Saturday, October 17, 2009

Medea II: Marry Medea?

Regarding Medea: If you are female, would you marry Jason? Why or why not? If you are a male, would you marry Medea? Why or why not? Cite specifics from the text to support your response but then offer the reader your gut feeling about either Jason or Medea. Your gut feeling does not need to be substantiated.

Medea is such a rich, complex character. If Euripides was interested in psychological realism, he certainly succeeds with conflicted, magical, magnificent Medea. Is she wife material, however? I have been married for seven years now, so I have a real flesh-and-blood woman as a point of reference.

In my view, character is everything when considering with whom to spend your life. Medea exhibits strengths and weaknesses on this point. Her fierce loyalty to Jason is on display throughout "Jason and the Golden Fleece" and "Medea." She is willing to leave her home in Colchis to become "a stranger in a strange land" in Hellas (197). All she asks is that Jason give her his word that he will remember her help in capturing the Golden Fleece (197). When Aeetes threatens the Argo, Medea is willing to sacrifice her own brother to save Jason: "For we must push little Apsyrtus into the grasping hands of Thanatos!" (216). Endlessly resourceful, Medea disguises herself as a priest of Artemis in order to help Jason remove Pelias from the throne of Iolcus (221).

Medea asks for only one thing from Jason in exchange for all of this: faithfulness. This is, of course, too much to ask for the supremely fickle Jason. When Jason breaks his wedding vow to marry Glauce, he unleashes the darker side of Medea's character (227). Suddenly, Medea's love turns to hate. She cannot bear to be mocked: "For I cannot let Jason abuse me! Or he will laugh at me ... And wherever I walk upon Mother Gaea, I will hear it mock me." (237). Medea then turns all her considerable creativity and power towards making Jason suffer. First, she murders Glauce and King Creon (239). Then, to leave Jason utterly alone in the world and despite the protests of a mother's heart, she kills her sons as well (239).

While I admire Medea's courage and loyalty, I would be afraid to marry someone capable of "such reckless hate" (Tolkien, "The Two Towers"). Though I like to believe that I would never betray Medea like Jason did, everyone makes mistakes. Forgiveness is essential to any healthy relationship, especially a marriage.

My gut feeling is that Medea is neither completely good nor completely evil; she is simply human. She is truly one of us.

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