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Medea - A study of the character of Jason.

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Introduction

It seems that the nearly all critics of Medea are unanimous in one prominent feature of the play alone, and that is in their immense abhorrence for Jason. Kitto says 'In him (Jason) it is impossible to find anything that is not mean´┐Ż, while Lucas says 'Jason is utterly selfish, and utterly unconscious of his selfishness'. It is hard to find anything kind about Jason as on face value he is such an obvious villain. But all these comments on the Medea centre round a study of Medea herself, while making passing comments on Jason, as and when they see fit, yet they all see Jason as the other main character in the play. When one devotes the largest proportion of study on Jason, rather than Medea, a picture of kinder, caring Jason is created. Thus I believe that a case can be made for Jason - he is no paragon of kindness or any good quality, but he does not quite deserve such comments as 'The unrelieved baseness of Jason is revolting'. Vellacott says in his introduction to the play that 'to appreciate the balance of this play we must take care not to pre-judge Jason'. This is an essential point to make, as Jason has all the elements of a typical villain - he has a wife who devoted his life to him, yet he now deserts her for his own sexual satisfaction. ...read more.

Middle

It is best described in his awful statement: 'But if you women have reached a state where, if all's well with your sex-life, you've everything you wish for' This is a sweeping generalisation, and is a cruel one that is not justified, nor is it the right thing to say to a woman heavily distraught as her husband has run off, but it is what is causing Medea's worry - that others will laugh at their as her husband has run off. Jason doesn't understand the full meaning of what he has said, but he is true when applied to Medea specifically - her children have the possibility of a better life, being bought up in a royal household, yet she still carries out her plans. Still, we cannot see Jason as a pure person - he lacks any real deep understanding of what is driving Medea, and he is 'the husband who has lived with his wife for years and not begun to know her' [Furgeson]. He makes if other motives obvious, throughout the play: 'so I can bring up my sons in a manner worthy of my descent...have other sons, perhaps as brothers to your children' This shows that he is not completely altruistic in his actions. There is a heavy egotistical side to his character. Yet he is going out of his way to secure a future for his children, although it seems at times as that he's doing for Medeas sake rather than his own. ...read more.

Conclusion

that word kills me' (P.57) This is the most heart breaking scene of the whole play, and one can understand the rage that follows, as Jason now has nothing left to live for. Another characteristic of Jason that furthers a readers dislike for him is his sophistical characteristics: Medea: 'a wicked man who is also eloquent seems the most guilty of them all. He'll cut your throat' (P.15) He has a way with words, and can often prove himself right, even when he is not. This was scene, by the Greeks, as a bad trait, an he possesses it in ample quantity. Jason is thus a character to whom we can relate, yet still dislike. He possesses many qualities that we can all see in ourselves, yet do not acknowledge openly. 'In the character of Jason', says Vellacott, 'a concern for civilised values is joined with a calculating coldness and unscrupulous want of feeling'. Jason is a hero, yet he has no heroism left in him. He is a man of words, although he always manages to dig himself a whole when he has said something that brings out a good point in him. Of course we can sympathise with Medea, there is no doubt that she must feel hard done by, but the more we see of the argument, and the further it progresses, the more we can relate to Jason. He is stupid, he is devoid of a number of emotions, but he is essentially a caring man, someone who is looking out for a wife and children that he need not do if he didn't care. ...read more.

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