Medea - the Abandonment of Gender Roles

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Medea - the Abandonment of Gender Roles

By | October 1999
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In Euripides' Medea, the protagonist abandoned the gender roles of ancient Greek society. Medea defied perceptions of gender by exhibiting both "male" and "female" tendencies. She was able to detach herself from her "womanly" emotions at times and perform acts that society did not see women capable of doing. However, Medea did not fully abandon her role as a woman and did express many female emotions throughout the play.

In ancient Greek society, murder was not commonly associated with women. Throughout the play, however, Medea committed several acts of murder.
We learn that Medea has killed her brother. Medea does not have any guilt about planning and carrying out the murders of king Creon and his daughter Glauke. As the play develops, the reader realizes that Medea plans to commit infanticide.

I shall murder my children, these children of mine…if die they must, I shall slay them, who gave them birth.(Euripides 207-213)
This contradicts society's view that women are the givers of life and that men take it away. It is especially unacceptable because she is the children's mother. To kill a member of your family was frowned upon in ancient Greece, as it is today.

[Chorus] Think. You are stabbing your children. Think…By your knees we entreat you, by all the world holds sacred, do not murder your children. (Euripides 208)
Medea displays extreme pride, which is stereotyped as a "male" characteristic. She is willing to sacrifice everything, including her children, to restore her reputation. It is a common belief that a woman's weakness is her children, but this is not the case with Medea. Her sense of pride prevails over her maternal instincts.

Good-bye to my former plans…I cannot do it. And yet what is the matter with me? Do I want to make myself a laughingstock by letting my enemies off scot-free? I must go through with it…I do realize how terrible is the crime I am about , but passion overrules...