Medea is one of the most fascinating and most powerful women in Greek mythology. Medea is a woman of extreme behavior and extreme emotion. For her passionate love for Jason, she sacrificed all, committing unspeakable acts on his behalf. But his betrayal of her has transformed passion into rage. Whether divine or mortal, Medea was a priestess, a woman wise in herbal lore, a healer, a powerful, numinous, and luminous woman. What lends tragic literature its proximity to human nature is that the border between being a tragic villain and a tragic hero is extremely thin.
A powerful sorceress, it was Medea’s magical aid that enabled Jason to meet all of the challenges involved in obtaining the Golden Fleece. The first task facing Jason was to yoke fire-breathing bulls to a plow and use these animals to sow dragon's teeth into the ground as if they were seed (Bulfinch 122).Medea had given him a magic potion to protect him from the fire breathing bulls, allowing him the ability to yoke the bulls. The dragon's teeth produced a crop of armed men who immediately attacked the man responsible for their existence. In both cases, Jason triumphed, but only with Medea's help. To obtain her aid, Jason promised marriage and they stood "before the altar of Hecate," and called upon the goddess to "witness his oath" (Bulfinch 122). After obtaining the fleece, Medea turned her back on her father and family and accompanied Jason to Thessaly.
Greek myth makes it clear that Medea, who was the niece of the "immortal witch Circe," would do anything that Jason asked (Zarins 35). For instance, when Jason asked her to add more years to his elderly father's life, she used her magic to make him once again an active, much younger man (Zarins 35). This account is rather gruesome as is the procedure involved in cutting the old man's throat, letting out his blood, as Medea poured her magic potion into his mouth (Bulfinch 125). After he had completely imbibed the portion, his hair and beard lost "their whiteness and assumed the blackness of youth" with his "paleness and emaciation" gone, and the youthful vigor of forty years previously restored (Bulfinch 125).
Nevertheless, despite such positive outcomes, Medea is typically portrayed as a murderous witch. In some versions of her story, she is depicted as murdering her brother to help Jason escape after obtaining the Golden Fleece (Zarins 35). Also, when the daughters of Pelias approached her, asking that she restore the youth of their father, Medea enacts revenge against the uncle who usurped Jason's rightful throne and puts "only water and a few simple herbs" in her caldron, rather than the youth-restoring elements used previously (Bulfinch 126). Therefore, in this dreadful tale, the throat cutting results in death, rather than renewed life. Just as she would do anything to help Jason as his wife, when Jason sets her aside in favor of a younger woman and plans to take a new wife, Medea turns against him and uses her formidable...