Conceptions of women and the foreigner

Categories: MedeaTragedyWomen

In the ancient Greek life, women’s role was always considered to be quite insignificant as compared to the role of the Greek men. However, in most tragedies women were the major and integral characters who revealed some insights on the way the women happened to be treated and also thought in the entire society. Medea is maybe the most complex and fascinating character when we look closely to the Greek’s drama. She is an immense and an ultimate mixture of villain, heroine as well as the victim as displayed in the play.

She was married to Jason who was a Greek man who she had decided to follow from the foreign land. Her love was deep and when Jason decided to leave her in order to marry Creon’s daughter she was extremely furious (Euripides1907, lines. 1-24). From there we see her getting involved in some acts of revenge. Her acts of murder are the ultimate start of revenge towards her children and her ex-husband.

Despite all this catastrophes, Medea is a character to sympathize with. She decided to give up all that she had because of her love for Jason.

She betrayed her family and murdered her brother, she left her home because of the love she had for Jason to a foreign land and she became a mother to please his husband yet she had no any desire to have children (Euripides, 1907,line,248). Even after Jason had known of all the sacrifices that Medea had had for him, he still had to leave her for a Greek princess.

Top Writers
Academic Giant
Verified expert
5 (345)
Verified expert
4.9 (247)
Verified expert
4.8 (309)
hire verified writer

Medea’s love was quite immense and Jason’s betrayal ended up damaging her mind completely and revenge became the only comfort that she had in her power. She ended up killing the Greek princess using the cleverest chess that was available and her children.

Though Medea is portrayed as one of the most frightening characters, it is crucial to compare her ethical concerns and the scheming shallow hollows of her ex husband. Medea accompanies her Antigone as the most defining heroines in the ancient Greek drama. She ended up defying her main role as the helpless and happy housewife and refutes to accept betrayal without revenging. Medea decided to abandon all the gender roles in the ancient society of Greek. She defied some perceptions of gender through portraying both female and male tendencies.

She decided to detach herself from all the womanly emotions and acted in a way that the society did not see appropriate for women. In the ancient Greek, murder was an issue that was never associated with the women though Medea in the play committed a series of murder including her own children (Euripides, 1907, 207-213). It is therefore imperative to analyze at length the concepts of women and the foreigners in the Greek tragedies basing the rationale as portrayed by Medea. In the play, Medea is portrayed as a foreign witch. She is treated irrationally throughout the play by various people at divergent times.

She then changes her whole character and finally triumphs over Jason. She is feasibly seen as the mortal woman and Aristotle’s hero figure as well as the goddess. Women’s rights have been neglected throughout the play and women have no voice. Medea changes all that in her revenge against Jason and her own children. Foreigners and women were loathed and had no any place in the society and were not supposed to have any powerful position. It is a play portraying chauvinism, women treated unfairly and their work portrayed as only meant to bear children.

Though to an extent we see the evil deeds of Medea, we also have a glimpse on the reasons behind her deeds. She is a foreigner and to the Greeks she will always be a Barbarian. Her acts make it even hard for her as she gets hated more. Even other women treat her suspiciously. Medea is portrayed as a foreigner in her land and in her own home who has no any common feature with the Corinth women. All she had was Jason and the children. Before she got married she was viewed as a princess and later became an outcast. Women and foreigners in the Greek tragedy were portrayed as disenfranchised, slaves and were unrepresented.

The acts of Medea have contradicted the view of the society that the women are the main givers of life and that the men end up taking it away. It is quite unacceptable because of the fact she is the mother to the children. Killing a member of the family was usually frowned upon in the ancient Greece like it is done today. Medea has portrayed extreme pride which is usually stereotyped as one of the characteristic of the male species. She decided to sacrifice all that she had even her reputation in order to restore her own reputation (Sophocles, Euripides & Aeschylus, 2004).

It has always been a common belief that the major weakness in a woman is the children but in this case this is not so. Her pride has prevailed other maternal instincts. Medea aims to seek vengeance in the same intense force to rectify a situation just like a man would. A woman who is seeking for revenge usually challenges the societal views of women as passive and weak. Medea is dwelling on self pity until she contrives to a scheme that will avenge how much she has been hurt. Wallowing is usually a quality that is attributed to the women in the society.

