Medea is the tragic tale of a woman scorned. It was written in
431 B.C. by the Greek playwright, Euripides. Eruipides was the
first Greek poet to suffer the fate of so many of the great
modern writers: rejected by most of his contemporaries (he
rarely won first prize and was the favorite target for the
scurrilous humor of the comic poets), he was universally admired
and revered by the Greeks of the centuries that followed his
death('Norton Anthology';). Euripides showed his interest in
psychology in his many understanding portraits of women ('World
Book';). Euripides choice of women support characters such as the
nurse and the chorus is imperative to the magnification of
Medea's emotions. The very fact that the nurse and chorus are
female deepens Medea's sadness, impassions her anger, and makes
the crime of killing her own children all the more heinous.
Medea's state of mind in the beginning of the play is that
of hopelessness and self pity. Medea is both woman and
foreigner; that is to say, in terms of the audience's prejudice
and practice she is a representative of the two free born groups
in Athenian society that had almost no rights at all ('Norton
Anthology'; 739). Euripides could not have chosen a more
downtrodden role for Medea. Here is this woman who has stood by
her man through thick and thin. She has turned her back on her
family and killed her own brother while helping Jason capture the
'Oh my father! Oh, my country! In what dishonor
I left you, killing my own brother for it.';
Despite all of her devotion to her husband he has fallen in love
with someone new, Glauke. The Nurse and the Chorus understand
and sympathize with Medea as only other women could. Euripides
develops the heart of Medea's character by the sympathetical
approach of the Nurse.
'...calling out on her father's name,
And her land, and her home betrayed when she came away with
A man who now is determined to dishonor her.
Poor creature, she has discovered by her sufferings
What it means to one not to have lost one's own country.';
The Chorus are sympathetic to Medea's heartache also, and offer a
more simple and acceptable approach to help Medea deal with her
'Suppose your man gives honor
To another woman's bed.
It often happens. Don't be hurt.
God will be your friend in this.
You must not waste away
Grieving too much for him who shared your bed.';
The truth of the matter is that in Athenian society during this
time it was acceptable for men to take new wives on a whim, and
getting mad and upset were the only choice, or result of the lack
of choice, women had.
'We women are the most unfortunate creatures.';
'A man, when he's tired of the company in his home,
Goes out of the house and puts an end to his boredom
And turns to a friend or companion of his own age.