Medea (Ancient Greek: , M?deia) is an ancient Greektragedy written by Euripides, based upon the myth of Jason and Medea and first produced in 431 BC. The plot centers on the actions of Medea, a former princess of the "barbarian" kingdom of Colchis, and the wife of Jason; she finds her position in the Greek world threatened as Jason leaves her for a Greek princess of Corinth. Medea takes vengeance on Jason by murdering Jason's new wife as well as her own children (two sons), after which she escapes to Athens to start a new life.
Euripides' play has been explored and interpreted by playwrights across the centuries and the world in a variety of ways, offering political, psychoanalytical, feminist, among many other original readings of Medea, Jason and the core themes of the play.
Medea, with three others,[a] earned Euripides third prize in the City Dionysia. Some believe that this indicates a poor reception, but "the competition that year was extraordinarily keen";Sophocles, often winning first prize, came second. The play was rediscovered with Rome's Augustan drama; again in the 16th-century; then remained part of the tragedic repertoire, becoming a classic of the Western canon, and the most frequently performed Greek tragedy in the 20th century. It experienced renewed interest in the feminist movement of the late 20th century, being interpreted as a nuanced and sympathetic portrayal of Medea's struggle to take charge of her own life in a male-dominated world. The play holds the American Theatre Wing's Tony Award record for most wins for the same female lead character, with Judith Anderson winning in 1948, Zoe Caldwell in 1982, and Diana Rigg in 1994.
Medea was first performed in 431 BC at the City Dionysia festival. Here every year, three tragedians competed against each other, each writing a tetralogy of three tragedies and a satyr play (alongside Medea were Philoctetes, Dictys and the satyr play Theristai). In 431 the competition was among Euphorion (the son of famed playwright Aeschylus), Sophocles (Euripides' main rival) and Euripides. Euphorion won, and Euripides placed last.
While Medea is considered one of the great plays of the Western canon, Euripides' place in the competition suggests that his first audience might not have responded so favorably. A scholium to line 264 of the play suggests that Medea's children were traditionally killed by the Corinthians after her escape; so Euripides' apparent invention of the filicide might have offended, as his first treatment of the Hippolytus myth did. That Euripides and others took liberties with Medea's story may be inferred from the 1st century BC historian Diodorus Siculus: "Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out." A common urban legend claimed that Euripides put the blame on Medea because the Corinthians had bribed him with a sum of five talents.
In the 4th century BC, South-Italian vase painting offers a number of Medea-representations that are connected to Euripides' play -- the most famous is a krater in Munich. However, these representations always differ considerably from the plots of the play or are too general to support any direct link to Euripides' play.[clarification needed] But the violent and powerful character of Medea, and her double nature -- both loving and destructive -- became a standard for later periods of antiquity, and seems to have inspired numerous adaptations.
The form of the play differs from many other Greek tragedies by its simplicity. Most scenes involve only Medea and someone else. The Chorus, here representing the women of Corinth, is usually involved alongside them. The simple encounters highlight Medea's skill and determination in manipulating powerful male figures. The play is also the only Greek tragedy in which a kin-killer makes it unpunished to the end of the play, and the only one about child-killing in which the deed is performed in cold blood as opposed to in a state of temporary madness.
Euripides' characterization of Medea exhibits the inner emotions of passion, love, and vengeance.
The character of Medea has variously been interpreted as either fulfilling her role of "mother and wife" and as acting as a "proto-feminist".
Feminist readings have interpreted the play as either a "sympathetic exploration" of the "disadvantages of being a woman in a patriarchal society", or as an expression of misogynist attitudes.
In conflict with this sympathetic undertone (or reinforcing a more negative reading) is Medea's barbarian identity, which some argue that it could antagonize[need quotation to verify] a 5th-century BC Greek audience.
Medea is centered on a wife's calculated desire for revenge against her unfaithful husband. The play is set in Corinth some time after Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece, where he met Medea. The play begins with Medea in a blind rage towards Jason for arranging to marry Glauce, the daughter of king Creon. The nurse, overhearing Medea's grief, fears what she might do to herself or her children.
Creon, in anticipation of Medea's wrath, arrives and reveals his plans to send her into exile. Medea pleads for one day's delay and eventually Creon acquiesces. In the next scene Jason arrives to explain his rationale for his apparent betrayal. He explains that he couldn't pass up the opportunity to marry a royal princess, as Medea is only a barbarian woman, but hopes to someday join the two families and keep Medea as his mistress. Medea, and the chorus of Corinthian women, do not believe him. She reminds him that she left her own people for him ("I rescued you [...] I betrayed both my father and my house [...] now where should I go?"), and that she saved him and slew the dragon. Jason promises to support her after his new marriage ("If you wish me to give you or the children extra money for your trip into exile, tell me; I'm ready to give it with a lavish hand", but Medea spurns him: "Go on, play the bridegroom! Perhaps [...] you've made a match you'll one day have cause to lament."