Medea was so sad with her life after her marriage to Jason ended that she only wanted to die. The common opinion in the society is that the women usually use trickery and deceit in order to achieve their main goals in life. Medea in this case is not an exception as she persuades Creon to permit her to stay at least one day in Corinth as she pretends that she is preparing for exile while in the actual sense she was just planning on how she will carry out the murder acts to her enemies as well as children (Euripides1907, pp. 198). Medea in the entire play has defied the stereotypes of both female and male characters.

She has shown some immense emotions portrayed by both sexes. At times she acts as an ultimate man and others as a woman. The Greeks had an immense suspicion when it came to foreigners and always thought of all of them to be barbarians. With Medea, Euripides has confronted this prejudice issue by deciding to honor foreigners with some roles of a tragic heroine and making her one of the most intelligent character in the entire play. The playwright has also confirmed numerous Greek stereotypes of the foreigners through making Medea overly passionate, wild and vengeful.

Medea is a very powerful and tragic heroine who gets to achieve successful vengeance and ends up escaping with impunity. In some scenarios, she is portrayed to be a submissive and weak who commits no any crime (Paul, 2006, pp. 1321-4853). Allan (2003, pp. 143) asserts that beneath Medea’s personality there lies a credible, coherent and an effective character who portrays an immense sense of justice and whose humiliation and revenge drive her to go for the revenge. He also notes that Medea’s actions and plans were affected by her main status as a foreigner and a woman and not as a mortal avenger.

Euripides in his play is fascinated by the acts of women as well as the contradictions that do exist in the Greek understanding of the term gender. His treatment of the women is so sophisticated. Medea’s starting speech to the chorus is the most rational and eloquent statement on the injustices that befall the women species. He recognizes that the major position of the female and their style of subordination to men are coming from the social order that prevails in Greece. Medea is not really a role model as far as feminist is concerned.

Euripides has portrayed the difficulties that women went through. He portrays an image of a real woman who has suffered and has been twisted by her suffering. It is not a story on women liberation but rather it is a war that exists between sexes. The other key is a major theme. Medea’s foreignness has been emphasized from the beginning. In the very first opening lines, the nurse reminds us that Medea is from an exotic and a distant land. The foreignness aspect is portrayed as barbaric, exotic, fearful and unknown. The issue of exile has also been portrayed in the play.

Modern readers and audiences have a great difficulty when trying to conceive on the concept of exile and how much it was horrible for the Greeks. Homes and cities were considered as the major source of protection. Wandering with no friends and shelter was seen as a great fate which was much horrible than death itself. Medea just for the sake of husband made herself to be the exile. She goes away from home, have no friends or family who can offer protection to her. The theme of exile has been linked with women’s position.

In emphasizing some of the circumstances in which women have to bear after marriage like leaving their homes and staying with strangers. Medea reminds us of the worst conditions in exile. Her position is a grave situation since she is already an exile in reality and portrays the fact that all women in reality are exiles. She is a foreigner thus to all the Greeks she will always remain a barbarian. In the play the issue of cleverness and cunning is also evident. These traits though they ought to be admired cause a lot of suffering to Medea.

Her intellect, force and strength exceed her station of operation. Though the Greeks to an extent have some respect for her, they are seen treating her smugly just because she is a woman and a foreigner. She is surrounded by some people who are less resourceful and less intelligent than her. She is despised because of her own talents that ought to have won her praise. Since she is a foreigner she therefore behaves without morality and any restraint. In the chorus, we see how much Medea is pitied but also it reveals that women ought to endure.

We see Medea entering and delivering a monologue on the sufferings that women go through. Though women are creatures that can feel and think, they have to endure some indignities in the society. Men are meant to bear arms but women are supposed to bear children (Medea 214-224, 2006, pp. 115). The theme of women and their position has been emphasized in the play. To just allege that Euripides was a great feminist can only be a major oversimplification and anachronism. What is factual is that Euripides is fascinated by the difficulties and women’s position.

Through examining the treatment that women are accorded, Euripides has also revealed some of the injustices in the society. He is savvy of how art has been wrongly used in defaming the character of women and how smart it has been used in recognizing that most fables and myths of the Greeks male dominated orders through teaching women on how to accept as well as enjoy subjugation. Medea who is a woman and a foreigner has portrayed numerous specifics of the life of Greeks that are universal in today’s society.

