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Medea | Study Guide


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Episode 5

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Episode 5 of Euripides's play Medea.

Medea | Episode 5 | Summary



This episode includes the Tutor's dialogue with Medea, in which he recounts how the gifts were presented to and received by the princess. When he declares that Medea's sons will not be banished, Medea weeps. Bewildered, the Tutor asks why Medea is not happy at the news, but she replies in vague generalities and finally ends the conversation by sending the Tutor into the house to oversee the normal routine with the children.

The second part of this episode is Medea's monologue with the children present outside the house. Medea begins by describing the woes of exile she will endure while her children remain in Corinth. They listen, and when they smile at her, she reconsiders her plan to murder them. But her resolve to complete her plan resurfaces. She tells the boys to go into the house, but they remain outside and listen to more of her monologue. Medea briefly wavers again but becomes determined to spare her sons from dying at the hands of her enemies. Instead, she says, the one who "gave them life, will kill them."


Though Medea falters in her determination to kill the children, in the end, she holds to her plan. She admits her "judgment/can't check [her] anger." Her rage is an uncapped force. She confesses that it controls her and explains, not necessarily as a defens, but as a matter-of-fact statement about her decision, that anger "incites/the greatest evils human beings do."

Throughout her monologue Medea expresses her inner conflict, weeping and using rich, evocative language to describe her love for her sons. She dwells on how much she loves their hands and their mouths, the softness of their skin, and the scent of their breath: "Give me your right hands, children .../Let your mother kiss them. Oh, these hands—/how I love them—and how I love these mouths,/faces .../.../O this soft embrace! Their skin's so tender./My boys' breathing smells so sweet to me." The audience can feel the extremity of her love, so they can also imagine the agony of her choice as she follows her self-determined path of revenge. Her choice inverts nature. In order to commit child homicide, Medea must close herself off to the part of her that is maternal. She rejects the path that includes a possible future with her children in Athens, a safe place she has secured no matter what her crimes. But Medea crosses a point of no return on her inner journey: She will not allow herself to retreat.

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