Medea
Hell hath no fury like a woman
scorned
Conflicts in Play
• Husband
• Man
• Citizen
• Wife
• Woman
• Foreigner
Vocabulary
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Machiavel
Xenophobe
Misogynist
Pragmatist
Regicide
Infanticide
Patricide
Fratricide
The Paradox of Revenge
Revenge
• Revenge is both poetic justice and bloody
justice
• The revenge figure is a sign of the
movement towards the destruction of
chaos and a sign of chaos itself
Alive
Alive
Dead
Alive
Dead
Alive
Revenge
• Is feelings disguised as duty
• The revenge figure moves outside the society’s code of behavior
• What the revenger wants is itself a paradox: natural justice, a code
of feeling aligned with a code of civilization
• The revenger’s refusal or inability to go to the law puts him outside
the social bonds that prompt his desire for revenge
• He is a sign of chaos and a movement toward the destruction of
chaos
• This is typically why the revenge figure must die
• The restoration of order requires the extinction of anti-social
elements
Beware of Binary Opposites
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Greek
Reason
Rational
New Yorkers
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Barbarian
Passion
Superstitious
Southerners
Study Guide
Medea
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Compare Jason to other heroes you have studied. Does he seem heroic? What is virtuous or
sleazy about him? What specifically has he done wrong? What motivates Jason?
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This is still one of the most controversial plays ever written, with its evocations of women’s rights
and Medea’s choice of infanticide. Consider carefully what you think of its awesome heroine. Pay
close attention to how and when she makes the decision to kill her children.
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Does Medea remind you of other women in myth? The audience would expect her to be a witch;
does Euripides fulfill those expectations, or does he present a less than demonic woman?
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Euripides, as Sophocles once said, drew men as they are, not as they ought to be. Do you agree?
In what ways are his characters, plots, and actions more realistic?
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Medea’s great speech is stunningly modern in its account of the injustices done to women in
patriarchal societies. Medea may seem at times a frightening character, but compare her real
ethical concerns with the rather shallow and scheming plans of Creon and Jason. Do you see any
significance in the namelessness of her rival?
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Consider the curious scene with Aegeus. Who is he and what is he doing there? What does the
curious oracle given to him mean?
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At the end of the play, where is Medea? What impact does her position have?