The Archetypical Roles of Marriage

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The Archetypical Roles of Marriage

Today’s society is very different compared to societies of the past. Women throughout did not have many rights until recently. The challenging roles of marriage were strongly placed on women and they were expected to fit into these roles by both cultures of Greece and Norway. Together, Medea by Euripides and A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen express how the traditional roles of marriage are challenged by the archetypes of the man and the woman. The character of Medea is driven by a motive of rancor towards her husband, however Nora is driven by a motive to find her true existence and identification in the world. Both characters motives cause them to have an epiphany about the stereotypes and archetypes of marriage, which shows how the two women leave their families to break the barrier that men are superior to women, which is a calling from Euripides and Ibsen for a more humanistic society for everyone to be equal in. In Medea, the marriage between Jason and Medea failed.

The play starts off with Jason and Medea being separated, and Medea soon becomes an outcast. Euripides uses this dead marriage to show how the archetypes of marriage of the man and the woman lead to a disaster (Willink, C. W). Before the marriage Jason and Medea loved each other, and had children together, until on Jason discovers that he can marry a new wife and quickly become king, “When I Came here from Iolcus as a stateless exile, dogged And thwarted by misfortunes-why, what luckier chance Could I have met, the marriage with the King’s daughter” (Euripides 33), Jason illustrates the normal role of how a married man should act (Steele, David). He tells Medea that he will make her become a maid in his palace because he is in charge and knows what is best for her. This directly relates to A Doll’s House when Ibsen also uses the archetypes of marriage to show how a man dominates over a women and makes the decisions in the household (Drake, David B).

“Free from care! To be able to be free from care, quite free from care; to be able to play and romp with the children; to be able to keep the house beautifully and have everything just as Torvald likes it!” (Ibsen 15). Nora is having a conversation with Christine Lind, and she tells her by the new year she will be free from her debt, and will be able to become a traditional wife, and mother, by taking care of the house and caring for the family. Nora was expected to be a perfect wife, or a “doll” to Torvald and live her life to make him happy. This gender role of being the perfect wife, and mother was heavily placed upon women in ancient Greece and Norway, “With the exception of ancient Sparta, Greek women had very limited freedom outside the home… Their job was to run the house and to bear children”(Culture of Greece), this influenced marriage to be a perfect lie, and be about serving husbands rather then love. The society of Greece placed a heavy weight on women, which Euripides exemplifies through Medea’s motives when she gets banished along with her children by Creon, while Jason is permitted to stay.

The shock of Jason’s betrayal of deserting her and loving another woman for his personal benefit sparks Medea’s rage and hatred towards Jason, “Oh, may I see Jason and his bride Ground to pieces in their shattered palace For the wrong they have dared to do to me, unprovoked!” (Euripides 22), Medea is asking for the gods to help strike down her husband, Medea’s rage fuels her to do atrocious and implicit actions towards Jason. Now all she can do is contemplate of how to get revenge, which guides her to get the idea to murder Jason’s soon to be wife. Medea’s motive of rancor directs her to commit a horrendous act of killing her own children in order to hurt Jason, and feel the benefits of getting revenge on Jason. Medea is incredibly blinded by her revenge she sacrafices everything to make her revenge perfect, just to uphold herself rather then others. This relates to Nora in A Doll’s House by her similar motive of promoting herself.

Ibsen transmits how the archetype of marriage is challenged by Nora and how she realizes she has been trapped in a box her whole life, wasting it by being constricted to only endure a life as a “doll” woman, “I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my life” (Ibsen 63). Nora’s motive of deciding to leave her family breaks the boundary of the archetype of marriage, where the wife has to be perfect and serve the family. Nora loses all interest in her family, and wants to make a better life for herself. Euripides and Ibsen use Medea, Nora to show women during the time periods were not all feminine, and had were just as ambitious as men to have better life’s. Both characters motives cause them to have an epiphany at the end of their plays once they come to realize that their husbands have maltreated them.

