Who do you think is the more tragic hero in the Medea?

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Who do you think is the more tragic hero in the Medea?

        Euripides Medea opens in a state of conflict. Jason has abandoned his wife and children. He hopes to advance his situation by marrying Glauce the daughter of Creon, the King of Corinth. Medea is a play about a woman, who is betrayed by her husband and exiled from her city with her children. In an outburst of enraged passion she avenges herself by first killing Jason’s new fiancée and father, and then murdering her own children. Although Medea possesses certain traits of that of a heroine and that of a villain it is hard to identify her as a character solely of one of these. We have to identify her as a villain to understand her traits and why she acts the way she does. Jason, on the other hand is depicted as an opportunist, full of self absorption, who pretends to be much more superior to his wife, even though he is not. Both Jason and Medea possess qualities that make them have strong cases for the tragic hero. This essay will explain who the real tragic hero is and why Euripides made the tragic hero so ambiguous. The tragic hero needs a downfall, so they need to fall from a position of respected nobility in the first place.

        Medea dominates the play completely she outwits all the male characters and delivers five long monologues of how she feels and her thoughts on her betrayal. The Nurse and the Corinthian women chorus sympathise with Medea for the majority of the play directing the sympathy of the audience towards Medea. The Nurse goes on to speak about how Medea herself was the most obliging wife. ‘While to Jason she is all obedience- and in marriage that is the saving thing, when a wife obediently accepts her husband‘s will’ (line 12-14). Presenting the image at the beginning that Medea is an innocent victim and therefore causing the audience to like Medea and despise Jason. The real thing that causes us to feel compassion towards Medea is that the chorus see her as an avenger for women. They see Medea’s heroic traits and even try to soothe her sorrow by saying ‘Zeus will plead your cause’ (line 157). This statement says that they believe Medea to be in the right and that she is worthy of the support of Zeus. The chorus see Medea as a victim and so they are naturally inclined to support her. Though they support her before they find out her brutal scheme, it must be noted that even after Medea has revealed what her plan is they still reaffirm their support for her. ‘Streams of the sacred rivers flow uphill. Tradition, order, all things are reversed…A time comes when the female sex is honoured’ (lines 414-419).  In this speech the chorus are encouraging Medea to go ahead with her plan. The chorus is saying that this is a rare chance that women will have to avenge all the wrong doings that have been done to them by men, and turn the hierarchy that has been established around, putting men at the mercy of women. Another Trait that offers Medea as a tragic hero is that she will go as far as the extent of self sacrifice for her vengeance. The fact that she would go as far as to kill her own children for her cause prove the strength and determination that she processes. Medea however wavers and we see in an extensive monologue that she overcomes her maternal feelings of sympathy for her children and comes to the conclusion that she must kill them. ‘No cowardice, no tender memories; forget that you once loved them, that of your body they were born. For one short day forget your children and afterwards weep: though you killed them, they were your beloved sons.’ (Lines 1213-1217).

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However, the fact that Medea is willing to kill her children is what looses her the support of the chorus and she no longer becomes the tragic hero because a tragic hero falls from position of prosperity to a position of misfortune by a an unfortunate mistake on their behalf. Medea cannot here be seen as making a mistake for this is meticulously thought out, she has realised that the only true way that she can get revenge is if she ruins Jason and takes the one thing that really matters to him, his children. Though the Chorus may have ...

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