Medea by Euripedes

This Ancient Greek tragedy treads fearlessly over the obsessive jealousy experienced by a lover-spurned. In this instance it is the woman, Medea, who is left by her husband – and the father of her two children – for a younger Princess. She is fuming.

Medea, daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis, proved her love for – and devotion to – Jason by aiding him in his quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece. She killed her own brother, disowned herself from her father and then fled her homeland and sailed to Corinth to live with Jason.

A little later down the line, Jason is offered Glauce, daughter of the King of Corinth, in marriage – and he accepts.

King Corinth is scared that Medea will plot to kill him and his daughter, so he banishes her from the land. An exile from her own land – and also from Corinth – Medea will have no where to go. She pleads with the King to let her remain but he says that he knows how clever she is, and doesn’t trust her to stay.

There is a wonderful scene in which the King is repeatedly telling Medea that she is too cunning for his liking. And the audience are all too aware that she is, indeed, more cunning than the King. And that she will, indeed, plot her revenge.

Jason tries to pawn her off with a bit of cash – but Medea’s no idiot. She wants revenge – and that means taking more than just his money.

She bumps into an old ally and persuades him to let her flee to his home once she has had her final day on Corinth (granted, reluctantly, by the King). She makes him promise that he will receive her, and protect her from her enemies, in exchange for a potion which will help him to conceive a baby with his wife. He’s up for it.

Medea sends her two children to Princess Glauce with a ‘gift’ – a peace-offering. She says that Jason must let the children stay and make amends with the Princess – even if she cannot. The irresistible golden dress and tiara contain poison which seeps into the Princesses pores as soon as she puts them on. Her father, the King, goes to her and also becomes poisoned. They both die a quick but horrific death.

Meanwhile, Medea is murdering her two children – in a quest to make Jason suffer as much as he possibly can.

She succeeds.

The men in this play are suckers. Medea is evil. There are questions of allegiance – lover over children? But also of the madness caused by a broken heart.

Despite her madness – I love how strong Medea is. And how a play written in 450 BC can so accurately portray issues that remain prevalent thousands of years later.

Recommended as a light lunchtime read.

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