Euripides play, Medea, tells the tale of patriarchal values. Medea is portrayed as a strong, independent character, capable of making her own decisions. However, there are times when she is shown as a hysterical female, whose actions are irrational. While pursuing her ambition, Medea disregards many valued characteristics of women. She also contrasts Jason’s beliefs and values. In Medea, Euripides develops two contrasting characters that juxtapose each other and challenge society’s perception of acceptable feminine behaviour.
Euripides does not immediately introduce Medea at the beginning of the play.
Instead, the Chorus and Nurse tell of her first. By doing so, he allows the audience to misconceive of how much power a woman can hold. Initially, Medea is shown as submissive and emotional, which is demonstrated by her quick and heartfelt response to the events taking place, as shown throughout her actions. She proceeds to take the lives of her children and others in response to Jason leaving her.
As a result, Euripides creates a sense of pity for Medea, causing sympathy for her, instead of fear of her. While writing Medea, Euripides pushes aside the social norms set by abandoning the typical gender roles of Ancient Greek society.
The protagonist of the play, Medea, is a dynamic character and undergoes many changes that help contribute to her overall character development. In contrast to this, the antagonist of the play, Jason, is a static character who undergoes little to no change throughout the course of the play. Both Medea and Jason are character foils of one another. However, Medea’s strong willed and highly opinionated personality creates conflict. The most notable characteristics that Medea withholds are pride and greatness. Euripides often plays with the idea of greatness within his works, and in Medea specifically, he shows that Medea does have some of the great makings of a hero. However, he shows a distorted and imperfect idea of these traits. Without a doubt, Medea does possess qualities such as intelligence and self indulgence, but these qualities are often reduced. This is what turns her into a monster. Pride is also a characteristic that Medea holds, and it is closely connected to greatness. Pride can be considered a psychological weakness. to suffer the mockery of my enemies is something I will not tolerate as stated by Medea shows that pride is her greatest asset and will ultimately cause her downfall. Likewise, to greatness, pride is also shown as distorted and blemished. There is satisfaction gained from watching Medea exact her revenge, but this satisfaction is taken is perverse form.
Medea’s pride pushes her to perform acts that are unnecessary, brutal and a massive sense of waste. Medea does exact her revenge, but she also takes it one step further by murdering her own children. Here, using the distorted characteristic of pride, Euripides shows that a woman is only condescended for her sex, and is otherwise less superior to those around her. Alongside possessing greatness and pride, Medea also is a woman of extreme emotion and behaviour. It is evident that she has a passionate love for Jason, so passionate that she is willing to sacrifice her children, and perform unacceptable acts on his behalf, such as stealing the Golden Fleece. Her violent and short-tempered heart is devoted to only Jason, and now she has her heart set upon his destruction. Furthermore, Medea also possesses qualities that make her seem almost animalistic and savage. There are many parallels drawn between her and wild animals to portray her as wild. You hellhound, you tigress, and Bullglares, lions claws are both comments that are purposeful in highlighting the animalistic side within Medea.
By comparing her to wild animals, Euripides is further increasing her compelling persona and presence in the play. In contrast to the character of Medea, Jason is shown as meeker and more fragile and values the tactics of reasoning over actions. For instance, Jason tries to reason with Medea to win her trust back. Although Jason uses the tactics of manipulation time to time, he is also shown as sympathetic towards Medea. Even though Medea is irrational and angry towards him, he still offers her supplies such as food and shelter. Medea scorns this offer as expected of her. Ultimately, Jason is also shown as submissive. And just so you know- I’ve been your advocate with him because I wanted you to stay. But could you stop your rant against the king? You’ve brought exile with your foolish mouth. This comment shows that Jason is shifting the blame towards Medea herself, stating that she is the cause as to why she is being banished. He refuses to accept the consequences of his actions. Furthermore, Jason is portrayed as a weak, static character. He undergoes little to no change throughout the play, and he can also be considered a two-dimensional figure.
This conflicts with Medea’s character because Jason lacks any manly characteristics, while Medea withholds qualities that would not be correlated with woman at the time. After all, murder is not an act associated with women.Medea repeatedly doubts and challenges theIn conclusion, Euripides uses juxtaposition between the characters Jason and Medea to challenge the gender norms that were associated with men and women in Ancient Greek society. By purposely choosing specific traits such as pride and greatness to associate Medea with, and submissive and weak to associate Jason with, Euripides is showing that gender norms do not necessarily have to fit with the appropriate gender. There can be outliers, and these outliers can help create a sense of rebellion in the context of the play.