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eNotes: Table of Contents
1. Medea: Introduction 2. Medea: Euripides Biography 3. Medea: Summary 4. Medea: Themes 5. Medea: Style 6. Medea: Historical Context 7. Medea: Critical Overview 8. Medea: Character Analysis ♦ Medea ♦ Other Characters 9. Medea: Essays and Criticism ♦ Modern Audience Versus Fifth-Century Greek Audience ♦ Eunpidean Drama, Myth, Theme, and Structure ♦ On Stage: Selected Theater Reviews from The New York Times 10. Medea: Compare and Contrast 11. Medea: Topics for Further Study 12. Medea: Media Adaptations 13. Medea: What Do I Read Next? 14. Medea: Bibliography and Further Reading 15. Medea: Pictures 16. Copyright
Euripides's Medea (431 B.C.) adds a note of horror to the myth of Jason and Medea. In the myth, after retrieving the golden fleece Jason brings his foreign wife to settle in Corinth. There Jason falls in love with the local princess, whose status in the city will bring Jason financial security. He marries her without telling Medea. Medea takes revenge by killing the new bride and her father, the King of Corinth. One variation of the myth says that Medea then accidentally kills her two sons by Jason while trying to make them immortal. Euripides takes the myth into a new direction by having Medea purposely stab her children to death in order to deprive Jason of all he loved (as well as heirs that would carry on his name). In one of literature's most intensely emotional scenes, Medea debates with herself whether to spare her children for her own love's sake Medea 1
or to kill them in order to punish her husband completely. A chorus of Corinthian women sympathize with Medea but attempt to dissuade her from acting on her anger. However, her need for revenge overpowers her love for her children, and she ruthlessly kills them. Euripides introduced psychological realism into ancient Greek drama through characters like Medea, whose motives are confused, complex, and ultimately driven by passion. Although the tetralogy that included this play did not earn Euripides the coveted prize at the Dionysus festival in which it debuted, Medea has withstood the test of time to become one of the great tragedies of classical Greece.
Medea: Euripides Biography
Although historians can only piece together the biography of a man who lived before detailed biographical information was reliably recorded, certain "facts" about Euripides's life are generally accepted. Euripides was born around 480 B.C. to parents who were presumably affluent, considering that the playwright obtained a good education and owned a library of philosophical works. Euripides knew the philosopher Anaxagoras, entertained the Sophist Protagoras in his home, and could count on the philosopher Socrates attending his plays. Although no evidence exists that Euripides conversed with Socrates, the latter's influence is apparent in the playwright's skepticism. Euripides's life was deeply affected by the Peloponnesian Wars, which ultimately ended the Golden Age of Athens; the scars of a life plagued by war are evident in the mood of pessimism and uncertainty that permeates his works of tragedy. Euripides's characters have more psychological depth than those found in the works of his dramatic predecessors, Aeschylus and Sophocles. Euripides broke with traditional theater and chose to examine the motivations of realistic humans instead of the acts of gods, heroes, and stock characters. He championed the underdog and challenged traditions through his radical ideas regarding the gods and society. Some called him an atheist, but he did not reject religion-he merely identified and denounced its shortcomings.
A bust of Euripides In all, there are...