Alienation and Awareness
Corinth, where the events of The Medea unravel in, is a society that regards the atypical as threatening and gives hardly any rights to women and foreigners – a common characteristic of Athenian societies during the play’s publication. Since Medea is part of the two groups in Athenian society that are treated discriminatorily and her cleverness is seen as menacing, the rulers of Corinth want to exile her almost immediately upon Jason’s betrothal to the princess of Corinth. Because of her alienation, Medea feels like she has no one to go to when Jason disrespects their marriage vows and, as a final point, she turns to revenge – one of the most primitive, brutal human impulses. The Medea reveals how poisonous isolation and betrayal can be when met simultaneously. Not only does Medea’s refusal to conform to societal norms make her a target for estrangement, but also the fact that others feel threatened by her unconventional nature impassions her anger. Ultimately, the awareness Medea has of her unintentional, threatening demeanor compels her to commit those murders because she knows that is the only way she will be able to get what she wants – revenge.
In the beginning of the play, the nurse of the house warns Medea that “the wildness and bitter nature of [Medea’s] proud mind” will be harmful not only to society but to Medea as well (lines 103-104). However, Medea does not need to be reminded of her intimidating disposition. She recognizes that this is why others feel endangered by her presence and, by default, alienate her. Feeling the overwhelming amount of isolation from Corinthian society, Medea feels vulnerable for a moment and expresses her misfortune. In her speech to the women of Corinth, Medea stresses how she is isolated by Corinth and, in recognizing her threatening nature, ignites her plan for vengeance. “I am deserted, a refugee, thought nothing of by my husband” she says (lines 255 – 256), “for in other ways a woman is...
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