makes them angry. Women are behaving this way because of the circumstances they can’t control, and also having no control over their future.
Jason promises to marry Medea, but ends up abandoning her and their two sons “Deserting his children along with my mistress, / Jason climbed into a royal bed, / with the daughter of Creon, king of this land” (16-19). He likes when Medea does wicked things for him, but does not agree with it when she does it for herself. She does many things for Jason, and he betrays her by marrying someone else and doesn’t reward her for helping him.  Jason tries to justify the abandonment by saying the only reason he is leaving is to provide protection for his children by fathering royal siblings for them. He thinks of himself as a hero. This abandonment leaves Medea emotionally unstable “She stays in her bed and won’t eat; she hurts all over.” (25). In Medea’s mind, Jason is betraying her and she wants revenge. She is fed up with his actions and sets a goal to punish him. Medea’s love for Jason is strong and she is willing to destroy anything or anybody that gets in the way of that, including him. She refused to back down no matter the circumstances. She says, “He won’t see the children we had grow up/ and he won’t be able to have any more/ with his brand-new bride: no, she’s doomed/ to an agonizing death from my drugs” (786-789).
Medea is expected to serve two roles, being a wife and a mother. Now Jason is taking one of those roles from her. He says everything she has gained is from him. When Jason leaves her to marry the princess of Corinth, the wife role leaves as well. Now Medea is left with just being a mother. Women are taken as a joke and not equal to men. They have limited roles in their society. Medea’s revengeful actions are caused by these limitations. In the book she takes matters into her own hands by killing her own children, poisoning the mistress who she felt had come between her and her husband. At this day and age, it was not uncommon for women to experience infidelity within their marriages. Women were usually home tending to their children, while fathers were out working and making a living for their families. This too edifies why women may have felt powerless and belittled. Socially, legally, and politically restraint Medea still finds ways to challenge the male dominated world. She possesses multiple characteristics which poses her as a threat to the women and men in her community. “We women are the most unfortunate creatures,” she claims. Practically defending the idea that women are usually left with the short end of the stick.
In ancient Greek society ladies lived hard lives because of men’s based communities. Ladies were treated as property. Until about a young lady’s adolescents she was “claimed” by her dad or lived with her family. When the young lady got married she was controlled by her significant other alongside the entirety of her things. An old Greece young lady would marry around a 30-year-elderly person that she most likely never met. Numerous men didn’t see women as human beings, they saw them as animals that were made to create children, please men, and to satisfy their family household duties. In this society they believed that women were supposed to birth babies to add to the population, it was their job Medearelates to this because her two roles were being a wife and a mother.
In ancient Greek a woman was not be viewed as part of the family until she delivered her first child.  After she her first child, which was a hard and difficult process for a young lady to do, the spouse gets the opportunity to choose if the child is accepting or not. An infant would be left outside to pass on if the spouse was not happy with the baby. For the most part this would happen in light of the fact that the kid was undesirable, distinctive looking, or a girl. Women had no rights, they lived as slaves and serving men 24 hours every day. Ladies were shielded from society, limited to their spouses and their husband’s houses, shouting out for help and justice but there was nobody there to hear their shouts.
While men had gatherings and examined matters of administration, legislative issues, and war, ladies in ancient Greece were banished from taking an interest and were not permitted to give their input on any issues. It is really unexpected that the older men from Greece adopted this one-sided strategy towards their ladies, while being in favor of Athena, the goddess of war, law, equity, and wisdom.
Ladies were neither permitted to watch nor take an interest in open diversion like theater. It is accepted that men dressed up as ladies to complete the job during plays. The life of a lady was tied to her being a household wife. There her primary job was to be a respectful girl, a great spouse, and mother.
Young children were raised and cared for by medical caretakers or other female workers. These little girls were not urged to go outside, with the goal that their skin would stay pale. Paleness was a sign that the young lady came from a decent family. Also, young ladies were the only ones that were permitted to bring water from the wellspring house. These water houses were taken care of by women, and no man was permitted inside. These regular visits for recovering water was the main open door for these young ladies to associate with each other.
These women were encouraged to respect and care for their dad and future spouses. They were to cook, clean, bring up youngsters, and make material. Little knew how to read and write. If they did it was used to manage the house and religious writing. Rituals were led for young girls to assist them with making a smooth progress from girlhood into womanhood. One such strict rituals necessitated that young girls go about as pure to find a great husband.
Marriage didn’t take place after adolescence, except if the young lady had a place with a respectable family, or when her marriage had been organized when she was still a kid. The perfect age for a young lady to get hitched is 15 years. Her consent was not looked for before marriage, and she was offered to the man her dad considered reasonable for her. She was forced to get married. After an agreement has been acknowledged between the male individuals from either families, it was time. After marriage, she was to be an effective homemaker. Women were to please their significant other, and complete the work that they were assigned. Her greatest responsibility was to conceive an offspring, and she was not officially acknowledged as an individual from the family until her first youngster was conceived. Just the youngsters conceived from the spouses were viewed as authentic by the state. The spouse was looked down upon and abused in the event that she couldn’t bring forth a child. As a rule, the dads would not consider their little girls as a part of their youngsters, proceeding with the cycle of disregard that women of antiquated Greece had to endure.
Women of old Greece were not permitted to claim property yet and were qualified to give up their share. A spouse could decline his wife’s share in the event that she had submitted infidelity. Separation occurred when the spouse announced his goal to desert his wife before of an observer. The resolution to a divorce is to return the spouse to her father’s home, in which the husband would need to restore the settlement to his father in-law.
In conclusion learning what women went through during these times makes it easy to understand why Medea did the things she did, not saying what she did was right. Medea does many things that society thought women weren’t capable of. In this society they didn’t associate murder with women. However Medea committed many acts of this. She was limited to serving two roles, being a mother and wife. Jason left her for another, leaving her with just the mother role. Medea felt betrayed and her feelings were hurt. She wanted “justice” on how she was being treated. Women are limited to certain roles. They are powerful, but can be destructive and ruthless when they feel betrayed. Medea’s revengeful actions are caused by these limitations. In Spite of the many trials she faced, Medea is the perfect example of a modern American woman today would be for her family. Although her actions were and still could be considered as drastic measures but were for a great cause. For multiple reasons we could deem Medea as a negative figure throughout the tragedy, however her drive to overcome the labels placed upon women was a remarkable accomplishment that can be remembered by readers today and to come. Recognizing the actuality of her mistakes, makes for great historic moments for women today.
Works Cited

Euripides. Medea . The Norton Anthology of World Literature Shorter Third Edition. Vol 1, edited by Martin Puchner, et al., W. W. Norton, 2013, pp. 441-472.
Goff, Barbara E. Citizen Bacchae : Women’s Ritual Practice in Ancient Greece. University of     California Press, 2004. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=e000xna&AN=119335&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Karanika, Andromache. Voices at Work : Women, Performance, and Labor in Ancient Greece. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=cat06566a&AN=mga.997011403502955&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Loncarevic, Katarina. “A Feminist Philosopher on the Fringe of History: Ksenija Atanasijevic and Ancient Greek Philosophy.” Monist, vol. 98, no. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 113–124. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/monist/onu002.
Scott, Michael. “The Rise of Women in Ancient Greece.” History Today, vol. 59, no. 11, Nov. 2009, pp. 36–40. EBSCOhost,,shib&db=rgm&AN=504344335&site=eds-live&scope=site.