In the following scene Medea encounters Aegeus, king of Athens. He reveals to her that despite his marriage he is still without children. He visited the oracle who merely told him that he was instructed "not to unstop the wineskin's neck". Medea relays her current situation to him and begs for Aegeus to let her stay in Athens if she gives him drugs to end his infertility. Aegeus, unaware of Medea's plans for revenge, agrees.
Medea then returns to plotting the murders of Glauce and Creon. She decides to poison some golden robes (a family heirloom and gift from the sun god Helios) and a coronet, in hopes that the bride will not be able to resist wearing them, and consequently be poisoned. Medea resolves to kill her own children as well, not because the children have done anything wrong, but because she feels it is the best way to hurt Jason. She calls for Jason once more and, in an elaborate ruse, apologizes to him for overreacting to his decision to marry Glauce. When Jason appears fully convinced that she regrets her actions, Medea begins to cry in mourning of her exile. She convinces Jason to allow her to give the robes to Glauce in hopes that Glauce might get Creon to lift the exile. Eventually Jason agrees and allows their children to deliver the poisoned robes as the gift-bearers.
Forgive what I said in anger! I will yield to the decree, and only beg one favor, that my children may stay. They shall take to the princess a costly robe and a golden crown, and pray for her protection.
In the next scene a messenger recounts Glauce and Creon's deaths. When the children arrived with the robes and coronet, Glauce gleefully put them on and went to find her father. Soon the poison overtook Glauce and she fell to the floor, dying horribly and painfully. Creon clutched her tightly as he tried to save her and, by coming in contact with the robes and coronet, got poisoned and died as well.
Alas! The bride had died in horrible agony; for no sooner had she put on Medea's gifts than a devouring poison consumed her limbs as with fire, and in his endeavor to save his daughter the old father died too.
While Medea is pleased with her current success she decides to take it one step further. Since Jason brought shame upon her for trying to start a new family, Medea resolves to destroy the family he was willing to give up by killing their sons. Medea does have a moment of hesitation when she considers the pain that her children's deaths will put her through. However, she steels her resolve to cause Jason the most pain possible and rushes offstage with a knife to kill her children. As the chorus laments her decision, the children are heard screaming. Jason then rushes onto the scene to confront Medea about murdering Creon and Glauce and he quickly discovers that his children have been killed as well. Medea then appears above the stage with the bodies of her children in the chariot of the sun god Helios. When this play was put on, this scene was accomplished using the mechane device usually reserved for the appearance of a god or goddess. She confronts Jason, reveling in his pain at being unable to ever hold his children again:
I do not leave my children's bodies with thee; I take them with me that I may bury them in Hera's precinct. And for thee, who didst me all that evil, I prophesy an evil doom.
Although Jason calls Medea most hateful to gods and men, the fact that the chariot is given to her by Helios indicates that she still has the gods on her side. As Bernard Knox points out, Medea's last scene with concluding appearances parallels that of a number of indisputably divine beings in other plays by Euripides. Just like these gods, Medea "interrupts and puts a stop to the violent action of the human being on the lower level, ... justifies her savage revenge on the grounds that she has been treated with disrespect and mockery, ... takes measures and gives orders for the burial of the dead, prophesies the future," and "announces the foundation of a cult."
She then escapes to Athens in the divine chariot. The chorus is left contemplating the will of Zeus in Medea's actions:
Manifold are thy shapings, Providence! / Many a hopeless matter gods arrange / What we expected never came to pass / What we did not expect the gods brought to bear / So have things gone, this whole experience through!
This deliberate murder of her children by Medea appears to be Euripides' invention, although some scholars believe Neophron created this alternate tradition. Her filicide would go on to become the standard for later writers.Pausanias, writing in the late 2nd century AD, records five different versions of what happened to Medea's children after reporting that he has seen a monument for them while traveling in Corinth.
Ben Bagley's Shoestring Revue performed a musical parody off-Broadway in the 1950s which was later issued on an LP and a CD, and was revived in 1995. The same plot points take place, but Medea in Disneyland is a parody, in that it takes place in a Walt Disney animated cartoon
Neil Labute wrote Medea Redux, a modern retelling, first performed in 1999 starring Calista Flockhart as part of his one act trilogy entitled Bash: Latter-Day Plays. In this version, the main character is seduced by her middle school teacher. He abandons her, and she kills their child out of revenge.
Liz Lochhead's Medea previewed at the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow as part of Theatre Babel'sGreeks in 2000 before the Edinburgh Fringe and national tour. 'What Lochhead does is to recast MEDEA as an episode-ancient but new, cosmic yet agonisingly familiar- in a sex war which is recognisable to every woman, and most of the men, in the theatre.' The Scotsman
In 2000 Wesley Enoch wrote and directed a modern adaptation titled Black Medea, which was first produced by Sydney Theatre Company's Blueprint at the Wharf 2 Theatre, Sydney, on 19 August 2000. Nathan Ramsay played the part of Jason, Tessa Rose played Medea, and Justine Saunders played the Chorus. Medea is re-characterised as an indigenous woman transported from her homeland to the city and about to be abandoned by her abusive social-climbing husband.
