Classical Mythology Images and Insight, Third Edition

Following is an outline of the chapter along with the main learning objectives.  To help coordinate your studies, this outline and the learning objectives are organized to match your textbook.  This organization is also utilized in the chapter review section.

Part 1: Euripides

  1. You should be aware that Euripides was a contemporary of Sophocles and Aeschylus, living in the Classic Age of ancient Greece, and that he wrote eighty-eight plays of which nineteen survive.

 Part 2: The Woman's Perspective

  1. You should be aware of the unique qualities of Medea's role in the play; she is the one who makes it possible for the Hero Jason to fulfill his quest to get the Golden Fleece -- giving him magical means to defeat fire-breathing bulls and dragons; she also saves his from other threats such as that of Pelias, who usurped the throne of Jason's father and planned to kill him and that of her own father's wrath.

  2. You should be able to discuss the relationship between Medea and Jason in terms of abandoned lover, discarded mother and the concept that she represents the role of women as trapped whether she marries or not and the negative attitude on society toward strong, intelligent and articulate women.


Part 3: Medea

  1. You should be able to discuss the role of Medea in terms of the traditional Heroic model -- her intensity, refusal to compromise and her sense of total commitment --and how these relate to the traditional role of mothers (the chorus tells us that all mothers act heroically) including subsequent myths about Medea founding cities and nations and even marrying Achilles after death and thereafter residing in the Elysian Fields (hitherto the eternal home of Heroes especially favored by the God Zeus).

  2. You should be able to discuss the importance given to words in terms of the significance of vow-making in the play and of the gender-role charged rhetoric (Jason accuses Medea of being verbally aggressive and Medea charges Jason with breaking the link between rhetoric and truth).

  3. You should be able to discuss the tragic fate of Medea as she resorts to irrational acts in contrast to the fate of  Heroes whose uncontrolled acts of violence are often overlooked or even condoned.

  4. You should be able to discuss the "unnatural mother" myths that surround the historical and mythical role of Medea; as perhaps a Goddess of childbirth,  who (like other goddess of childbirth) sometimes actually kills both mother and child, of the killing of her own children or even accused of demanding the deaths of Corinthian children in her rites -- or conversely trying to save children against the wrath of the Goddess Hera, or  the Corinthians themselves.

  5. You should be able to recognize the multifaceted perspectives offered in the play and relate those to the complex character of Medea who is mother/wife/child-killer, mortal and goddess, normal woman/witch, helper/murderer -- considering the eventual fate of Medea, who unlike other mythic female murderers escapes punishment and is taken in by the King of Athens and relating this to the concept that Euripides might have been  trying to warn the Athenian audience of their own attitudes toward women.

Part 4: A Proletarian Perspective

  1. You should be able to discuss the significance that the most rational voices in the play are those of the common folk and the charges of a self-indulgent upper-class, and relating this to the excesses of Heroic behavior (including the violent acts of rage committed by Medea) and the continual recommendations of moderation.

  2. You should be able to discuss the concept of "displaced persons" in the context of the play in terms of: the Heroes/protagonists are not landed and thus really have no basis for power; their Heroic figures are not engaged in epic quests of extraordinary feats of courage, but seen at home and "close-up" arguing not about fate or pride but money; representing the landed aristocrat and the warrior/hero as anachronisms.

  3. You should be able to discuss the character of Jason in terms refusal to admit his complicity in Medea crimes, his lies and broken vows, his self-serving behavior (including his argument that if only men could have women on their own and women did not exist) and finally the ignominy of his death -- he is struck on the head by a rotting beam as he sleeps under the prow of his beached boat.

Part 5: Euripides' Indictment of Tragic Violence

  1. You should be able to discuss the implications of Euripides departure from the tradition of portraying violent deeds by important people as ennobling (even to the extent of verbally depicting the gory details of Medea's murder of her children, rather than adeptly switching the scene from the moments of violence) -- as he changes our perception of Jason from Hero to hypocritical coward he also changes our perception of Medea from wronged woman to psychotic murderer, thus bringing into question the concept of Heroes have a special relationship with and  approval of the gods and unaccountable for their violent acts.

  2. You should be able to discuss the concept that Euripides used parody to undermine the heroic nature of his characters as well as social, sexual and moral premises -- speculating on the question if good can prosper can the converse be true, that the wicked can prosper.

  3. You should be able to discuss the conclusion of the play in terms of Medea's character: she, hero-like, goes unpunished; calls on the "old" gods, even on the aspects of the Great Goddess; turning back the supposed establishment of a new order to the older concepts of an irrational, unfathomable universe.

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