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Medea | Study Guide


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Medea | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


What do the references to "gold" and "rich possessions" in Episode 4 suggest about Medea's and Jason's characters?

The poisoned crown and gown, the ones intended for the princess, are "twisted gold." They are also from Helios, the sun god and Medea's grandfather. The use of the phrase "twisted gold" enriches the plot by speaking to how Medea twists her speech for Jason, acting one way and feeling another. Her plot of revenge, to murder her own children, could also be called twisted, and the gold could represent the royal family she intends to eliminate. Jason questions Medea's precious gift, saying that he sees it as unlikely that the royal family needs more gold than they already have and that he believes the princess cares more for him than for "rich possessions." Though Medea does not let her peaceful mask slip, this must incite her and spur her to continue with her plan of revenge. Medea says the gods favor the princess and that she would "trade more than gold" if only the princess will allow her sons to stay. This is an example of dramatic irony: no matter what Jason believes, the audience knows Medea is indeed planning a trade, but a very different one—her golden crown for the death of the princess and Creon.

How do Jason's actions in Episode 4 of Medea make him appear sympathetic?

Despite portraying Jason as a harsh and unfeeling character in much of the play, Euripides gives Jason's character the opportunity to appeal to the audience in this episode by showing his paternal side. As Jason interacts with his children, for instance, he says, "I pray I see you/mature into fine young men." This allows the audience to see Jason as an ordinary father looking forward to seeing his children grow up. He even tells them, "I've made secure provision for you both./At some future date, you'll be leaders here,/in Corinth, alongside your new brothers." This indicates his desire to be a part of their lives and to assure their future success. The audience can empathize with these very human feelings. Jason also assures Medea he will go to the princess and ask her to accept the children. His tone is gentle and conciliatory. The audience sympathizes because it has already heard Medea's plans. It knows that Jason is being tricked and that the children will never grow up or be with their father again.

Why does Medea persuade Jason to get royal permission for their sons to stay in Corinth even though she intends to murder the boys?

Medea needs plausibility for her request to send the poisoned gifts to the princess; otherwise the princess might reject the gifts, and Medea would have to come up with an alternate plan. By feigning desire for the children to remain in Corinth, she is providing a believable reason for sending gifts to a woman she openly threatened. Her request also has several other effects. First, it helps convince Jason that Medea has really let go of her anger toward him. Second, it softens his attitude toward her because he knows she loves the children and does not want to part from them. She is doing so, ostensibly, for their benefit only.

Why does the Chorus say Jason was "wrong ... about [his] destiny" in Stasimon 4 of Medea?

Jason's backstory, which was known by the Greek audience and also related to readers through the play's dialogue, is that he is a Greek hero, an Argonaut, and the heir to the throne of Iolcus. He believes his destiny is to rule; but, because that cannot be the case in Corinth, where Creon is king, he will attach himself to royalty in order to improve his social standing. The Chorus is commenting that he could not be more wrong because his betrayal will result in the murder of his wife, keeping him from marrying into royalty, and in the death of his sons, ending his bloodline.

What do you think the Chorus means by saying Jason is a "lawless husband" in Stasimon 4 of Medea?

The Chorus is most likely referring to the natural law that governs marriage, according to which a husband and wife are faithful to one another and a father cares and provides for his children. By betraying Medea, Jason has broken this law and is thus "lawless." As the moral voice of society, the Chorus comments on his immorality. Jason sees it differently, claiming that he did not marry the princess to be unfaithful but to help his family by ensuring they will have status and wealth. Medea agrees with the Chorus, though, and seeks revenge, which she sees as necessary punishment for his transgression.

Why does Medea weep at the start of Episode 5?

Medea weeps because she knows what will happen next: she must kill her own children. With the presentation of the poisoned gifts to the royal house, her revenge plot is unfolding as planned. The princess will die, and, though this actually pleases Medea, it means that the murder of her children is imminent. She has set herself on a destructive path, one from which there is now no turning back because the children have delivered the murder weapon. Even if she did not intend to kill them with her own hands, her sons would be executed as traitors by Corinth.

In Episode 5 of Medea, why does Medea say, "The gods and I .../have brought about this situation"?

Medea clearly knows she is the maker of her destiny as she manipulates people and executes her plot of revenge; however, ancient Greeks believed the gods interfered in the lives of mortals. Medea may be referring specifically to Aphrodite and Eros. If the goddess of love, Aphrodite, had her son Eros shoot Medea with an arrow to make her fall in love with Jason, then the course of Medea's life and the events of the present situation were all set in motion by the gods. This interpretation is supported by the Chorus blaming the gods.

Discuss Medea's internal conflict during her monologue in Episode 5 of Medea.

Medea voices regret over the course of her life with her children. She regrets the hardships, the pain of childbirth, and the difficulties of motherhood especially considering now it will all have led to nothing but their deaths. She looks at the children and feels she cannot go through with their murders. Then she changes her mind, saying she will have the strength for the task because she will not give them to her enemies to put to death. Though she weeps for them and wavers in her decision to kill them, she hardens her heart and pushes forward with her plan.

What is the significance of the double entendre when Medea says in Episode 5, "Where you live now your father takes away"?

On the surface Medea is telling the children that, because of Jason's marriage to the princess, the boys will have to leave their dwelling place, their home with her, and live "somewhere else." After all, Medea herself will be going into exile. But there is another, deeper meaning, of course. Medea is actually speaking to the children about life and death; it is their lives that they will have to leave, and the "somewhere else" is the afterlife. She blames Jason, saying he is the one taking their lives away through his betrayal of their family, which has forced her to take revenge.

What does the Chorus say about having children in Stasimon 5 of Medea? How could the opposite view be supported?

The Chorus comments on the woes of having children, presenting having children as a fast track to grief. The Chorus explains that people without children are much happier because they do not have to provide for them or worry that their children will not turn out well. Similarly, those without children are happier because, if a child is raised well and dies before the parent, the grief is so great it overcomes any joy that came from having had children. (It was much more common in the ancient world for children to die prematurely, so many in the audience might well have had personal experience of this grief.) An argument could be made that having children is actually a positive experience. Many would point to the joy that comes from interacting with children, from seeing them turn into successful adults, and from having someone to carry on the family name and traditions.

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