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Medea | Stasimon 5 | Summary

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Summary

When Medea has disappeared into the house with her sons, the Chorus sings about the advantages of not having children. It argues that people without children are much happier and are spared a tremendous amount of grief, such as having to provide for the children, worry about what sort of people they will become, or bury a grown child.

Analysis

Euripides often contemplates the difficulties of having children. He does this through Medea's words about the pain of childbirth and complaints of the limits placed on women in marriage, the bond meant to produce children. Here the Chorus goes further into this idea by discussing the griefs that can afflict parents with children. These views, presented by the female characters, counter the words of the male characters such as Aegeus, Jason, and Creon. Aegeus has visited an oracle in the hope of overcoming his sterility, Jason claims his infidelity is for the betterment of his children, and Creon softens to Medea because of his devotion to his daughter. Euripides does not hesitate to call attention to the complexities involved in human reproduction.

In Greek mythology the Muses were goddesses who inspired mortals in the areas of the arts and sciences. Their parents were Zeus and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. The Chorus prefaces its argument against parenthood with a moment of humor, claiming that, like men, women "have an artistic Muse/who lives among [them] to teach [them] wisdom." Apparently agreeing with the attitude toward women expressed by Jason, the Chorus admits that only very few women are actually able to learn from their Muse—"in a crowd of women you might find one." Given that the role of the Chorus—which in Medea is made up of women—is to provide wise counsel, these comments may be understood as verbal irony (saying the opposite of what one means).

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