A woman when she gets married ought to leave her home in order to join her own family. Therefore she is portrayed as an outsider. Women are not meant to socialize freely as men, while men can roam wildly and indulge with other women. Medea has made herself as the main spokesman on the suffering of women thus has secured the secrecy and loyalty of the main chorus. Foreigners were people who were disliked in Greek. In the play we see how much King Aeetes’s hated the foreigners. “A great anger filled King Aeete’s heart as he listened.

He did not like foreigners, any more than Greeks did, he wanted them to keep away from his country, and he himself said to himself, “if these strangers had not eaten at my table I would kill them” (Jimmison, 2009). The image of Medea and the barbarian king was irrational, magic, frightening and issues to do with some supernatural powers had no any place in the Greek mythology. As a foreigner, Medea only expected suffering since this myth was created in the Greek image of a Barbarian woman. Medea has shown numerous heroic qualities that were uncommon among the Greek women.

She is even willing to kill her brother just to be with Jason. In Greek, women murdering acts were quite rare and this is something that was not supposed to happen at al. To some extent, Medea is reacting to the inferior status of injustice that women were accorded. Central to the entire plot, is Medea’s foreign origins and how they are really related to her main actions. Generally women in the play have been portrayed as creatures with very few rights. As far as men were concerned, women were only supposed to cook and clean, do some house chores and bear children.

They had no imperative votes like the right to own property, vote or choose their own husbands and they had to be presented in any legal proceedings that were taking place. They were just like slaves. Though some of Medea’s actions were untypical of what a Greek woman was supposed to possess, to some extent she also had emotions and attitudes of a common woman. She speaks against some of the women’s rights and how they have no any choice to whom they decide to get married to and men can get rid of a woman in order to get whatever they wanted (Euripides, 1907,pp. 231-247).

In the play we see Medea portraying some emotional attitudes of a woman and a mother. She says, “Poor heart, let them go, have pity upon the children (Euripides, 1907,pp, 1057). Also in the play women are portrayed as faithful. Medea talks of how she helped her ex husband during his quest of the Golden Fleece and even helped him to escape to an extent of killing his own brother for him (Euripides, 1907,pp. 476-483). The fact that she decided to betray her family just to be with Jason shows her sense of loyalty. Though women and foreigners were portrayed as minorities with no say, the play also shows that they were resourceful and clever.

Instead of using physical force in accomplishing her plans of revenge, she went ahead to use her mind instead. She asserts, “it is best to … make away with them with poison” (Euripides, 1907,pp384-385). She poisons Jason’s wife as well as the King of Corinth though she poisons them indirectly. Medea’s act of murder against her own children is because of her barbarian origins. The major reason why Jason decided to let go of Medea and marry a princess is in order for her to have a higher status and material wealth through getting married to the king’s daughter (Euripides, 1907,pp553-554).

It is lucid hence to note that Jason had a belief that Medea’s foreign origins were a burden and a distracter to him since there was a stigma that was related to that. Medea’s foreign status is also a major burden to her. Once they got separated, she became an outsider and had no any place to go since barbarians were never highly thought in the Greek society. If Medea was not a foreigner, then it is possible that Jason would not have divorced her. Medea is a play that portrays the real ancient Greeks and their attitudes towards the foreigners and women.

Women were supposed to be seen and not heard and thus Medea surprises the Greek society since she goes against the norms. Women were supposed to bear children and take care of their husbands. The women’s rights were less considered and there was no way women could equal men. The foreigners had no any right and were also treated unfairly. It is a play revealing some of the heroic acts of women and what they had to go to get noticed in the society. Works Cited Allan, William. Euripides: Medea. 2002. London: Duckworth, pp. 143 Euripides.

Medea. 1907. USA: Oxford University Press. Euripides, Sophocles & Aeschlus. Five Great Greek tragedies. USA: Courier Dover publications. 2004. Jimmison. The idea of foreigner in Euripide’s and Seneca’s Medea. Retrieved 11, July, 2010<http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/1665834/the_idea_of_foreigner_in_euripides. html? cat=38 Monaghan, Paul. Medea in Australia: responses to Greek tragedy in contemporary 2006,Australian theatre. 6 (3):1321-4853 The polis in Medea 214-224. Classical Association of the atlantic states. 2006. pp. 115

Cite this page

Conceptions of women and the foreigner. (2016, Sep 17). Retrieved from

Are You on a Short Deadline? Let a Professional Expert Help You
Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7