Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Alienation of Medea

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In Euripidess Medea, Medea is continuously expressed as an outsider with separate characteristics than that of the general public and because of this is alienated from the society around her. Many different attributes add up to this exile from her country and others. The fact that she is woman and foreign has much to do with her isolation.During Ancient Greece times, “foreign residents were encouraged to come to Athens but were rarely admitted to the rights of full citizenship, which was a jealously guarded privilege” (Warner footnote , p. 700). Since the Athenian rights and regulations were made for men, “the women had few privileges and almost no legal rights” (Warner footnote , p. 700). In fact the male foreigner had more privileges then the local woman (Euripides p. 64). Medea only sought for the rights of everyone else and because of that she was considered different and was avoided by others. Men were to be above the women, but Medea knew she had to rise above to get exactly what she wanted so she struck out in manners not normal of women and was feared by many. This is the reasons of her distress and the tragic ending that followed. Medea is the story of how the loss of love and the separation from others can turn to death and catastrophe.


Not only a woman and a foreigner, Medea is faced with many other civilian haunting characteristics such as sorcery, intelligence and cleverness. In the beginning her nurse states, “She’s a strange woman” (Medea ln. 44, p. 66). The nurse also warns Medea of her own nature, “be careful of the wildness and bitter nature of that proud mind” (Medea ln. 10-104, p. 67). By fault, Medea is no idiot and realizes why she is alienated by others. While speaking with the chorus of Corinthian woman she focuses on her lifestyle of isolation, “and those who live quietly, as I do, get a bad reputation” (Medea ln. 15-16, p. 700). Medea knows as a foreigner, she must adapt but still she will always be judged by her past mistakes and history. She declares this while continuing to address the chorus


Yet what applies to me does not apply to you. You have a country. Your family home is here. You enjoy life and the company of your friends. But I am deserted, a refugee, thought nothing of by my husband, -- something he won in a foreign land. I have no mother or brother, nor any relation with whom I can take refuge in this sea of woe (Medea ln. 50-56, p. 700).


Medea’s state of estrangement is made clearer with the entrance of Kreon’s character. He insultingly calls her “an exile” (Medea ln. 71, p. 701) instead of her name while speaking to her. In fact, she is being exiled in the first place because of her threatening manor since she is “a clever woman, versed in evil acts” (Medea ln. 8, p. 701). Women in those days were known not for their ideas or for being outspoken, therefore since Medea possessed both of these qualities, she was intimidating to others. Kreon expresses how he is “afraid” (Medea ln. 80, p. 701) of Medea because he hears that she is “threatening” (Medea ln. 85, p. 701). In her defense, Medea conveys, “a person of sense ought never to have his children brought up to be more clever than the average” (Medea ln. 50-56, p. 701), as if being intellectual is wrong if you are a woman. In addition, Medea adds, “for being clever, I find that some will envy me, others object to me” (Medea ln. 01-0, p. 701). Kreon brings logic to the hysteria over an intelligent woman with one of his finals statements, “A sharp tempered women, or for that matter a man, is easier to deal with than the clever type who hold her tongue” (Medea ln. 16-18, p. 70).


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Nonetheless, Medea is still driven from Corinth despite of her best efforts. The chorus illustrates her emotion, “and now in a foreign country you have lost your rest in a widowed bed, and are driven forth, a refugee in dishonor from the land” (Medea ln. 44-47, p. 704). Still, Jason comes to help reiterate why exactly Medea is being exiled. “You are going to be exiled for your loose speaking” (Medea ln. 4, p. 704), and once again Medea is ill-spoken of because she speaks. On her guard, Medea retaliates, “for this is my position, -- hated by my friends at home, I have, in kindness to you, made enemies of others whom there was no need to have injured” (Medea ln. 44-46, p. 705). Furthermore, Jason continues to throw insults by calling Medea a “mouthing tempest […] of your bitter tongue” (Medea ln. 51, p. 706), as well as including the fact that “all the Greeks considered her a clever woman” (Medea ln. 57, p. 706). With Jason’s verbal abuse over her free speech, Medea begins to understand why exile seams like the best answer, for she will be “quiet without friends” (Medea ln. 501. p. 706) when banished. She also recognizes how much better it will be for Jason when she is gone since “[he] thought it was not respectable as [he] got on in years to have a foreign wife” (Medea ln. 57-580, p. 707). Also Jason can throw out insults because he has family and friends to go to. Medea knows this and expresses her feelings with “You can insult me. You have somewhere to turn to. But I shall go from this land into exile, friendless” (Medea ln. 51-5, p. 707).


Medea proves how ancient times strived for a conventional lifestyle where women and children should be seen and not heard, rather than allowing them rights to be outsiders with minds and opinions. With each character that felt threatened by Medea, came the same reasons for her intimidating behaviors intelligence, out-spoken, will power, sense of witchcraft, love and cleverness. In the end, past her struggles, Medea still ended up alone and separated from others. She questioned her outcome earlier, “What profit have I in life? I have no land, no home, no refuge from my pain” (Medea ln. 78-78, p. 711). Still, whether Medea is sincerely evil or abnormally educated, the people of society abandoned her because of her characteristics that set her apart from others. Because of these attitudes, Medea was an outcast to her surrounding societies, no matter where it was.


Because of Media’s alienation, it did not matter what she did since she was always going to be looked at as an exile or foreigner. This had a lot of impact on the closing of the story. Like Euripides himself, Medea seemed “to have lived a private, an intellectual life” (Euripides p. 6). Medea could have been Euripides way of expressing some of his own anguish about being an outsider himself. However, Medea went to the extreme by killing her children and the king and daughter. Maybe, if she was not so isolated from the society she was in, then she could have someone on her side to fight on her behalf and the conclusion of the story could have been different, but since she was alone, she had nothing to loose. Therefore, this story comes with many morals; A warning to the cheating husband, as well as, a reminder to people that to the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you may be the world.





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