Femininity in Euripides’ ‘Medea’ and Jean Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’.

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Historically females have been portrayed as being weak and submissive, obeying their male counterparts (fathers/husbands etc) and staying in the background looking after the home and the children. To be freethinking was unheard of; all decisions were made by the male which the female had to comply with, whether or not she wanted to. This went for everything from arranged marriage to who she could associate with. There was also the generalisation that women were incapable of rational thought and prone to madness. Sons were considered more important than daughters, as they were the heirs and would continue the family name, and, of course, they were males who were regarded as strong, dominant and rational. In this essay, I shall be comparing and contrasting how works from two different genres – the Greek Tragedy ‘Medea’ penned by Euripides in 431 BC and Jean Rhys’ 1966 novel ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ – represent femininity and their stance on feminism of that time. Medea was based on the legend of the marriage between Jason, of Golden Fleece fame, and Medea princess of Colchis, sorceress and child of the gods. Having given up her country, committed murder and made herself an outcast, for the love of Jason, Medea was rightly angry when she was cast aside in favour of another younger woman. Recognising the prejudice and indifferent treatment to women of that time, Euripides used Medea as a representation of all women’s feelings and experiences, embodying pain, jealousy, passion and unfairness, especially in a family breakdown. Medea became a spokeswoman for them but he creates her as an antithesis of the common idea by giving her a mind of her own, power and hold over the male characters; using her femininity to charm and manipulate, which was inconceivable in those days. Medea is of the classical Greek Tragedy structure with a prologos, prologue before the entry of the Chorus (male performers who commented on the action of the play from the Orchestra); epeisodion episodes...
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