Susan Smith murdered her own two children in 1994. Kathleen Folbigg killed her only child in 1998. Caro Socorro killed her three children in 1999. And in 431 B.C. the fictional character, Medea, murderedmurdured her own two sons. When hearing about these extreme atrocities we are repulsed. What sane mother could murder her own children? But thats just the point isn’t it, no sane mother would kill her own young. No, each of these women had underlying psychological issues that led to them committing these unnatural, morally wrong acts. Susan was rejected by her lover, Kathleen’s father had brutally murdered her mother, Caro was a victim of a failed marital relationship, whilst in Euripides play, Medea was not only rejected and a victim of a failed marital relationship but she also had her pride torn from beneath her.
Revenge is one of the most primitive, brutal human impulses. When an individual feels threatened by another individual they indulge in fantasies of revenge. But its when these fantasies become reality that society suffers. “Medea” reveals how revenge can take over the mind, sending a person beyond insanity.
Euripides has created an intense revenge tragedy within his play “Medea”. Which allows an audience to study the passion humans hold for revenge as a psychological construct and a moral issue. I mean Medea took revenge to the ultimate by overriding her maternal instinct just to “work revenge on Jason for his wrongs”(line 260, p. 25).
The myth of Medea and Jason was well known within the Athenian society in which it was written. Though there were varying versions of it floating about. Euripides own addition to the text added an intensity to Medea’s revenge. In older versions of the myth the children were murdered by Medea’s enemies in revenge for the death of Creon and his daughter. Medea’s murder of her children was Euripides addition to the myth. The shocking addition of having a mother slaughter her own children makes a dark story even darker, it deepens the revenge and shocks the moral of the audience. Euripides manipulates the audience through traditional Greek play techniques to increase the intensity of the revenge, by playing with our thoughts and inviting his audience to question the way their society lives. Through the Chorus of Corinthian women Euripides directs the audiences view of Medea. Throughout the play the Chorus voices their opinion, influencing the audience to their point. Originally the Chorus celebrates Medea’s desire for revenge, chanting “To punish Jason will be just” (line 267, p. 25), the audience agrees with the Chorus, Jason should be punished. Once the Chorus become aware of her intentions they turn against her, attempting to make her see reason and in the final ode they condemn her while acknowledging that her actions are the manifestation of a greater power and thereby re enforce Euripides tragic theme. The Chorus’s 5 stasimons and short interventions during the play direct the audience’s thoughts and opinions. As a tragic heroine Medea is a creation unique to Euripides, the psychological study of a woman entirely consumed by love and hate. He reminds us that her love for Jason resulted in the betrayal of her father, the murder of her brother and the murder of Pelias. Rejected, mocked and betrayed, her pride and hatred of Jason cause the destruction of all those connected with him, Glauce, Creon and her own children. Medea, as much as her victims suffers as a result of the primitive force that drives her. This is Euripides message to his audience in a society that he sees as at risk of destruction because they fail to recognise the power of uncontrolled passion and primitive instincts. Revenge is seen as just within society, as long as it is limited. If a wife burns her husbands favourite pants it is appropriate, killing another for revenge in Euripides context could be seen as fitting, but a women murdering her own children is ethically and morally wrong in both our and Euripides context. Therefore Euripides uses Medea as a dramatic tool to convey the anarchy society would plunge into without adequate action within the law. If the ruling powers are corrupt, an individual will eventually take retributive action and the fabric of society is threatened and intense suffering is the result.