Euripides choose to ignore Aristotle’s rules if they interfered with his message to the Athenian people. “Medea” very effectively dramatises the devastating result of the primitive forces and unrestrained passions to which humanity are subject. Medea’s murderous hate causes her suffering but it destroys King Creon, the Princess and Medea’s own sons, not herself. She is not the typical tragic heroine of Greek Drama, a noble character who is destroyed due to a character flaw, gains self-knowledge in her catastrophe and the catharsis at the end of the play. This variance from Aristotle’s rules would have surprised the first audiences’ into shock about the potential devastation of their society.
Euripides illustrates how destructive unvented revenge can be for not only the victim but also the avenger and for society. Through the use of a common myth Euripides allowed himself to focus on manipulating his audience to view the consequences of a vengeful society, instead of the audience having to concentrate as much on plot development. There is restricted characterisation needed within “Medea” allowing instead Euripides introduction of the psychological realism into the play through Medea, whose motives are confused, complex, and ultimately driven by her passion for revenge.
Revenge is a strong emotion and a dangerous emotion, Thomas Moore once said that “Those who plot the destruction of others often perish in the attempt”. Euripides play “Medea” clearly illustrates this notion. Revenge dominates Medea’s thoughts and actions, no matter what she does she knows she will suffer. Medea is full of great Hubris and if she did not kill her children and fulfill her revenge on Jason she would live in shame, and that is just not an option for a women full of pride. But if she killed her children their lives would have been for nothing, raising them all those years would have meant nothing and she would lose the only family she has left. Medea realises how callous her plan is, “The horror of what I am going to do” (line 1080, p. 50), but she also recognises the power of revenge, “but anger, The spring of all life’s horror, masters my resolve.” (line 1080-1081, p. 50). Medea’s true power and presence is essentially revealed through her will to complete her revenge with the death of her children. She suffered psychomachia but her will and strength came through, enhancing Medea’s insane, vengfull persona dramatically.
Aristotle criticised “Medea” as he believed the murder of the children breached the bounds of decorum and was revolting, but is that not the point? Euripides has created such a morally inept story that society views the revenge within it as a psychological issue that must be dealt with. Aristotle also criticised it as the arrival of Aegeus was irrational and the ending was not the logical result of the characterisation and plot. But Euripides schematic if slightly improbable plot and relatively two-dimensional characters are compensated for by his use of surprise and theatricality. For example the description of Glauce’s and Creon’s deaths by the Messenger “…The golden coronet round her head discharged a stream Of unnatural devouring fire…”(line 1187-1188, p. 53), Medea’s murder of her children, “We can’t escape from her sword!” (line 1276 p. 56) and the dramatic Deus ex machina, the chariot drawn by dragons in Medea’s triumphant exit. Euripides conveys Medea’s destructive passion and his thesis powerfully to his audience.