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The Tragic Greek Play Medea

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The tragic Greek play Medea, written by Euripides, is the tale of a woman scorned, cast aside by her love, and her struggle to regain all she has lost. Historically, women of ancient Greece are subservient, emotional, obedient, submissive, and maternal. Social standards and customs expected women not to have opinions or free will. Women had very little choice in the path that their lives took them down. Much of the literature of ancient Greece, such as the works of Homer and Hesiod, portray women as evil, and beings that exist simply for the purpose of reproducing. An example of this is within Hesiod's Works and Days, "I am going to give them Evil in exchange for fire, their very own Evil to love and embrace" (Works and Days, p.130, 75). The Evil of whom Zeus is speaking is, in fact, woman. Evil hardly sounds like the making of a hero, yet Euripides made Medea, a woman, the hero of this play. The poet dared to defy the social norm and create a new form of tragedy, one in which characters are used equally throughout regardless of their sex. Through Medea, Euripides has shown that there is so much more to a Greek woman than what had previously been portrayed. As a means of criticizing the treatment of women in Ancient Greece, Euripides places Medea in non-traditional roles, with unconventional characteristics. Euripides' representation of Medea provides insight into the plight of women in ancient Greece. Between her masculine pride, and her refusal to maintain social norms with the help of her cunning, Medea exemplifies the unspoken voice of the ancient Greek woman.

Upon reading Medea, one will discover that the heroine displays many traditionally male characteristics. Her defiance and nonconformity to traditional Greek standards had been common amongst the male hero, but unheard of and never before seen within a woman. Typically, all heroes have this in common, their isolation from society. Their difference from everyone else is what makes them unique, a hero. This is no different than Medea. Her headstrong nature is just one aspect of her nonconformity to the traditional standards placed upon a Greek woman.



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