Medea Summary | GradeSaver (2023)

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Greek audiences would have known the story of the ill-fated marriage between Jason, hero of the Golden Fleece, and Medea, barbarian witch and princess of Colchis. The modern reader, to fully understand the events of Medea, needs to be familiar with the legends and myths on which the play is based.

Medea was of a people at the far edge of the Black Sea; for the Greeks of Euripides' time, this was the edge of the known world. She was a powerful sorceress, princess of Colchis, and a granddaughter of the sun god Helias. Jason, a great Greek hero and captain of the Argonauts, led his crew to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece. King Aeetes, lord of Colchis and Medea's father, kept the Fleece under guard. A sorcerer himself, he was a formidable opponent. This legend takes place quite early in the chronology of Greek myth. The story is set after the ascent of Zeus, King of the gods, but is still near the beginning of his reign; Helias, the ancient sun god before Apollo's coming, is Medea's grandfather. Jason's voyage with the Argonauts predates the Trojan War, and represents the first naval assault by the Greeks against an Eastern people.

The traps set by Aeetes made the Golden Fleece all but impossible to obtain. By Medea's aid, Jason overcame these obstacles, and Medea herself killed the giant serpent that guarded the Fleece. Then, to buy time during their escape, Medea killed her own brother and tossed the pieces of his corpse behind the Argo as they sailed for Greece. Her father, grief-stricken by his son's death and his daughter's treachery, had to slow his pursuit of the Argo so he could collect the pieces of his son's body for burial.

(Video) Medea by Euripides | Summary & Analysis

Medea and Jason returned to his hereditary kingdom of Iolcus. Jason's father had died, and his uncle Pelias sat, without right, on the throne. Medea, to help Jason, convinced Pelias' daughters that she knew a way to restore the old king's youth. He would have to be killed, cut into pieces, and then put together and restored to youth by Medea's magic. The unwitting daughters did as Medea asked, but the sorceress then explained that she couldn't really bring Pelias back to life. Rather than win Jason his throne, this move forced Jason, Medea, and their children into exile. Finally, they settled in Corinth, where Jason eventually took a new bride.

The action of the play begins here, soon after Medea learns of Jason's treachery.

A Nurse enters, speaking of the sorrows facing Medea's family. She is joined by the Tutor and the children; they discuss Jason's betrayal of Medea. The Nurse fears for everyone's safety: she knows the violence of Medea's heart. The Tutor brings the children back into the house. The Chorus of Corinthian women enters, full of sympathy for Medea. They ask the Nurse to bring Medea out so that they might comfort her; the unfortunate woman's cries can be heard even outside the house. The Nurse complies. Medea emerges from her home, bewailing the harshness with which Fate handles women. She announces her intention to seek revenge. She asks the Chorus, as follow women, to aid her by keeping silent. The Chorus vows.

Creon (not to be confused with the Creon of Sophocles' Theban cycle), king of Corinth and Jason's new father-in-law, enters and tells Medea that she is banished. She and her children must leave Corinth immediately. Medea begs for mercy, and she is granted a reprieve of one day. The old king leaves, and Medea tells the Chorus that one day is all she needs to get her revenge.

(Video) Medea

Jason enters, condescending and smug. He scolds Medea for her loose tongue, telling her that her exile is her own fault. Husband and wife bicker bitterly, Medea accusing Jason of cowardice, reminding him of all that she has done for him, and condemning him for his faithlessness. Jason rationalizes all of his actions, with neatly enumerated arguments. Although he seems to have convinced himself, to most audience members Jason comes off as smug and spineless. He offers Medea money and aid in her exile, but she proudly refuses. Jason exits.

Aegeus, king of Athens and old friend of Medea's, enters. Aegeus is childless. Medea tells him of her problems, and asks for safe haven in Athens. She offers to help him to have a child; she has thorough knowledge of drugs and medicines. Aegeus eagerly agrees. If Medea can reach Athens, he will protect her. Medea makes the old king vow by all the gods.

