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Medea Excerpt Commentary

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SECOND WOMAN: A little love is a joy in the house, A little fire is a jewel against frost and darkness. FIRST WOMAN: A great love is a fire That burns the beams of the roof. The doorposts are flaming and the house falls. A great love is a lion in the cattle-pen, The herd goes mad, the heifers run bawling And the claws are in their flanks. Too much love is an armed robber in the treasury. He has killed the guards and he walks in blood. --Act I, pg. 37-38 In Medea by Euripides, Medea expresses her extreme anger and bitterness towards Jason after Jason visits her. Subsequently, the Women explain the complexities of love, making a distinction between a normal, controlled love and a powerful, consuming love. ...read more.


The metaphor of the jewel suggests strength and endurance, but not a consuming power. The parallel structure of the two lines emphasizes the harmlessness of the small love. The First Woman then describes the destruction caused by a "great love," using several metaphors. She equates love to a fire that is consuming a house, contrasting with the little love's simple presence in the house. The fire, symbolically, burns down the "beams of the roof" and "doorpost." The fact that the fire destroys the structure of the house, rather than the inside, until the house collapses relates to the gradual way in which a person can become consumed by their passion. Over the course of the play, for instance, Medea's mental state disintegrates as a result of her extreme love and jealousy, until she is unstable enough to kill her children for vengeance. ...read more.


The vivid, animalistic image of "the claws...in their flanks" is ominous, conveying the crude way in which passionate love is harmful. The fact that the humans are compared to common animals demonstrates the crude, inevitable, almost instinctive way in which people are destroyed by powerful love. The next metaphor that the First Woman uses is human, rather than animalistic. However, the image of the "armed robber in the treasury" has a similar sense of inevitable horror. The overtly violent images of "he has killed the guards" and "he walks in blood" accentuate the devastating effects of a consuming, powerful love. The theme of passionate love as a destructive force is seen throughout Medea, and leads to Medea's mental disintegration and subsequent murders of Creon, Creusa, and her own children. ...read more.

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