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Medea | Episode 3 | Summary

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Summary

Medea's next visitor is Aegeus, who has just seen the oracle to ask why he is unable to have children. The oracle has told him to see a holy man in Corinth. Medea wishes Aegeus well. When he asks why she is so pale, Medea tells him how Jason has betrayed her by marrying the princess of Corinth. Aegeus is appalled. Medea says she knows of medicines that can cure his sterility and asks Aegeus, who is king of Athens, to provide refuge for her and her sons. Aegeus agrees, saying he cannot get her safely to Athens; but, if she and her children reach Athens, he will give her sanctuary. Medea makes him promise and swear by her grandfather Helios that he will accept her.

After Aegeus departs Medea works on the details of her plan. First she will have to convince Jason of her acceptance of his marriage. She will beg him to convince Creon to allow their children to remain in Corinth. Then she will send her children to the princess with gifts—a gown and a golden tiara—to ask that they be spared from banishment. The gifts, however, are poisoned and will kill anyone who puts them on or touches them. Medea also announces an additional act of revenge—the murder of her sons—in order to eliminate "Jason's house completely." The Chorus leader pleads with Medea to reconsider her sinister plot, pointing out that it is against the law and, worse still, will destroy her to have to kill her own children. Medea says, "That's beside the point," and she sends the Nurse to fetch Jason.

Analysis

Aegeus's visit allows the audience to see Medea as a middle-aged, experienced woman—an atypical avenger—who has friends and cares for other people. With Aegeus, Medea is her most lucid and everyday self. She inquires sincerely after Aegeus's welfare, and they chat as old friends would. The episode provides insight into another time in her life.

In some ways this section is out of sync with the rest of the play simply because of Medea's calm demeanor. Nevertheless, it propels the plot forward because Medea uses her old friendship to secure sanctuary after she commits her murders, allowing her to move forward with her revenge plot.

Medea's speech in this episode displays her self-confidence, striking a spirited, almost heroic tone. This strength contrasts with Jason's weakness. Once the hero leading the Argonauts, he now pales in comparison with Medea in terms of power, pride, and determination. Medea, as a character on an inner journey, is coming into her own as a force of feminine power, an avenger who is righting injustices. (Of course, her plan is not out of keeping with her own prior history of familial murder.)

Flashcards for Episode 3

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Term:

Basic action in libation bearers

Definition:

Orestes returns secretly and in disguise/ uses Electra's slaves to trick Aegisthus/ kills Aegisthus and is driven mad by furies

Term:

Basic action of Eumenides

Definition:

Orestes pursued by furies to Delphi/ seeks advice and purification from Apollo/ they go to Athens for Athena to solve problem/ Athena sets up jury trial on Areopagus/ citizens of Athens deadlock: accused goes free/ furies established as Kindly Ones

Term:

Orestes myth version differences

Definition:

Homer: Clytemnestra is accomplice only/ Hesiod: Clytemnestra is mostly responsible/ Stesichorus: Clytemnestra is mostly responsible, Apollo sets Orestes on matricide, Orestes gets pursued by Furies and protected by Apollo

Term:

Aeschylus' additions

Definition:

Beacons/ purple tapestries/ pervasive dismal mood/ democratic legal solution

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