With her security certain, Medea tells the Chorus of her plans. She will kill Jason's new bride and father-in-law by the aid of poisoned gifts. To make her revenge complete, she will kill her children to wound Jason and to protect them from counter-revenge by Creon's allies and friends. Many scholars now believe that the murder of Medea's children was Euripides' addition to the myth; in older versions, the children were killed by Creon's friends in revenge for the death of the king and princess. The Chorus begs Medea to reconsider these plans, but Medea insists that her revenge must be complete.

Jason enters again, and Medea adapts a conciliatory tone. She begs him to allow the children to stay in Corinth. She also has the children bring gifts to the Corinthian princess. Jason is pleased by this change of heart.

(Video) Medea - An Ancient Greek Tragedy

The Tutor soon returns with the children, telling Medea that the gifts have been received. Medea then waits anxiously for news from the palace. She speaks lovingly to her children, in a scene that is both moving and chilling, even as she steels herself so that she can kill them. She has a moment of hesitation, but she overcomes it. There is no room for compromise.

A messenger comes bringing the awaited news. The poisoned dress and diadem have worked: the princess is dead. When Creon saw his daughter's corpse, he embraced her body. The poison then worked against him. The deaths were brutal and terrifying. Both daughter and father died in excruciating pain, and the bodies were barely recognizable.

Medea now prepares to kill her children. She rushes into the house with a shriek. We hear the children's screams from inside the house; the Chorus considers interfering, but in the end does nothing.

Jason re-enters with soldiers. He fears for the children's safety, because he knows Creon's friends will seek revenge; he has come to take the children under guard. The Chorus sorrowfully informs Jason that his children are dead. Jason now orders his guards to break the doors down, so that he can take his revenge against his wife for these atrocities.

(Video) Medea by Euripides | Plot Summary

Medea appears above the palace, in a chariot drawn by dragons. She has the children's corpses with her. She mocks Jason pitilessly, foretelling an embarrassing death for him; she also refuses to give him the bodies. Jason bickers with his wife one last time, each blaming the other for what has happened. There is nothing Jason can do; with the aid of her chariot, Medea will escape to Athens. The Chorus closes the play, musing on the terrible unpredictability of fate.

(Video) Medea by Euripides | Episode 1


What is the summary of Medea short? ›

Story. Medea is centered on Medea's calculated desire for revenge against her unfaithful husband. Medea is of divine descent and had the gift of prophecy. She married Jason and used her magic powers and advice to help him find and retrieve the golden fleece.

What is the main message of Medea? ›

Answer and Explanation: Part of the underlying message in Medea is the power of emotion to make people do things they would normally not do. Medea had a passionate relationship with Jason, but then lets her passion turn to rage when he leaves her and marries another woman.

What is the significance of Medea killing her children? ›

In Greek culture, male children are a prized possession and property of the father. So, by killing his children, Medea robs Jason of his pride and property and left him with no one to carry on his name. She punishes Jason by stripping him of a very important treasure that'll bring him joy in his old age.

Is Medea a feminist play? ›

However, many parts of the play suggest that Medea is a feminist figure who challenges the gender and social norms of her time, and many aspects of the tragedy revolve around issues of women's rights and the marginalization of women in society.

Why did Medea become evil? ›

Evil, Villainess Women

Their actions however, strayed from the expectations society had of them, and as a result they were villainized. Medea became a villain after betraying Jason and killing their children but like Medusa, her villainization has more to do with her being a powerful woman in a patriarchal society.

What happened in the story of Medea? ›

The play is set during the time that the pair live in Corinth, when Jason deserts Medea for the daughter of King Creon of Corinth; in revenge, Medea murders her two sons by Jason as well as Creon and his daughter.

Why did Jason betray Medea? ›

It is suggested in the the beginning of the play Jason is seen as the betrayer because he had dishonoured a sacred oath. We later learn he wasn't betraying Medea to hurt her or get revenge for anything as he is only thinking about himself in a selfish way as he wanted higher status and more wealth.

What does the character Medea symbolize? ›

Medea represents certain aspects of culture that Greek society repressed: first, she is a “barbarian,” from part of the vilified non-Greek world; and second, she is a witch and, as such, belongs to an earlier universe of religious beliefs and superstitions that were replaced by the Greek worldview.

