Medea’s choice

G. Show how Medea’s choice of action is as much affected by the fact that she is a stranger among the Corinthians as by the fact that Jason is marrying another woman. (Factor in how Jason’s marriage to a Corinthian princess now makes him an insider. What is his argument with regard to how that will help Medea and their two boys?)With the lamentations of the Chorus alone, the adultery committed by Jason is very well established.  It is by the other factors and circumstances that surround the adultery that pushes Medea to, not only kill Creon and his daughter, but her sons, as well.  Specifically, it was her state of exile and her being an outsider in Corinth that pushed her to despair hence her ultimate act of familicide.From the very beginning of the play, the Chorus sets the mood by discussing the current state of Medea.

For Jason hath betrayed his own children and my mistress dear for the love of a royal bride… She, poor lady, hath by sad experience learnt how good a thing it is never to quit one’s native land.  (Euripides, I. 1-45)With these two lines at the beginning of the play, the audience is informed of the motivation of the plot of the play.  At the same time, pity is shown to Medea for being a foreigner in a land at a time that this particular travesty occurred.  It is this fact that Medea was a foreigner that aggravated her rage towards Jason.  Initially, Medea was weeping for the crime done to her and her inability to find solace anywhere in Corinth as she was a foreigner and had neither friends nor family in the region as she fully declared in front of the Corinth ladies:For there is no just discernment in the eyes of men, for they, or ever they have surely learnt their neighbor’s heart, loathe him at first sight, though never wronged by him; and so a stranger most of all should adopt a city’s views; nor do I commend that citizen, who, in the stubbornnessof his heart, from churlishness resents the city’s will…thou hast a city here, a father’s house, some joy in life, and friends to share thy thoughts, but I am destitute, without a city, and therefore scorned by my husband, a captive I from a foreign shore, with no mother, brother, or kinsman in whom to find a new haven of refuge from this calamity.

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(I.215-272)This raw emotion was exacerbated by the following incidents after venting out to the Corinth ladies.  After this conversation, Creon arrives and banishes her and her sons out of Corinth for fear that Medea will do harm to himself and his daughter.  This act of banishment, confirms her status as a foreigner in Corinth wherein she had no right to stay in the country and can be exiled if the sovereign so wished.  This pushed Medea into a state of despair as at this point Medea, who after helping Jason to acquire the Golden Fleece and who had burned the bridges because of it, had nowhere to go to once banished.

Whither can I turn me now?  To my father’s house, to my own country, which I for thee deserted to come hither?…

I am become the bitter foe to those of mine own home, and those whom I need ne’er have wronged I have made mine enemies to pleasure thee. (I. 451-512)Because of the sorrow that exile will cause her children, she pleaded to Creon to allow her a day to make preparations, only to be informed by Jason that her sons will be taken into the palace as adopted sons of Creon’s daughter.  Thus it was only Medea that will be banished.

What happier device could I, an exile, frame than marriage with the daughter of the king? ‘Tis not because I loathe thee for my wife-the thought that rankles in thy heart; ’tis not because I am smitten with desire for a new bride, nor yet that I am eager to vie with others in begetting many children, for those we have are quite enough, and I do not complain. Nay, ’tis that we-and this is most important-may dwell in comfort, instead of suffering want (for well I know that every whilom friend avoids the poor), and that I might rear my sons as doth befit my house; further, that I might be the father of brothers for the children thou hast borne, and raise these to the same high rank, uniting the family in one,-to my lasting bliss. (I. 512-572)This statement of Jason had totally severed Medea from Corinthian society as well as her family – her last and only sanctuary.  As evidenced by Jason’s statement, the main motivation for him to have married Creon’s daughter was to get a foothold in Corinthian society thus ending his state of exile.  Being an exile like Medea, he believed that the only way to secure a future for his sons was to provide them with a homeland and citizenship.  Initially, as Jason and Medea adventured, they amassed an amount of enemies that made both of them exiles from numerous lands and this state was a commonality that gave refuge to both Jason and Medea – a unifying factor apart from the love that they felt.

  The Jason’s adulterous marriage destroyed this and the adoption of Medea’s sons sealed Medea’s aloneness and expulsion, from society, her family and her refuge.The Chorus recognizes the sorrow brought about by Medea’s complete exile after Medea’s argument with Jason by stating:O my country, O my own dear home! God grant I may never be an outcast from my city, leading that cruel helpless life, whose every day is misery. Ere that may I this life complete and yield to death, ay, death; for there is no misery that doth surpass the loss of fatherland. (I.623-686)Upon initial reading this line would seem disconnected with the scene prior and the rest of the speech of the chorus which focuses on the infidelity of Jason.  But it is this lack of a “home” that finally pushes Medea to enact her revenge.

…for I will slay the children I have borne; there is none shall take them from my toils; and when I have utterly confounded Jason’s house I will leave the land, escaping punishment for my dear children’s murder, after my most unholy deed… what gain is life to me? I have no country, home, or refuge left. (I. 866-924)“Jason’s house” serves as a double meaning in this line when Medea states her plot.

  Jason’s house in this case means the palace that he will now be living in, symbolizing the royal family that he currently belongs to.  It also means Jason’s stability in the land of Corinth.  Normally to own a house in a land signifies that the owner is a citizen of that land and has every right in owning property in that land.  “Confounding Jason’s house” would mean destroying his stability in the land that he has adopted.

  Finally, it also means that Medea intended to destroy any hopes of Jason to build a family in Corinth.In conclusion, the actions of Medea in exacting revenge is a complete and total act of vengeance that encompasses every single crime that Jason committed against her – namely, adultery, expulsion and sequestration of everything Medea held dear.  In consequence, Medea killed his new bride, the cause of his adultery; Creon – the cause of her banishment; and his sons – the symbol of a new future out of exile and an image of home.  All of which represent everything that Jason took away from Medea – her marriage, her residence in Corinth and her family which was her refuge and her home.  If Jason, and maybe Creon, did not validate her state of being an outsider and stranger, then maybe she would not have resorted to that heinous act.

  However, as she herself had stated, “what gain is life to me? I have no country, home, or refuge left,” despite her initial hesitancy, she had no alternative course but to kill her own sons.;Reference:Euripides. “Medea.” Great Books of the Western World: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes Vol.

5 Ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins. London: William Benton, 1952. 212-223.



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