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Medea Essay Characterisation

952 words - 4 pages

Euripides conveys the success of protagonist Medea’s endeavour to become a hero by exploring the defining characteristics of one throughout ‘Medea’. In male-dominated, ancient Greek society, the author epitomises Medea as a hero of the female sex who advocates against the oppression by men. Although she exhibits traits belonging to a hero of women, Euripides also exposes women as treacherous, murderous beings by depicting Medea as a sorceress of ‘dark knowledge’ and a ‘children-killer’, contradicting her heroic front. Medea is also a tragic heroine; she is a person of noble stature, granddaughter of Sun God Helios, possessing a hamartia (tragic flaw), which leads to an error in judgment and ultimately her downfall. Others also pity a tragic hero for their undeserved misfortunes, as evident in the Chorus’ sympathy for Medea. Her success of developing into a hero of women is lauded despite its criticisms, however she does fulfil the criteria of a tragic heroine.

Medea challenges society’s paradigm of the typical woman who is a ‘timid creature’ and a ‘coward when it comes to fighting’ through her headstrong, opinionated character, which establishes her as a role model for women. Aggrieved by Jason’s infidelity, Medea does not submissively tolerate his actions and pass on counterfeit blessings, but rather seeks retribution for the injustice done to her, as she wishes to see ‘him and his bride in utter ruin’. Medea’s recognition of her right to seek revenge on Jason ascends her to an equal standing with the male sex, as she is demanding for reciprocation which can only be achieved when both parties are equal. Furthermore, Euripides depicts Medea to rise against the socially accepted standard for women in ancient Greece, often horrifying male audiences as Medea declares she would rather ‘face the enemy three times over than bear a child once’. When Creon demands for her banishment, Medea does not falter to argue her ill circumstances and for her children’s sake in the face of a man. There is no acknowledgement of the importance of gender roles in society according to Medea as she deems both men and women to be on equal footing. As an advocate for women, she speaks for the ‘Ladies of Corinth’ that ‘women are the most miserable of specimens’ and subsequently exposes the misfortunes they endure through marriage and divorce. The Chorus is enthralled by Medea’s valiant character and asserts her actions for ‘recompense is coming for the female sex’ as they seem to be vicariously living through her revenge on Jason and Creon. Through her heretical actions in opposition to a male-dominated society, Medea becomes a hero of women, achieving ‘true fame in life’.

Despite Medea’s excellent qualities of a leader of the female sex, Euripides also portrays women as incompetent individuals at the deprivation of a husband, and exposes their deceptive, murderous...

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