Tom Lanoye (2001) used the story of Medea to bring up modern problems (such as migration and man vs. woman), resulting in a modernized version of Medea. His version also aims to analyze ideas such as the love that develops from the initial passion, problems in the marriage, and the "final hour" of the love between Jason and Medea
Kristina Leach adapted the story for her play The Medea Project, which had its world premiere at the Hunger Artists Theatre Company in 2004 and placed the story in a modern-day setting.
In November 2008, Theatre Arcadia, under the direction of Katerina Paliou, staged Medea at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (University of Alexandria, Egypt). The production was noted (by Nehad Selaiha of the weekly Al-Ahram) not only for its unexpected change of plot at the very end but also for its chorus of one hundred who alternated their speech between Arabic and English. The translation used was that of George Theodoridis
US Latina playwright Caridad Svich's 2009 play Wreckage, which premiered at Crowded Fire Theatre in San Francisco, tells the story of Medea from the sons' point of view, in the afterlife
Paperstrangers Performance Group toured a critically acclaimed production of Medea directed by Michael Burke to U.S. Fringe Festivals in 2009 and 2010.
May 2016 - MacMillan Films released a full staging of the original Medea which was staged for camera. The DVD release shows the entire play. complete with the Aegis scenes, choral odes and triumphant ending. Directed by James Thomas and starring Olivia Sutherland, the staging features Peter Arnott's critically acclaimed translation.
Chico Buarque and Paulo Pontes, Gota d'Água (musical play set in 1970s Rio de Janeiro, based on Euripides, 1975). Several times revived, including a 2016/2017 production starring Laila Garin (celebrated for her title role in the highly regarded musical biography of Elis Regina, staged in Brasil in 2015).
OedipusEnders, a documentary broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 13 April 2010, discussed similarities between soap opera and Greek theatre. One interviewee revealed that the writers for the ITV police drama series The Bill had consciously and directly drawn on Medea in writing an episode for the series.
Playwright Mike Bartlett was inspired to create a modern-day suburban Medea after adapting the Euripides play for a theatre production in 2012. Bartlett's 2015-2017 BBC1 miniseries Doctor Foster follows the structure of the Greek tragedy. A Korean remake of the series, The World of the Married, became the highest rated cable drama in Korean history, with its final episode reaching a nationwide rating of 28.371%.
^Hall, Edith. 1997. "Introduction" in Medea: Hippolytus ; Electra ; Helen Oxford University Press. pp. ix-xxxv.
^Macintosh, Fiona (2007). "Oedipus and Medea on the Modern Stage". In Brown, Sarah Annes; Silverstone, Catherine (eds.). Tragedy in Transition. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 193. ISBN978-1-40-513546-7. [Medea] has successfully negotiated her path through very diverse cultural and political contexts: either by being radically recast as 'exemplary' mother and wife, or by being seen as proto-feminist wrongly abandoned by a treacherous husband.
^Williamson, Margaret (1990). "A Woman's Place in Euripides' Medea". In Powell, Anton (ed.). Euripides, Women, and Sexuality (1st ed.). London, UK: Routledge. pp. 16-31. ISBN0-415-01025-X.
^HyginusFabulae 25; OvidMet. 7.391ff.; SenecaMedea; Bibliotheca 1.9.28 favors Euripides' version of events, but also records the variant that the Corinthians killed Medea's children in retaliation for her crimes.
^ abFrom the programme and publicity materials for this production.
^Kaggelaris, N. (2016). "Sophocles' Oedipus in Mentis Bostantzoglou's". Academia.edu. pp. 74-81. Retrieved 2018. Medea" [in Greek] in Mastrapas, A. N. - Stergioulis, M. M. (eds.) Seminar 42: Sophocles the great classic of tragedy, Athens: Koralli
McDonald, Marianne (1997). "Medea as Politician and Diva: Riding the Dragon into the Future". In Ckauss, James; Johnston, Sarah Iles (eds.). Medea: Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art. Princeton University Press. ISBN0-691-04376-0.
Mitchell-Boyask, Robin (2008). Euripides: Medea. Translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien. Hackett Publishing. ISBN978-0-87220-923-7.
Powell, Anton (1990). Euripides, Women and Sexuality. Routledge Press. ISBN0-415-01025-X.
Saïd, Suzanne (2002). "Greeks and Barbarians in Euripides' Tragedies: The End of Differences?". In Harrison, Thomas (ed.). Greeks and Barbarians. Translated by Antonia Nevill. Taylor & Francis. ISBN0-415-93959-3.