The Role Of Minor Characters In Medea

1890 words - 8 pages

The Greek playwright, Euripides, is considered one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens. His play Medea is one of his most popular and well-known plays, which tell the story of Medea, a Greek Queen and a descendant of the gods and the story of her love for Jason and his betrayal. Euripides retells her story with the help of two supporting character, the Nurse, a slave in Jason’s house and the Chorus, a group of Corinthian women. He portrays Medea through the accurate but limited perspectives of these two characters. This limitation stems from the social gap between them and Medea; this limitation is less prominent for the Chorus making them more open-minded than the Nurse. Their ...view middle of the document...

In order to justify the focus the Nurse takes, Euripides puts a prominent social gap between Medea and the Nurse. The Nurse is a slave; she does not seem to have the ability to fully grasp what could be going through Medea’s mind and the extent of her power through her focus. Although she foreshadows the death of the children as she says: “The mind of a queen is a thing to fear… /and her rage once roused is hard to appease” (p. 21), she always returns to the focus on Medea’s suffering as she follows by saying: “Her grief’s just born-not yet half grown.” (p.19) This social gap is portrayed again as the Nurse stops herself from cursing Jason, as her loyalty is to him, and despite what he did, she cannot betray him. She was about to curse Jason when she says: “My curse on- No! No curse; he is my master.” (p. 19) The Nurse admits that he is guilty and deserves to be cursed, but her blind loyalty that results from the social gap stops her from approaching the subject. This wall of obedience stops her from completely understanding Medea’s motives and personality, thus her major role in the play ends very early in the play as she does not have anything else to tell the audience.
While the Nurse gets the first word on Medea in the play, the Chorus continues with her to the end of it and then gives the last soliloquy. Euripides also expands the role of the Chorus so that they could talk to Medea. This allows them to express their opinions, which are also influenced by their social status. Their opinions are not as limited in comparison to the Nurse as they hold a higher social status. Despite that, they carry the sense of loyalty to Jason and his house as the Nurse, the Chorus says: “and my own heart suffers too when Jason’s house is suffering; for that is where my loyalty lies” (p. 21) Their loyalty is not as grounded as the Nurse’s as they seem to be on Medea’s side more than Jason as they say: “I’ll do as you ask. To punish Jason will be just.” (p. 25) The Chorus is more critical than the Nurse as they directly express their discontent to Jason, unlike the Nurse who could not even curse him in private. For example they say to Jason “you have acted wrongly in thus abandoning your wife” (p. 34). The quotation also shows that the Chorus is more radical than the Nurse, and they will not go unheard. Therefore, even if the Chorus’s views are limited, they have a more accurate image of Medea’s way of thinking and her actions, as their scope of perspective is much wider.
The Chorus expresses their opinions that also stem directly from their social status. They tell Medea that “if your husband is won to a new love- the thing is common; why let it anger you?” (p. 22) This rule may apply to a regular couple in Corinth, but Medea’s situation differs in that Medea was not just in love with Jason, she also killed her brother for him, she stole the Golden Fleece for him, and she let go of her family for him. The Chorus has knowledge of her sacrifice and they...

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