Image of Women and Femininity in Euripides’ Medea and Alcestis

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The Image of Women and Feminity in Euripides’ Medea and Alcestis

The tragedies from the Ancient Greek world often reflect how the Greeks perceived their environment and what was important to them. Many of those tragedies present images of women and the feminity; Medea and Alcestis are two of them. Medea tells the story of a barbarian woman who killed her brother and left her home country to marry Jason, a man who will later abandon her and their children to take a princess for spouse. Alcestis is a play that brings to life the character of a woman who gives up her own life in order to preserve the one of her husband. These two plays certainly illustrate different images of women according to the Greek worldview. Medea demonstrates how women were seen as bad, evil and Alcestis illustrates a more honorable side of women. In the Ancient Greek world, the women were considered as inferior to the men and had few rights, almost like slaves. The ideal woman was a woman who would be subordinated to her husband. She would be obedient, fertile, chaste and silent, nearly invisible to those outside the home and as Pericles said: “Your reputation is great when you do not prove inferior to your own nature and where there’s the least possible talk about you among men, whether in praise or in blame” (Thorpe 3-4). Euripides’ Medea is definitely not reflecting this conception of the ideal woman. She appears to be a woman whose actions are driven by her emotions and pride. When Jason leaves her to marry the princess, she enters in a devastating rage and mood of revenge. Her only thought from that moment on was to get back at Jason for she feels humiliated and hurt. She “[prays] that [she] may see him, / Him and his bride and all their palace shattered/ For the wrong they dare to do [her] without cause” (Grene, Lattimore 64). This attitude surely is not proper for an Ancient Greece woman who was supposed to show countenance and respect her husband’s decisions. The fact that...
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