OCR Classics A Level - Medea

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Backstory

  • Before this play, Medea deceived her father to help Jason capture the golden fleece
  • She killed her own brother at sea
  • And arranged the death of Jason's uncle.

Themes

Justice and Revenge

  • Medea's relentless pursuit of revenge drives the plot
  • She sees the killing of her own sons as some sort of twisted justice for Jason leaving her
  • She lets her overwhelming desire for revenge run and almost ruin her life - if it weren't for Aegus, she'd have nothing by the end.
  • Idea of natural law is paramount in this play - Jason, the 'husband' figure disobeys natural law by marrying another woman. Medea, a mother, kills her children. Creon, Medea's stepfather almost, exiles her.
  • The entire purpose of Medea's actions is to restore the natural balance disrupted by Jason's crime - and she sees it just to do this by killing her sons, Glauce and Creon.
  • It is speculated that the play is 'revenge fantasy' for men and women - who dream of taking this over-the-top, dramatic revenge on someone who has wronged them.

Gods and Goddesses

  • Euripides mentioned the gods a lot less than other playwrights. He was much more interested in the psychology of human characters. 
  • The story is ruled by human morality and actions rather than interference from the gods.
  • However, the gods present seem to favour Medea - they don't help Jason, or stop her from doing the things she did - and the Sun god even helps her escape in the end
  • In the play, there are two sun gods mentioned:
    HELIOS: Medea's grandfather, and a Titan - the forefathers of the Pantheon. This could explain Medea's barbarian and uncivilised behaviour - as the Titans were seen as violent and uncivilized.
    APOLLO: A sun god too - but led by Zeus. He was a greek; and therefore was on the side of men - and on the side of Jason.
    The conflict between these two sun gods represent the conflicting forces in the play - Medea and Jason, Greece and Foreign lands, Passion and control. 
  • Additionally, Hecate was mentioned - A titan from modern day Turkey - where Medea was thought to have originated. She was an outcast like Medea, and associated with witchcraft - just like Medea.

Exile

  • In ancient greece, a persons state was home and protector. To be exiled was seen as a fate worse than death.
  • Because of Medea's actions back at home, both Jason and Medea were effectively exiled to Corinth. 
  • Jason's calculated marriage, marrying the kings daughter, means he would be no longer considered an exile. However…

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