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Treatment of Women in Medea by Euripides (431 BC) - Essay Example

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Treatment of Women in Medea by Euripides (431 BC)

Aristophanes, the contemporary writer of comedies, included several mocking references to Euripides' plays, including Medea, in his works. (March p32) One of the reasons was that Euripides tended to go against the tide by taking up the cause of groups, which had no voice of their own (women and slaves, for instance). We must remember that Medea itself was a play written about a woman by a man for men.
Euripides chose a subject/character-that of Medea-which was well known to the Athenian theatre going public. However, he took some liberties with the story-with the specific horrific detail of Medea murdering her young sons, which is the pivot on which the audience's (lack of) sympathy for Medea rests. According to legend, Medea did not kill the children (March p35). But Euripides constructed his plot in this manner probably for intensifying the dramatic effect, but more likely to point out what a person who had no power to control her own life could do, if pushed to the corner.
Tyro is unmarried and pregnant. She leaves her baby to die in the woods. This child-Pelias-was rescued by shepherds. Tyro marries Cretheus, son of Aeolus, and has three children. Later on, when Pelias returns, his mother accepts him back into the family. When Tyro's husband dies, Pelias seizes the throne of Iolcos, although it legitimately belongs to his half-brother, Aeson. When Pelias tries to get the sanction of the oracle for his deed, he is warned of danger from a descendant of Aeolus "with one sandal". Jason, grandson of Aeolus is sent away by Pelias. Jason grows to manhood and returns-he arrives, having swum across the river, losing a sandal in it. He then claims the throne which is rightfully his. Pelias decides to send Jason on a mission to avenge the death of Phrixus. So Jason sets out with his crew in his ship the Argo. They reach Colchis. Here he meets the king's daughter, Medea, and they fall in love. Medea helps Jason with her magical powers, to outwit her father and obtain the Golden Fleece. Medea, while fleeing from Colchis with Jason, does not hesitate to kill her brother, Absyrtus, throwing his limbs one by one into the water, in order to slow down her father, who stops to pick them up. Thus they escape to Greece. But when they reach Iolcos, they find that Pelias has murdered Jason's family. So she plays a trick on Pelias. She butchers an old ram, and boils it with some herbs, bringing forth a young lamb. So Pelias' daughters attempting to make their father young, cut him up and boil him in the pot. This is a trick played by Medea on them to kill Pelias. The people of Iolcos, however, do not want Jason to become king. So Medea and he flee to Corinth. The action of Medea, the play, takes place here, many years later. (Classics Pages)
From the background information, it is evident that Medea dabbles in magic-she is a sorceress; she is ...Show more


Euripides (484-406 BCE) lived most of his life in Athens during a politically turbulent period. It was during his infancy that Athens defeated Persia and gained dominance over the Mediterranean Region. However, by the time of his death, when he was nearing a venerable eighty years of age, Athens was gradually being upstaged by Sparta, its principal rival, in the Peloponnesian War…
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Treatment of Women in Medea by Euripides (431 BC) essay example
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