Word Count: 1119A&H Paper Number 1
September 26, 1999
In ancient Greece women were viewed as many things. They were not viewed as equivalent to males by any means. Women were portrayed usually as submissive domestic, and controlled. They played supporting or secondary roles in life to men, who tended to be demanding of their wives, but expected them to adhere to their wishes. In the tragedy Medea, written by Euripides, Medea plays the major role in this story, unlike most Greek stories with women playing only minor roles, but she also demonstrates many behavioral and psychological patterns unlike any other Greek women. In Euripides Medea the main character, Medea, Displays many traits that breakdown traditional Athenian misogyny by displaying her as proactive in taking her revenge, having cruel and savage passions, and being a very manipulative women.
Medea shows herself to be a proactive, determined woman who is ready to do what she has been planning throughout the story. In the begging of the book she starts to threaten revenge on her husband, Jason, If I can find the means or devise to pay my husband back for what he has done to me(pg 9). Medea is just touching on her anger that she has built up within her for her husband. The traditional Athenian women would be mourning the loss of her husband, and may feel angry with him but would never swear to revenge him for his doings, and lastly actually do them. Women are usually portrayed in this situation being so dependent on their husbands that they will still do anything for him as so he will continue to help support the children and possibly his ex-wife.
Medea when she decides it is time for her to kill her children struggles with the idea for a minute, do not be a coward, do not think of them, and how you are their motherOh I am an unhappy women.(Pg 40). This is how a traditional Athenian woman would think, but she would be unable to commit to her plans and kill her own children. Medea on the other hand lets her passion and hatred for Jason take over her reasonable and straight thinking self, as she kills her own children while listening to them pray to God for help.
Medeas cruel and savage passions take overtake her reasoning as the story proceeds. Medeas views differ of that of the traditional Athenian women in that, Medea believes that women, though most helpless in doing good deeds, are of every evil the cleverest contrives. She is the opposite of how women are portrayed and this just shows how Medeas thoughts and actions break down Athenian misogyny. After talking to Aegeus, Medea contrives her plan. For I will send the children with gifts in their hands to carry to the bride and when she puts them on, she and all who touch her will dies form the poison I will lay on them.(pg 26). Not only does Medea concoct a horrific plan, but also she decides to use her children as messengers of death. Then she will kill her own child to protect them form being killed by a mob and also to put a final stake though Jasons heart, as the kids are his only true love. Medeas plan further demonstrates how she breaks down all views of a traditional Athenian woman.
Medea also demonstrates how she has cruel and savage passions, unlike Athenian women are traditionally portrayed. Not only does Medea say how women are helpless but she how they are defenseless, but that is the average woman not Medea. Medea is the not defenseless, but rather one to be defended from. Nearing the conclusion of this tragedy Medea displays her cruelty and savagery in full force as Jason says, You loved them, and killed them. Medea response, To make you feel pain. Medeas passion and anger have taken total control in this confrontation with Jason. Not only does she say she killed her children to make Jason feel worse, but she shows no remorse for killing her only two children. Medea truly demonstrates how much she breaks down the Athenian misogyny throughout this final scene as she becomes possessed by her passions and takes action, without any signs of remorse.
Medea is a manipulative woman who uses her intelligence and foresight to set her plan up perfectly for the future. When Medea is confronted by King Creon she acts as a traditional women would, by pleading for her childrens help and agreeing to what the superior man has told her to do. But once he leaves, she reveals that she was manipulating him by seeming harmless so that she could have an extra day in town to put her plan to work. Next when Jason arrives for the second time she apologizes for her earlier actions and says that she was wrong. This time she says to Jason how she want best for their children as well, so she will send them bearing her most precious garments to give to the princess. As this is occurring again, Medea appears to be the traditional Athenian women, but underneath she is using this as a facade to her really feelings, so as she can perform her wicked acts of cruelty to the princess, Jason, and in turn her children. Medea has learned to use the Athenian misogyny to her advantage; by pretending she fits into it perfectly while in fact she could not oppose it much more.
Euripides character of Medea, breaks down the rules set for Athenian women with her ability to take action, her ill-willed passions, and her manipulative ways. Her well planned out strategy for revenge would have been impossible for any woman if woman were how the Greeks portrayed them in all sets of life. Medea rejects the thought of woman being inferior of all parts of the body and mind. Her use of how women were regarded and thought of by all Greek men, enabled her to achieve her plan and ultimately kill the queen, her children, a make her husbands future and happiness more bleak than that of her own. Medea was able to go through with her revenge because, as she became possessed by her passions for revenge and her cruel and spiteful mindset. Medea was a clever woman, and used others ignorance as a means to obtain her goal, and in turn she has broken down how Athenian women were viewed by their counterparts, men.