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Medea | Episode 6 | Summary

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Summary

In the last episode of the play, Medea receives the news she has been awaiting. A messenger arrives and relates in detail what happened when Medea's boys brought her gifts to the princess of Corinth. At first the princess was cold toward them, but Jason prodded her to let them stay, and the gifts swayed her. When she first put on the crown and gown, she sashayed across the room, delighted with them. But then she went pale and started frothing at the mouth. Finally, the crown began dripping fire down her and she burned to death. King Creon arrived, and, when he saw what was left of his child, he took her body in his arms, wishing he were dead as well. The poison transferred itself to him, and he also died in agony. The messenger warns Medea that her punishment is coming.

The Chorus leader comments that Jason is getting his due. She feels compassion for the princess but also says that the princess has paid "the price ... for marrying Jason."

Medea, in contrast, is delighted by the news. Still, she knows it is inevitable that her sons will be put to death for their part in the murders and believes it is better they die at the hand of someone who loves them. She picks up a sword and goes into the house to kill the children.

Analysis

Up until this point there has been much talk about Medea's plan, but in this scene that plan comes to fruition. The main action takes place offstage with the messenger relaying the news. This type of exposition was often used in Greek tragedy and led to the later phrase "Don't shoot the messenger," meaning "Don't blame the person who brings bad news." Thus, the messenger might expect to be received with hostility. However, once again, Euripides inverts expectations because Medea welcomes the messenger's news about the horrific deaths of the princess and King Creon.

Another type of inversion occurs as her delight is crushed by the bitter realization that she must kill the children immediately if she is to save them from death at the hands of her enemies.

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