The Malleus Maleficarum: Treatise on Witchcraft

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The Malleus Maleficarum is a disreputable book given its position in the Middle Ages; its primary purpose is to serve as a guide in identifying and prosecuting witches. Although the book contained misconceptions of witches, the accusations were supported and thought of as the truth in contemporary culture. At the time the Malleus Maleficarum was produced, there was an ongoing fear and concern for witches and witchcraft; the beliefs in witches were thought to be dangerous in regards to the safety of Christians. Despite the unreasonable guiding of the Malleus Maleficarum, it played a culturally significant part in drawing upon and strengthening the beliefs of the Church. It can be noted that the accusations in the Malleus Maleficarum consisted primarily about women.

In Euripides’ Medea, the cultural concern on the role of women in Greek society is explicit. The debate on magic draws on the otherness of being a female, an issue of “Us vs. Them” in society, where the magic of women is linked to subverting gendered institutions. The social anxiety generated by contemporary Greek culture creates the different representations of magic and women. Social and ideological factors explain the assumed differences between men and women.

Medea’s words and actions throughout the play demonstrate the portrayal of gender in Greek society. When Medea commands for Jason to talk to her once more, she calmly says, “I want, Jason, your forgiveness for all” (853). However, immediately after Jason leaves, Medea says to her children, “I can bear no longer to look at you. / The horror of my evil overwhelms me. Horror of what I’ll do. / Angry passions have mastered me–emotions of misrule that destroy men” (1052-56). The very beginning of the play Medea bursts out of hopelessness and hatred: “My hope is death! / Death’s sorrow my gift! (86-87). Medea’s tone goes from despair to reasoning when Jason attempts a second time to talk with her. This provides an analysis on Medea’s...
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