V. Music/SoundThe Use of Sound in Medea
Eurypides uses sound to great effect in Medea. Perhaps most prevalent is the fact that all the women are played by men, most likely talking and singing in a high pitched falsetto, giving the play a high, screeching tone, which would certainly put the audience on edge. This would add to the tension, and provide an exaggerated contrast between the men, speaking in their natural voices, and the women in their falsetto. This also influences the musical nature of the play. As compared to other Greek tragedies where the chorus would have been intentionally all male, Medea would have a very different sound, a much more feminine sound, as would be fitting for one of the few Greek plays with a female protagonist. The language Eurypides uses helps the audience understand her and her actions, as well as be able to empathize with her. Words of destruction, such as "kill," "broken," "refugee," "sick," "hate," "enraged," and "starves" all set the stage in the first 20 lines of the play. The audience instantly knows that Medea has suffered horribly, and now has every right and reason to take revenge for the wrongs that have been done to her. These same words are used often throughout the play, especially "hate" and "betrayed" and give us great insight into the total fury and single mindedness of Medeas later actions. Jason's words, on the other hand, help us realize just how disconnected he is. He is, as the Chorus says "ignorant beyond pity." Jason thinks he is being "generous," and he somehow thinks leaving his wife for a younger woman makes him her "advocate." Eurypides carefully emphasizes the scene where the children are slaughtered by having it be the only time we hear them speak. They are on stage for many scenes, but they never do anything but watch, silent and obedient while their family falls apart around them. When they finally speak, it is because it is their only hope of saving themselves; it is too late for their family. They cry out, with young innocent voices, pleading for help in what is perhaps the most tense moment of the play. This tension is further heightened by the fact that the audience cannot see what is happening, they can only hear it. They are forced to rely on sound alone, and that sound for those few lines becomes the only thing that matters. One almost wants to watch Medea kill her children just to know what is actually happening behind that door instead of being denied perhaps our most important sense: sight. The audience becomes blind to the action of the play, as Medea has embraced her blind rage. Social Implications:
In the last lines of Medea, Euripides uses the verbal interaction between Jason and Medea to show a reversal in the stereotypical gender roles of the time. Although Medea is a goddess, she represents a strong, unyielding female role that has power over her male counterpart in their relationship. Moments before the final grand spectacle, a distraught, weakened Jason is powerless to the will of Medea. He raises his voice (indicative of his losing all authority and pathetically lashing out for some form control) and demands that he be allowed to have his children back. Yet Madea is unwavering and persistent. Unlike Jason, she "wastes" no words and provides a simple, rational-sounding message that reflects her supremacy. This kind of social commentary is interesting because women, who were rarely awarded the liberties of men at the time, were allowed to attend the plays at the Dionysus festival. It is possible that Euripides was sending a subtle message of hope and pride to all of the oppressed female members of his audience. Dialect:
Euripides was celebrated for his simplistic use of language which reflects a more realistic dialogue in the character's expressions. Although he did not win as many first place awards as Sophocles or Aeschylus at the Dionysus festivals, his work was...