Plot of Euripides’ Medea is Steadily Developed from Prologue to Devastating Climax

"I depict men as they ought to be, but Euripides portrays them as they are."

Sophocles (496? - 406 BC)
Euripides wrote about ninety tragic plays of which eighteen are extant. We should also include Rhesus and one satyric play, which have been transmitted to us. The surviving plays are Alcestis (438 B. C., Medea (431 B. C.), Hippolytus (428 B. C.), Trojan Women (415 B. C.), Helen (412 B. C.), Orestes (408 B. C.), Iphigenia at Aulis (405 B. C.), Bacchae (405 B. C.), Andromache, Children of Heracles, Hecuba, Suppliants, Electra, Madness of Heracles, Iphigenia in Tauris, Ion, Phoenissae, Cyclops, and Rhesus.

Euripides’ plays received criticism for their structure. His use of the chorus as independent of the chief action of the drama was unconventional, and some of his works contain brilliant detached episodes that do not form coherent units through which the plots are gradually developed. However, this criticism does not hold true of many of Euripides’ plays. In Medea, for example, the plot is steadily developed from prologue to devastating climax. In many of Euripides’ later plays, the choral odes serve to reinforce leading themes rather than to advance the dramatic action. Euripides has also been criticized for using the explanatory prologue, in which he makes known to the spectators the events that precede the opening of the play and often outlines coming events. Aristophanes ridiculed him for the mechanical and exaggerated use of this device, which was frequently burdened with long histories of the dramatis personae. His other devices include the deus ex machina, the unexpected introduction of a god to facilitate, or bring about, the denouement; and the alteration of legends to suit the requirements of plot. Read More History of English Literature ( Essay)

Medea is a tragedy dealing with Jason’s treachery and his decision to marry Glauce. Medea once helped Jason to win the Golden Fleece, Jason completely forgot all this and was passionately in love with another woman. Medea reminded her husband of all that she had done to him. Jason, however, remained unmoved. Medea was almost petrified in grief and later the grief was turned to ungovernable fury. Medea’s children came, and their tutor informed the Nurse that Jason, on an instruction from his new father-in-law, decided to expel Medea and the children from the kingdom. Mad in passion, Medea went on cursing Jason and even the children. The Nurse kept the children out of the mother’s sight. As the chorus of the Corinthian women came there, Medea gave vent to her feelings to them, and the chorus had unbounded sympathy for her. King Creon, the new father-in-law of Jason ordered Medea and her children to leave the Kingdom. He had a suspicion that Medea might do some mischief to his daughter. Medea persuaded him to let her live in the palace, for she had no grudge against his daughter. Read More History of English Literature ( Essay)Medea lost no opportunity of avenging the grievous wrong. She was the daughter of a King, and, therefore, she was not a woman to let things lying down. Jason appeared on the scene and sharply scolded her for her passionate outburst, and asked her to prepare herself for the exile. Medea reminded him of all the inestimable services she had rendered. She had left her own kingdom and her people for the sake of love, and in return she was savagely betrayed. Jason defended himself by saying that he was going to marry the Corinthian princess as a matter of policy, because this marriage would bring him a number of dependable allies. These arguments fell flat upon Medea.

As Medea was left alone in utter despair, Aegeus, the King of Athens appeared there and told her that he had been to Delphos to enquire if he would have a son. Medea said that, if he extended his hospitality to her, she could work her spells so that he might have a son. Read More History of English Literature ( Essay)Aegeus said that he would not ask her to go to his Kingdom. But if she could go, there on her own, he would espouse her cause.

Medea now successfully planned her design. She would kill Creon, Glauce, and her own children. She sent for Jason, and apologized to him for the harsh words. Jason was highly pleased and apparently the husband and wife were quits. Medea asked Jason to request his new father-in-law to let her stay in Corinth. She sent a robe and a golden chaplet to Glauce as a token of love.Read More History of English Literature ( Essay) The robe was poisoned, and as soon as the princess wore it, she died. The father in his attempt to remove the robe was himself poisoned. Medea then killed her children. Jason came too late only to find that the children were dead. In a fit of frenzy Jason sought to kill her, but she hurriedly rode away in a chariot, drawn by the winged dragons. She took with her the dead bodies of her children for burial. She predicted that Jason’s life would be long and unhappy. Then she proceeded to the Kingdom of Aegeus.

 Medea is one of the greatest dramas of Euripides. Critics have found fault with Medea’s inconsistency of character and her conflicting motives. Aristotle in his Poetics expressed his displeasure at Medea’s unnatural escape by a chariot, drawn by horses. Medea was more a magician than a normal woman, and she did everything with the aid of sorcery.

In defence of Medea we must say that she may not be a devoted and loyal wife like Alcestis, and yet she loved Jason not wisely but only too well. Aristotle is perfectly justified in saying that Medea is the most pathetic of the tragedies. It retained a firm grip upon the minds of the succeeding generations of readers and dramatists. We can never forget that Medea is a deeply wronged wife and mother. But as she was intent on her revenge, she reminded the readers of Clytemnestra and Macbeth. When Creon demanded her exile, she felt extremely forlorn.

“My enemies crowd on all sail,

And there is now no haven from despair.”

 Ardhendu De