At the end of Medea, Medea has an epiphany that her atrocious act of killing her own flesh and blood was worth it to see the horrible look on Jason’s face ,“ Your were mistaked if you thought You could dishonor my bed and live a pleasant life And laugh at me” (Euripides 59). Medea no longer sees it as necessary to justify herself, she is simply glad to have hurt Jason, just how he hurt her by throwing her out onto the streets, and ignoring her as if she were a stray dog. However, Jason points out that she hurt herself in the process by killing her children, but Medea believes it was worth the horrible price she paid. Medea then continues on to say that she will flee to Athens to leave Jason alone to suffer with no woman or children, this act challenges the stereotype that woman should only work around the household for their man and not be independent. This idea is equivalent to A Doll’s House when Nora decides to leave her husband, Torvald because their marriage has been a down right lie.

Towards the end of the play Torvald wishes “That you might be threatened by some great danger, so that I might risk my life’s blood and everything for your sake” (Ibsen 58). Torvald is expressing his love towards Nora and says he will do anything for her, which is highly ironic when he reads the letter from Krogstad and completely abandons the archetype of marriage to always stand behind your spouse. Nora believes that when Torvald reads the letter about how Krogstad is blackmailing Nora for forging a fake signature that Torvald will not be upset with her, however “The matter must be hushed up at any cost. And as for you and me, it must appear as if everything between us were just as before” (Ibsen 60).

By this point Nora has an epiphany and becomes immobile with understanding as she begins to identify the truth about her marriage. She realizes that her marriage has been a lie and her life has been wasted, so she decides to leave Torvald and her family to start her own life. Both characters, Medea and Nora, leave their families to become independent. Medea realizes that her husband treated her horribly and Nora can now understand that being a “doll” to her husband has emaciated her life. This ideal of women being more self-governing is a message from Euripides and Ibsen to have a more humanistic society where everyone is equal and even women can be strong social figures in society.

Overall both Euripides and Ibsen use the traditional roles of marriage to challenge the archetypes of the man and the woman. The motives of both characters, Medea and Nora, demonstrate how they both discover valid reasons to leave their families for their personal benefit. No matter how cruel it is for them to leave their families, Euripides and Ibsen use this to emphasize their beliefs that women should be more independent and equal to men in society. These characters’ significance helped shape society into the more humanistic one of today where both men and women are equal, and marriage is meant for love not a tool for men to have easier lives.

Bibliography

Unwin, Stephen. Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. London: Nick Hern, 2006. Print.

Euripides, and Rex Warner. Medea. New York: Dover Publications, 1993. Print.

“Greek Culture.” Crystalinks Home Page. Web. 18 Jan. 2011. <http://www.crystalinks.com/greekculture.html>.

Rosefeldt, Paul. “Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE.” Explicator 61.2 (2003): 84. Advanced Placement Source. EBSCO. Web. 6 Dec. 2010.

Melis, Karin. “READING MEDEA AND HECUBA: THE TRAGIC IN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.” Dialogue & Universalism 15.1/2 (2005): 203-209. Advanced Placement Source. EBSCO. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

Steele, David. “Global Society and Its Ancient Greek Antecedents.” European Legacy 12.1 (2007): 1-21. Advanced Placement Source. EBSCO. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

Akkerman, Tjitske, and Anniken Hagelund. “‘Women and children first!’ Anti-immigration parties and gender in Norway and the Netherlands.” Patterns of Prejudice 41.2 (2007): 197-214. Advanced Placement Source. EBSCO. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

Federici-Nebbiosi, Susanna. “Earth, Speak to Me, Grass, Speak to Me!” Trauma, Tragedy, and the Crash Between Cultures in Medea.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues
16.4 (2006): 465-480. Advanced Placement Source. EBSCO. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

Willink, C. W. “EURIPIDES, MEDEA 131-213.” Mnemosyne 56.1 (2003): 29-47. Advanced Placement Source. EBSCO. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

Drake, David B. “Ibsen’s A Doll House.” Explicator 53.1 (1994): 32. Advanced Placement Source. EBSCO. Web. 12 Dec. 2010.

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  • Date: 8 January 2017

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