What is Medea main conflict? ›

A primary conflict is the war between Medea's maternal instincts and her desire for revenge. The pain that Jason caused her is so great that she comes to the conclusion that, to hurt him, she must kill her own children. Dealing with the harshness of this decision is the primary internal conflict within the play.

Why did Medea fall in love with Jason? ›

Medea's love for Jason was caused by Aphrodite because Jason could not have recovered the golden fleece without her help. The love which Aphrodite sends is incurable; as a rule the gods do not care about mortals whom they use.

Did Medea regret killing her sons? ›

Despite this, Medea is still characterised as female. She is wrought with emotion (a feminine trait) and hatred against Jason and exhibits regret when contemplating killing her children. This emphasises her role as a mother and makes her a more sympathetic character.

What were the bad things that Medea did? ›

Medea betrayed her family, killed a king and his daughter and murdered her own children. However, Medea is undeniably the tragic hero of the drama. Throughout the course of the drama, despite Medea's wrong doings, the play is written in a manner that elicits fear and pity for Medea.

What are three themes of the play Medea? ›

Medea Themes
  • Exile. In Euripides' Medea, exile is a past reality, an impending threat, and an internal state. ...
  • Truth vs. Rhetoric. ...
  • The Roles of Men and Women. ...
  • Justice and Natural Law. ...
  • Duty.

What is the feminine power in Medea? ›

' Overall, Medea's ability to break down the gender roles in society displays her willingness and power to manipulate others around her, she defies all the odds of what people think she should be and thus allows her to brutally manipulate everyone without them having any idea of her next move against them.

What kind of tragedy is Medea? ›

Medea (431 BCE) was written by the Greek Tragedian Euripides during Greece's classical era. It is a story that involves betrayal, a witch, and the murder of children. Medea's impact on literature has lasted for centuries as it is an early example of both Dramatic Realism and Melodrama.

Did Medea really love Jason? ›

In this literary work, Medea is presented not as a powerful woman seeking justice, but as a young woman who is desperately in love with Jason. So much in love that she decides to defy her father and kill her brother in order to help him.

What is Medea's mental illness? ›

Medea starts to feel suicidal, worthless, and depressed, which are all symptoms that are connected to bipolar disorder. Medea's bipolar emotions can clearly be seen in the scenes where she speaks to Jason. When she first speaks to him after they break up, she is enraged and she is very aggressive towards him.

Who is the biggest villain in Medea? ›

Medea is the titular character, main protagonist and central villain of the play where she turns on Jason and makes him suffer in the most vicious way either of them could imagine.

What does Medea do in the end? ›

In the end, though, revenge is more important to Medea than maternal love, and she kills her children in order "To get at [Jason's] heart" (233). Her methods are effective; Jason is decimated at the end of the play.

How does Medea escape after killing her children? ›

Against the protests of the chorus, Medea murders her children and flees the scene in a dragon-pulled chariot provided by her grandfather, the Sun-God.

How did Medea disappear? ›

The appearance of the children causes Medea to dispute her resolve, but she is overcome by her desire for revenge and bids the children leave her. The chorus acclaims that it would be better never to have children at all than suffer the grief of losing them. A messenger rushes in, warning Medea to flee.

Did Medea forgive Jason? ›

Expressing regret over her previous overreaction to Jason's decision to divorce and remarry, Medea goes so far as to break down in tears of remorse. Announcing a full reconciliation with her husband, she concedes each of the arguments that Jason made in their last discussion and releases the two boys into his embrace.

What does Medea do to punish Jason? ›

After a dreadful struggle between her passionate sense of injury and her love for her children, Medea determines that she will punish Jason by murdering not only her own sons but also the Corinthian princess, leaving Jason to grow old with neither wife nor child.

What is Medea's revenge to Jason? ›

Medea takes horrible vengeance on Jason by murdering his new wife then slaughtering their own children. The play ends like a brutal thunderclap as Medea escapes to Athens in a dragon-drawn chariot, flanked by the corpses of her sons, mocking Jason's agony and revelling in her victory.

What is the irony in Medea? ›

The audience knows that these gifts are poisoned even though Jason sees Medea's actions and words as genuine peace offerings. By this Medea means that she is full of anger and hatred. She goes on to claim that she will relinquish this hatred and “forgive.” This is an instance of dramatic irony.

