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Women In Ancient Greece Essay

1037 words - 4 pages

Euripides, one of Ancient Greece’s most famous playwrights, could be considered as one of the earliest supporters of women’s rights. With plays such as Alcestis and Medea, he clearly puts an emphasis on the condition of women, and even integrates them in the Chorus of the latter play, a feat that was not often done in Ancient Greece. Throughout the years, it has been argued that the two central characters in each of those plays offer conflicting representations of women in those times, and I can safely say that I agree with that argument. I will expand on my view by pointing out an important similarity between Alcestis and Medea, followed by a key difference, and will finish it off by contrasting them with the Ancient Greek depiction of an “ideal woman.”
Firstly, even though my thesis states that I support the argument that Alcestis and Medea represent contrasting ideas of a woman, I am not unaware of any similarities. In fact, I have noted a significant one, which comes to show that in the end, they’re just human. This is the two women’s love for their children. In Alcestis’ case, even though she has agreed to take her husband’s place as the one who is supposed to die, her last thoughts are for her children. It is evident that she wants to be assured of her children’s well-being when she implores Admetus to “[not] remarry [and to] spare them a stepmother, and inferior replacement, filled with spite and anger, who would raise her hand against [his] children and [her’s]” (Alcestis 324-7). This way, Alcestis wants to make sure that a potential stepmother doesn’t “ruin utterly [her] hopes of marriage (Alcestis 337)” speaking about her daughter, while she has no fear for her male child because he “has his father, a great tower of strength” (Alcestis 331-2). Alcestis’ comparison, Medea, believe it or not, actually has second thoughts about killing her children with the purpose to inflict damage upon Jason, and to not “allow [her] enemies to laugh at [her,] to let them go unpunished” (Medea 1072-3). Even though she has already made up her mind to kill them before leaving Corinth, she does so remorsefully and tells heart to “arm [itself]” (Medea 1266) before proceeding. Moreover, within her brief doubting period, she asks herself “why should [she], just to cause their father pain, feel twice the pain [herself] by harming them” (Medea 1068-9). Therefore, even though she actually ends up killing her children, we clearly see how much she has to weigh the thought and nearly put the love of her children ahead of revenge, the latter being a very important aspect in Ancient Greece and one to be discussed more thoroughly in the upcoming paragraph.
Secondly, what separate these women from each other are the key differences. The primary distinction between Alcestis and Medea is their belief in revenge; their ideas cannot be any more opposite. Since Alcestis must die in place of her husband, we would normally think that she would want to take revenge somehow....

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