Medea | Study Guide


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Episode 1

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Episode 1 of Euripides's play Medea.

Medea | Episode 1 | Summary



Episode 1 includes the entrance of Medea, dialogue between Medea and Creon, and dialogue between Medea and the Chorus. Medea enters the stage to speak to the Chorus about the unfortunate lot of women. She laments how men rule women's bodies in marriage, how women must work to learn their husbands' needs in marriage, and how divorce brings shame to women but not to men. She also speaks of the pain of childbirth, preferring to be in battle than to give birth. She says that, when a woman is hurt by love and her marriage betrayed, her heart is "desperate for blood." The Chorus agrees that Jason needs some form of punishment. The Chorus says to Medea, "You are right/to pay your husband back."

When Creon enters he tells Medea that he's heard of her threats of revenge. Because of this Creon orders Medea and her two children into exile. Creon fears Medea's rage and abilities as a sorceress. Medea downplays her cleverness, saying she hates only Jason and will be silent. She asks that she and her children be allowed to remain in Corinth. Initially Creon refuses, but he relents when Medea begs for one more day to prepare for her exile.

Medea tells the Chorus she placated Creon only to gain an advantage. She reveals that she wants to "turn three of my enemies/to corpses—father, daughter, and my husband." Medea ponders how to kill them and decides, as long as she can secure sanctuary for herself afterward, to use poison. A more direct means, such as the sword, would only end in her own death.


In her first speech, Medea switches quickly from rational speech to heated words. Her arguments skip from point to point about the hardships of women, without landing on one clear, cohesive speech. And yet the audience gets a sense of her inner journey, her need to travel to a place where she is not the foreigner and to a place where Jason pays for his betrayal of their family.

Medea's rage clouds any fair and moral judgement. She speaks of her "special skill" of sorcery to concoct the poison to murder her enemies. Just as the Greek actors wore masks to represent emotions or characters, Medea wears a mask with Creon, feigning docility and resignation, when actually she is manipulating him, preying on his dedication to fatherhood to secure one more day to execute her plan. Euripides shows Medea's traits through her interactions with Creon: she has the ability to assess the situation. And just as she can switch from rational to emotional argument, so she can change tactics to gain what she needs to carry out her revenge. She reads Creon's weaknesses immediately and exploits them.

The theme of exile is presented in this section: Medea as a woman in exile, alone with two children, is a desperate image. She pleads her need to provide for her children because, as she says, Jason refuses to do so. In actuality, after Creon's exit, Medea calls on her noble parentage, her divine heredity, and her worship of Hecate (the goddess of magic) to help her with her plot.

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