What is the climax of the Medea? ›

In the play's climax, Medea enters the house to stab her children, against the protests of the chorus. She then flees the scene in a dragon-pulled chariot provided by her grandfather, the Sun-God, Jason is left cursing his lot.

What did Medea sacrifice for Jason? ›

She has helped him to steal the golden fleece from her homeland of Colchis on the expectation that he will marry her, and when they were pursued at sea by her irate father, the King, she killed her own brother, dismembered his body, and scattered the parts on the water behind their ship so that the pursuers would stop ...

Who is the villain in Medea? ›

Jason. Jason can be considered the play's villain, though his evil stems more from weakness than strength. A former adventurer, he abandons his wife, Medea, in order to marry Glauce, the beautiful young daughter of Creon, King of Corinth.

Is Medea a victim or a monster or both? ›

She is simultaneously both victim and villain, driven by vengeance but justified in the eyes of the gods.

Who is Medea's rival? ›

Abstract. In all art forms, Medea is mainly represented as the tragic witch from Colchis (contemporary Georgia), who slaughtered her sons and killed her erotic rival Glauke and her father, King Creon of Corinth, by offering an elaborate poisonous nuptial garment.

What did Medea refuse from Jason? ›

Jason puts in one last request: to be allowed to see over the proper burial of his children. Medea denies him the right and decides she will bury them and expiate the crime herself.

Who does Jason marry instead of Medea? ›

The magic of Hera had begun to turn Medea insane. Due to this, when Jason was offered Glauce, the daughter of the King of Corinth, as his wife, he took the offer. This marriage would give Jason even more power and wealth, which he had lost due to his exile from Iolcus.

Why does Jason remarry in Medea? ›

Lastly, Jason defends his choice to remarry as the best decision for all parties involved, rather than a selfish whim. Marriage with a king's daughter will secure a better life for his children, and Medea, if she could see past her jealousy, would be thankful to him.

Did Jason cheat on Medea? ›

Jason's new marriage with Glauce plummeted Medea into revengeful and passionate fury. She had given up everything to live with Jason after which he had cheated and tricked her. This makes the readers sympathize with Medea.

Does Medea betray her father? ›

Medea did everything she could for Jason since she was in love with him. Medea betrayed her own family for Jason and in return he stabs her in the back. Jason used Medea to accomplish what he needed to accomplish for himself and when he couldn't profit from her he left her.

Why did Medea get banished? ›

In the play's backstory, Medea was forced to flee from her homeland of Clochis for helping Jason to secure the Golden Fleece. Then Jason and she together were exiled as murderers from Jason's homeland of Iolcus because of Medea's attempt to wrest ruling power for her and Jason from the corrupt king, Pelias.

What is Medea's biggest character flaw? ›

The tragic flaw that leads to Medea's downfall is her excessively passionate nature. She almost talks herself out of killing her children but then decides that only she can do it and does it with pride.

What is the foreshadowing in Medea? ›

The nurse ominously foreshadows that the "rage" stirring inside Medea will not "relax" until it has received an outlet, and the only real hope is that she can target an enemy rather than a friend (lines 94-95).

What do the children symbolize in Medea? ›

In Medea, the children are used to illustrate how lives are destroyed due to rejected love. While in Six Characters, the children represent the final outcome in the deterioration of human nature due to their loss of innocence.

What type of woman does Medea represent? ›

Throughout the play Medea represents all characteristics found in individual women put together, including; love, passion, betrayal and revenge. Medea's portrayal of human flaws creates empathetic emotions from the audience.

What does Circe do in Medea? ›

The sorceress who helps Medea and Jason wash themselves clean of the murder of Medea's brother. In a way, she is a double of Medea, who is also a sorceress. Both women are worshipers of Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, and have magical powers as a result.

Is Medea a hero or heroine? ›

Medea's main redemption as the tragic heroine is through the lens of feminism. Throughout the play, Medea defends her behaviour through her advocating for the rights of women as an extension of her own gender.

Why is Medea not a feminist? ›

Medea to some might appear as a feminist text because of how Medea deals with her situation, and how she behaves or acts around people in the play, but to other people Medea is seen as an anti-feminist text because of how Medea turns evil after her husband did her wrong, and how she is two-faced when in a dialogue with ...

