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CLA232H1 Lecture Notes - Dionysia, Aegeus, Kyrios

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Victoria Wohl

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Men & Women – Eurpides Medea
Medial figure (woman & barbarian & witch)
She is in conflict with Jason (who is the complete opposite of her)
This play was performed for the first time at City Dionysia in 431 BCE
Assumed that in this play Greeks would come across more favourably (watched by Greek males)
Women were not full citizens so would not have attended
This play was used to build confidence in men
o Men are brave and rational, women are not
Depictions of strong, powerful women in Greek tragedy
o Equal to or superior to men
Question of how men would respond to seeing this on stage what did it offer to him
These women were often punished for their power and independence
o Can be seen as a moral lesson to both men and women
Plays with this theme don’t work at the theatres unless the men can build a connection with the
women on the stage
These plays allow the audience to enter into the mind of the other
o Allowed men to imagine what life would be like as an other
Medea would have been a Scythian (from Colchis)
o Talked about as savage, compared to a tiger
o Jason says that she should be thankful to him for opening her up to Greek culture
The play highlights the fact that she is an exile
o No home/community
o Exiled from Colchis, about to be exiled from Corinth
Myth of Jason and Medea
The Argonauts were sent to get the Golden Fleece from King Aeetes in Colchis
o The father of Medea
King Aeetes gives them a number of tasks to perform in exchange for the Fleece
Medea uses her magic powers to help him complete the tasks and then to help them escape
o She inherited her powers from her grandfather (Helios) and her aunt (Circe)
By betraying her father and then cutting up her brother to help the Argonauts escape, she is no
longer able to return home to Colchis
Because only the child of 2 Greek parents could be citizens, Jason and Medea’s children could be
citizens of Greece and inherit the kingship
o In his mind, this relationship was ‘useless’
Jason leaves her for Glauce, the daughter of the king of Corinth
o Medea, heartbroken, poisons Glauce, killing Creon (the king) in the process
o She then kills the 2 children she has by Jason
She relied on Jason for her safety and protection, without him she is like a metic
Once Jason betrays her she has no sponsor and can no longer stay in Corinth
Kyrios the “master” of a woman
o Every woman needed to have a male guardian at all times
o Father, brother, husband, son
o A woman could not represent herself politically/ legally/in business
o Women cannot own their own property
o Women could never be full citizens
Medea’s situation represents to some degree the situation of women on a whole
o Women only have their husbands to turn to, exiles in their own homes
o Women can be seen as xenos (strangers) in their own homes
Are not citizens and do not have the same rights as citizens
Medea is offered xenia (hospitality) by Aegeus, the king of Athens
o They exchange xenia for her magic (fertility for Aegeus)
o This speaks to the Athenian character
Women are depicted as:
o Emotional
o Manipulative
o Irrational
o Vengeful
o Jealous
o Deceitful
Men often wish for another way to reproduce so they can live without women
Medea reinforces Greek prejudices about women
o However she is also able to manipulate them to her benefit
She gets more time in Corinth from Creon
Pathetic woman speech with Jason
o She also counters stereotype of weakness by showing strength
Men earn kleos (eternal glory and recognition) thru andreia
o The goal for women is to have no kleos and no andreia
Men fighting 3 battles is the equivalent to a woman having a child
o Equating both male and female labour
Both types called ponos
In Sparta, the only people with public tombs are men who die in battle and women you die in
Medea says that ponos for women shows as much andreia as male ponos
Women can have as much andreia and heroism as well
Medea represents herself as Jason’s equal
o Uses the language of obligation rather than love
o Mentions his oaths a lot
Oaths were protected by the gods & by Zeus himself
Breaking an oath can be seen as an act of impiety
Jason is betraying Medea as well as the gods
o Medea calls him a bad Greek for not maintaining Greek values
Eros (sexual love) is never mentioned in the play
Language of oaths makes her look independent
o Idea of contract and equality
Language of friendship also serves to equate the two
o ‘help you friends and harm your enemies’
o Philos=friend
Medea picks Jason as her philos over her own family
Medea tries to uphold this principle when Jason doesn’t
o She is teaching him a lesson about honour and heroism
In this way she becomes his superior
Kaloskagathos everything beautiful, noble and good
Kakos bad, ugly (opposite of kaloskagathos)
Language of counterfeiting
o Gold on the outside, rotten, ‘base’ on the inside
Medea calls Jason out on not being an ideal Greek
o She shows that she knows more about the ethical values of a Greek male than an actual
Greek male does (Jason)
When women perform on act of andreia it is not brave, but gruesome and gory
o When Medea takes to get revenge of the princess, the details of her death are
Medea believes that she must kill her children to hurt Jason
o However this is represented as a heart-breaking decision for Medea
Two sides of the same coin:
o Wants to harm Jason
o Loves her children despite their tie to Jason
Medea’s desire to become a hero is what ultimately tears her apart
When Medea harms her children she is harming her ‘friends’
o Seems to have decided that Jason is her one and only philos
o She must destroy herself as a mother (her femininity) to uphold this principle
The play points out that the Greek man is not all knowing
o They are always able to learn new things about themselves