Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell: Euripides Medea (play)

Euripides, Medea (431 BC) (translated by Philip Vellacott, 1963)

Euripides’ Medea (431 BC) (translated by Philip Vellacott, 1963) can be interpreted solely in terms of the way that this playwright from classical Greece would have related to his original ancient Athenian audience and the likely way they would have interpreted the author’s messages according to the values and issues relevant to that time.  However, in recent times this play has attracted increasing interest from feminists who have given the play a postmodern feminist re-interpretation that treats it as a proto-feminist treatise on domestic politics.  Both of these interpretive paradigms produce different answers to questions posed regarding the text so both will be considered. 

The original Athenian interpretation centres on the character Jason.  The play Medea is a tragedy and Jason is the tragic hero who is undone by fatal flaws in his character, namely pride leading to complacency and underestimating the volatile and violent passion of a barbarian, his wife Medea. Consequently, he loses all his accomplishments and what he cherishes most.  The play is a warning to Athenians of the need to protect their civilisation from barbarians and to guard against the failings that led to Jason’s fall from grace. 

Alternatively, from a postmodern feminist perspective, the play can be seen as centring on the character Medea.  The play is seen as a treatise on politics in the domestic realm or home and as a broader critique of the unjust treatment of women in a patriarchal, misogynistic and sexist society.  The Medea of mythology and the character Medea in the play (which is derived from the myths) are valued as early mythical and theatrical representations of a strong female character.  Medea is seen as a strong and aggrieved woman who would not be disrespected and mistreated anymore and who chose to fight back. The play is seen as presenting a moral warning to men about the appropriate way to treat women and the dire consequences of mistreating them. 

Euripides Medea (415 BC) (translated by Philip Vellacott, 1963)

Student and teacher resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students and teachers seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Medea meaning, Medea themes, Medea analysis, Medea notes