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Medea | Episode 2 | Summary

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Summary

Episode 2 is Medea's first encounter with Jason. Throughout the play they fight bitterly, casting names and insults at each other. When Jason enters he immediately accuses Medea of making her situation worse with her "stupid chatter." He believes she and the children would otherwise have been allowed to remain in Corinth. Medea recounts all she did to help Jason attain the Golden Fleece, saying her love for him was greater than her "wisdom" and reminding him that she has no homeland any longer because of the crimes she committed to help him. She tells Jason his children will live "like vagabonds" in exile.

Jason believes Medea exaggerates her past help. He suggests he could injure her more by saying her love for him is from the arrow of Eros and nothing more. Continuing the insults, Jason says she is better off in Greece than in her "country of barbarians." Jason claims he did not marry the princess out of desire but to bring more status to his family. If he had told Medea of this plan, things might have been different. Jason calls women "idiotic" and says men would be better off if they didn't need women to produce children.

As the two argue, the Chorus leader comments that, although Jason has made some sound points, he should not have betrayed his family. Jason tells Medea he is done arguing and offers some money for her banishment if she wants it. Medea refuses and tells him to leave.

Analysis

Jason presents himself unsympathetically in this encounter. His speech is demeaning to women, and his degrading words flow easily. By saying that his marriage to a new woman is for the benefit of Medea and their children, Jason shows his lack of honor. It is not his infidelity that makes him a candidate for revenge but his willingness to replace his long-standing oath to Medea with a new oath to the princess. In contrast, Medea continually comes back to the importance of commitment and love, placing a greater value on them than on money and status.

Jason also disparages Medea as an outsider. While he eagerly accepted her help in acquiring the Golden Fleece and escaping Colchis, he is quick to criticize her country as being uncivilized. Of course, his views of non-Greeks were likely not much different from those of the Athenians watching the play in ancient Greece. By making him come off as a status-seeking oath-breaker, Euripides may have been criticizing such views, especially by pairing his unoriginal statements with Medea's passionate words.

The idea of value threads through this episode. Medea speaks to Zeus, wishing the god had given humans the ability to assess the value of a man just as they do the value of gold. Jason, once a hero, gives his opinion of Medea and women in general openly, belittling their worth to society. He believes a prosperous life means a link to royalty, while Medea scoffs at this view. Status and wealth have value to Jason, but Medea deems any offer of monetary compensation, even if it will benefit her children, completely worthless. She says, "Gifts from a worthless man are without value."

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