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"Euripides is not asking us [the audience] to sympathise with Medea..."

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IB1 - Essay on Medea "Euripides is not asking us [the audience] to sympathise with Medea..." This famous quote delivered by HDF Kitto from Greek Tragedy (p. 197), is a powerful and controversial statement. Medea audiences from around the world have expressed both similar and contrary opinions, and raised further enigmas regarding the subject. This essay will explore this statement as well as relating topics from different perspectives, and finally conclude with the author's perception. First of all, when attempting to determine the message that the playwright is trying to convey through his drama, one must take into account the role and importance, which the tragic hero plays in the drama, as this is a direct indication of the playwright's attitude. According to Aristotle1, "the tragic hero evokes our pity and terror if he is neither thoroughly good nor thoroughly evil, but possesses an equilibrium of both qualities. The tragic hero suffers a change in fortune from happiness to misery because of a mistaken act, which he performs due to his 'hamartia' - error of judgment. The tragic hero evokes our pity because he is not thoroughly evil and his misfortune is greater than he deserves, and he evokes our fear because we realize we are fallible and could make the same error." ...read more.


Euripides would not have chosen to put such an emotional and heart-rending scene if he did not want us to feel some empathy towards the situation. Throughout the play, Euripides makes sure that the audience sees the tragedy of Medea's life, especially in the way he uses the chorus to repeat and reflect upon Medea's losses and emotions, as the role of the chorus is to remain neutral and to encourage the audience's attitudes and opinions. Since the nurse, tutor, Ageus and the chorus align themselves with Medea and give her (almost) their unconditional support, the audience is also encouraged to do so. The Gods, too, align themselves with Medea, as confirmed in the final scene when Medea says, "...In this chariot which that Sun has sent to save us from the hands of enemies,"6 hence encouraging the audience even further. However, there are many reasons to argue that Euripides did not intend for Medea to appear the tragic hero. Traditionally, tragic heroes begin as perfectly good characters but undergo some reversal by casting them in difficult situations where their fatal human flaw causes them to make the wrong decisions. In Medea, there is no reversal from good to bad as the Medea's history, which the Nurse delivers to the audience in the very prologue, confirms. ...read more.


Medea involves us, the audience, as her hatred and fury, despite being extreme, remain both immediately and unnervingly recognizable. What could Euripides have intended by creating a 'heroine' or protagonist so empathetic yet paradoxically terrible? "He knew well that humanity is not an easy thing to define. In Medea he pushed the boundaries of human behavior so far that we question the very being of humanity."16 What could Euripides's purpose for writing Medea be then? Perhaps to explain the true nature of mankind, that 'such things are' and to unveil the problems in the world he lived in. Medea makes for a timeless classic; she is the symbol of abused and excessive humanity, of abandonment and betrayal, of the slaughter of beauty and innocence, of what happens when nature is mistreated... And despite being written over two thousand years ago, we still see these themes repeat themselves in modern-day literature and every-day life. 1 Aristotle's definition of a tragic hero from an article relating to tragic playwrights. 2 Quote from a student in a discussion board on Euripides at gradesaver.com 3 Line 488-490 from Medea 4 Line 569-570 from Medea 5 Line 793 from Medea 6 Line 1323 from Medea 7 Extract from a study-guide on Medea at sparksnotes.com 8( See previous essay on Fate) 9 Line 804 from Medea 16 Quote from website about Euripides ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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