Medea Is About Extremes In Human Emotion Analysis

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‘Medea is about extremes in human emotion.’ Discuss.

It is within the very nature of humans to be captivated by extreme emotions, yet within his Greek tragedy Medea, Euripides also demonstrates the extent to which we are bound by idyllic values of social order. This disjunction founded upon passion and reason is best contextualised by the gripping antithesis between Medea and Jason respectively. While Medea is the embodiment of barbaric excess, Jason is the unadulterated archetype of Greek culture and its civilised laws. In presenting the consequences of the oppressive culture of Greek society, as well as the destruction entailed with Medea’s unchecked emotions that propel her cause for revenge, Euripides seems to suggest that we should allow
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From the outset of the play, the audience is never entirely sure of Medea’s protean character, whose mercurial temperament is prone to violent changes, as she is unresolved between accomplishing her “dreadful purposes” and behaving in accordance with her better judgement. When Medea “lies collapsed in agony” in her home, “dissolving the long hours in tears” after “she [has] heard of Jason’s wickedness”, it is evident that Medea’s character is of a tempestuous nature governed by extreme emotions. Having formerly “left a barbarous land to become a resident of Hellas”, Euripides portrays Medea in a manner, uncharacteristic of the archetypal Greek woman founded upon pragmatism, who is commonly considered quiet, powerless and unintelligent. Conversely, Medea is a manipulative, conniving and “clever woman”, who assumes a reserved exterior, whilst stifling her own emotions, in order to “gain her purpose and carry out her schemes.” Euripides also depicts Medea with chaotic natural imagery of “a mad bull or a lioness guarding her cubs” which alludes to primal instincts of emotions. At the end of the play, as Medea equivocates the “slaughter [her] children”, this epitomises the consummation of her emotions, as she “steels herself” and dismisses the rational thoughts that “she shall suffer twice as much” and that “[his] loss is [hers] no …show more content…
Jason, a pitiful shadow of his former heroic self, is the unadulterated embodiment of society’s unfeeling rationality. When Jason addresses Medea in a condescending manner in saying that she “should think [herself] lucky” during their confrontation, the audience’s understanding of Jason’s character is one of pitilessness and callousness, as he attributes all blame to “her own choice”. It is evident in the arguments with which Jason rebuffs Medea, together with the exclamation “I have to show myself a clever speaker, it seems”, that his entire argument is pure sophistry, not argued on the basis of truth. Behind a mask of eloquent rhetoric, he argues with the sole intention of convincing, Euripides constructs Jason so that he never confronts the arguments of Medea, only to evade them and debunk them indirectly. Jason also downplays the role of Medea in the quest, and even shamelessly suggesting that it was her “helpless passion” which “drove her then to save [his] life”. Jason’s fixation on these terms of exchange in their relationship, and his criticism that Medea received more from the bargain they struck, serves to further delineate his emotionless character. Jason’s outcry that “if women didn’t exist, human life would be rid of all its miseries” is a further indication that not only is he unsympathetic

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