What is the tragic flaw in Medea? ›

It displays her pride because she would prefer to be corrupt than let her children be hurt by someone else. Taking everything into account, Medea's excessive passionate nature, carelessness, and hubris makes her a tragic heroine.

Is Medea suicidal? ›

Throughout the entirety of “Medea,” Euripides depicts Medea as hopeless to enable the audience to empathize with her. Euripides portrays this feeling in Medea's first line, where she is shown as depressed and having suicidal thoughts: “Ah wretch. Ah, lost in my sufferings. I wish, I wish I might die.” (4).

Does Medea have a fatal flaw? ›

Medea's tragic flaw is her inappropriateness, but there are two elements that Aristotle considers the base of impropriety in women.

What is the theme of suffering in Medea? ›

Medea believes herself to be removed from the human experience through her magic and divine connections but as her evident emotional suffering deepens, her mental state escalates to the point where she commits unforgivable acts, namely, killing a young Princess and her own two children, to cope with her emotional pain, ...

Why is Medea important today? ›

Today's society reflects that of Medea's world in ancient Greece with most American households relying on a male leadership role. This puts women in a forcefully obedient position, living almost under their husband instead of with them.

Why is Medea considered an important tragedy in literature? ›

Medea betrayed her family, killed a king and his daughter and murdered her own children. However, Medea is undeniably the tragic hero of the drama. Throughout the course of the drama, despite Medea's wrong doings, the play is written in a manner that elicits fear and pity for Medea.

What are the social issues addressed in Medea? ›

In the play, Medea the main protagonist of the story has many social issues: passion and rage: revenge and pride. Her husband is leaving her and marrying King Creon's daughter. She is in misery and doesn't know what to do.

What is Medea's tragic dilemma? ›

Medea's tragic flaw, then, is that she is a woman, yet she acts like a man. In other words, Medea's tragic flaw is her possession of the manly valor in women that Aristotle considers inappropriate.

Why is Medea a tragic hero? ›

Medea's main redemption as the tragic heroine is through the lens of feminism. Throughout the play, Medea defends her behaviour through her advocating for the rights of women as an extension of her own gender.

Why is Medea controversial? ›

The Greek tragedy Medea is a tale of a woman scorn and the wrath that follows. The story is one of outright deceit, crippling revenge and questionable justice. It is typical of Greek tragedies in its simplicity, but atypical in the way it justifies horrific revenge.

How does the Medea end? ›

Medea ends with Medea murdering her children to get back at Jason. What shocked the audience at the time was how she did not face any repercussions for her actions. Instead, the gods send her a chariot to fly away from the situation.

What is the modern version of Medea? ›

In 2005, director Theo van Gogh created 6-part miniseries, moving Medea to Dutch politics. In 2007, director Tonino De Bernardi filmed a modern version of the myth, set in Paris and starring Isabelle Huppert as Medea, called Médée Miracle. The character of Medea lives in Paris with Jason, who leaves her.

Who is the main antagonist in Medea? ›

Jason can be considered the play's villain, though his evil stems more from weakness than strength. A former adventurer, he abandons his wife, Medea, in order to marry Glauce, the beautiful young daughter of Creon, King of Corinth.

What makes Medea unique? ›

Medea was not just a child-killing woman who behaved irrationally against her husband. She was a woman wronged who let her pride protect her, and she created an identity for herself completely different from the female stereotypes of the time.

Why Medea is a revenge tragedy? ›

In this respect Medea is an unusual and uniquely harrowing tragedy of revenge, since it presents an act of violent retribution that is simultaneously an act of self- destruction. For rather than killing Jason (a philos turned echthros) Medea kills her dearest philoi, her own children.

How is Medea oppressed? ›

Medea's violence is the result of oppression. She's put upon by a male dominated society and cast aside like old baggage by her husband.

Who suffers the most in Medea? ›

While Jason is the victim of his children getting murdered by Medea, the tragic figure still remains Medea due to how she is the one who suffers the most throughout the play because of Jason and societal expectations. Right from the start, on the first spoken line of the play, the portrayed victim is already Medea.


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