Few stories evoke more anger and disgust than those about mothers who kill their own children—and yet, the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides somehow manages to blur the lines between victim and villain with the murdering Medea. In Course Hero’s Medea infographic, we uncover the symbols and complex relationships at play in what is arguably one of the most controversial Greek tragedies of all time.
First performed in 431 BCE, Medea stems from Greek mythology and has been written about for millennia. She is the antithesis of most protagonists—a heartbroken woman so hellbent on revenge that she kills her two children in a final act of defiance against her unfaithful husband. Blood-soaked, Medea rides off in a cart with her dead children, even denying her husband the right to bury them.
Morally speaking, Medea isn’t exactly the kind of character you’d root for in a story—but some critics argue that her iron will to rise from the ashes and avenge herself makes her a tragic heroine of sorts. And therein lies Euripides’s genius: his ability to explore the complex side of human nature where emotions are neither black nor white.
The play, while highly praised today, was not an immediate success with Greek audiences, taking last place when it premiered at the drama festival in Athens. However, over the centuries, its universal themes of justice versus revenge and reason versus passion have captured audiences, particularly with one of the strongest—albeit most unstable—female characters in literature.
Explore the infographic, and discover what makes Medea a standout tragedy that continues to shock audiences to this day.