Medea—whose name became the title of this Greek play of Euripides—is the leading female character in this play. She is neither protagonist nor antagonist; to me, she is just a victim.
Medea was a young woman from a barbarian country, I suspect, a less civilian one. She abandoned her land and her family because she was in love with Jason. Both young lovers arrived in Corinth and decided to stay in this new country after they were married. I imagined that Medea had been growing up as an independent girl, and she was used to make decision by herself. Entering a marriage life, Medea must obey her husband and accept him, good or bad, as her superior. This must have been quite tough for a young woman of freedom. Medea felt that women were in a weaker position when affronted with the husbands. Men, even after marriage, could have mistresses without ruining his honor, but women couldn’t; they were supposed to be faithful to their husbands.
When Medea knew that Jason would like to marry another girl—daughter of King of Corinth—she was enraged. She felt that after all she must have been sacrificing for the marriage (her freedom, her full obeisance, her submissiveness), she was helpless to her husband’s selfish want. Medea did not have anywhere to run, either she must live bitterly with his husband’s infidelity, or she would be disgraced for divorcing her husband.
The wound from being abandoned by Jason, and her hopeless situation, were more than enough to be born by an independent and self-esteem woman. That was perhaps which lead Medea into her half madness. She could not control her temper, and after the rage was accumulated, she decided to take avenge by murdering everyone who has ruined her life. Considering how she was brought up in a less civilian culture, killing others should not be a strange things; that’s why I think we could not accused Medea of being suddenly mad; it has been in her blood.
The most interesting point in this play is when Medea went forth and back to decide whether she should kill her two sons to ruin their father, or bring them with her in her banishment. I think Medea had her own selfishness too, for, in this matter, she never thought about the kids, but for her own feeling. When she declined from killing them, it’s not because of the kids, but because she felt the affection for them. When she made herself to kill them, it’s more of her needs to take avenge to their father, than to deprive them of the disgrace they might have to endure.
So, in short, it was first her own personal character (being selfish), then the way she was beought, but more than those, the society which did not support women, caused more fracture in the already corrupted soul of Medea, and made her even worse to a level which we call madness.
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