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Medea

Euripides

Lines 869-1001

Lines 660-868

Lines 1002-1116

Summary

When Jason returns at the nurse's request, Medea begins to carry out her ruse. Expressing regret over her previous overreaction to Jason's decision to divorce and remarry, Medea goes so far as to break down in tears of remorse. Announcing a full reconciliation with her husband, she concedes each of the arguments that Jason made in their last discussion and releases the two boys into his embrace. Fully aware of Medea's expressed intentions, the chorus nevertheless hopes that she has actually changed her mind and decided to curb her desire for revenge. Pleased with how events are now panning out, Jason reimagines his future destiny: after growing into young warriors under the watchful eye of the gods, his children from both marriages will come together and make him a proud father by campaigning against his enemies.

Medea once again breaks down into tears. When Jason inquires into the source of her weeping, she first responds by saying that tears come instinctively to women, then elaborates by saying that she remains upset about being forced to leave. The defensiveness and lack of force behind her statements hint that she may now feel a degree of ambivalence surrounding her planned course of action. Determined, however, she asks Jason that he appeal to Creon to allow their children to stay in Corinth. When Jason indicates uncertainty over being able to convince the King, Medea tells him to ask his wife, Creon's daughter, to make the plea for him. Medea then offers to bring Glauce the coronet and dress as gifts in exchange for her help. She emphasizes that the gifts must be delivered directly into her hands.

The chorus laments the now-assured doom of Medea's children. They imagine Jason's bride being unable to refuse the attractiveness of Medea's gifts, a perfect enticement for bringing a young and beautiful woman to her unsuspected death. The irony of Jason's position is also acknowledged: confident in his belief that events are unfolding in a manner that will secure the honor of his lineage, Jason is actually serving as an unwitting accomplice in the destruction of everything holding value for him.

Commentary

The balance of the play will continually evidence one of the hallmarks of dramatic art: irony of situation. Irony involves a cleft between appearance and reality. It can manifest itself in a play when a character, such as Jason, lacks a knowledge held by the audience or reader, such as Medea's plans to murder her children. Thus, Jason can be fully confident that Medea has changed her earlier convictions, while we understand that she only means to deceive him. The chorus, which stands apart from the action, often comments directly on the irony of a situation, and its speech in this section (lines 977-1001) serves to point out the complexity, one of the basic symptoms of irony, behind each character's evolving fate. The art of tragedy, which repeatedly stresses the limits of human knowledge, depends on irony to advance its themes; it produces the gap between what characters know and what they think they know.

Like the great tragedians before him, Euripides displays a complex approach to this stock dramatic device. When Medea erupts into tears at the mention of her children, she could be simply acting her part to elicit more of Jason's sympathy, or she could also be struggling internally with the decision she has made to murder them. In either case, her words to Jason are a front, and the audience or reader must look past them to infer her real motivations. Because Medea exhibits some complexity as a character, the reality behind her many appearances may be uncertain or vary from time to time. Deciphering her real moods and motivations requires interpretation within a broader context; for example, Medea's initial curses against her children would seem to challenge the veracity of her present sympathy for them. At times, however, it seems that by acting out false emotions, Medea reveals to herself true ones she had not previously considered. Jason's deeply ironic vision of his children's heroic future (lines 908-923), instigated by Medea's fake reconciliation with him, actually forces her to realize that she also partly desires a successful future for them, making their deaths (which are being sealed at the present moment) even more distressing to her. While the "real" or internal drama being enacted on stage manifests a degree of ambiguity at this point, Medea continues to plot the outward course of her revenge without much hesitation. Jason is totally duped into carrying out her will, and the chorus now considers a great deal of suffering and death to be hopelessly inevitable.

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Comprehensive Summary Clarification

by kathy_clara, November 06, 2013

The comprehensive summary here says, "Seeing his daughter ravaged by the poison, Creon chooses to die by her side by dramatically embracing her and absorbing the poison himself," suggesting that Creon willingly committed suicide. However, the play itself says, "Everyone was afraid to touch the corpse. We had what had happened to teach us. But her poor father, still unaware of the calamity, suddenly came into the house and fell upon the corpse." True, Creon's lamentations suggest a willingness to die, but the text itself doesn't imply that hi

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Dragon Chariot?

by erinc42, March 06, 2014

Medea does not flee in a dragon chariot, Jason arrives at her house (hoping to kill her for Murdering Creon and Creosa) just after she has killed the children, then she comes out to talk to him at first denying that she killed the children. She then tells servants to bring out the children, who are dead, and Jason is heartbroken. Medea then goes back into the house and Jason tries to follow her, but "collapses". At least that is the way I have read it, maybe there are multiple versions, I would check to be sure which way you are reading it.... Read more

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