Presentation on theme: "Appendix B. Item 6 Unit 2, Lecture 3, Medea: the Evolution of a Master Passion “One master passion ruling in the breast Like Aaron’s serpent swallows all."— Presentation transcript:
Appendix B. Item 6 Unit 2, Lecture 3, Medea: the Evolution of a Master Passion “One master passion ruling in the breast Like Aaron’s serpent swallows all the rest” —Alexander Pope
Themes In Medea In common with other Greek Drama: Protagonist driven by “one tremendous urge” (Lind xviii) Certain uniquely Euripidean themes “sympathy for all the victims of society including womankind” (Hadas viii) Protagonist suffers not “to illustrate some grand ethical abstraction” but from hunger for a tolerable life (Hadas ix) “Disturbing rationalism” which challenges convention (Lind xx) Combine these and you get Medea: The destructive and unbalanced “master passion” of Medea is partially the creation of an unbalanced social order which has blandly victimized her. The horror of Medea is a “group effort”! Euripides
Major Characters in Medea Medea who proves that “one master passion ruling in the breast…swallows all the rest” as well as devouring her own family Jason, Medea’s husband, former hero and leader of Argonauts, his unheroic role in the play is to desert her for a new bride; his arrogant and complacent disloyalty helps trigger Medea’s transformation from wronged woman to vengeful monster. Kreon: King of Corinth and father of Jason’s future bride. Unlike his putative son-in-law, he recognizes that Medea is dangerous—but makes a disastrous error in judgment when he gives her an extra day to prepare for the exile he imposes on her. His injustice and miscalculation also contribute the tragic disaster of the drama. Aegeus : In return for a promise of help in his fertility crisis, Medea extracts a promise of safe haven which will allow her to carry out her plan of revenge with full confidence of “getting away” with it Chorus: Corinthian women whose initial sympathy for Medea is turns to horror at her final plans for vengeance. Even more than Oedipus, the chorus exhibits a feeling of helplessness in the fact of the overweening passions of the protagonist.
Appendix B. item 6 The “Cost” of a Passion Nurse in prologue (exposition) give the exposition in which we learn the following: –Medea’s sole life motive is her passion for Jason –Passion has led her to betray her family –That Passion has been, in turn, betrayed by Jason and –The rejected passion is evolving into something dangerous Jason and MedeaJason and Medea
From Rejected Passion to Wounded Pride Rejection of love leaves only a fierce and wounded pride She already carries the wounds of humiliation –Memory of betrayed family –Experience of humiliating “foreignness” –The essential humiliation of womanhood –The essential humiliation of the “gifted.” These wounds make Jason’s rejection an intolerable humiliation –In part because they remove the very rationale for the previous ones.
Appendix B. Item 6 From Wounded Pride to Pure Vengeance At first Medea’s transformation from devoted wife to avenging fury wins the chorus’s approval and the audience’s sympathy But as vengeance moves from driving force to “total occupation,” Medea dissipates that sympathy However, having gained the chorus’s promise to keep silence, she has prepared a way to fulfill her steadily evolving plans of revenge.
The Kreon “Assist ” Both Kreon and Jason quite unwittingly strengthen Medea’s evolving passion for vengeance while setting themselves up for its consequences Kreon infuriates her with the “wise injustice” of exile But Kreon gives her a chance to “get even” by allowing her an extra day
Appendix B. Item 6 Evolving Plans of Revenge Kreon’s departure allows us to see how Medea’s motives “progress” from infuriated humiliation to all-consuming vengeance as she begins to plan her ‘payback.” First plan is brutal and direct: “three dead bodies” (375-6) –While her plans will evolve, her motives will not: the following statements are variations on a theme which will remain constant from here to the end: she must not “give my enemies cause for laughter” (379); “It shall not be.../That any man shall be glad to have injured me” (392, 395) –To prevent that all important humiliation, she must, if possible, make an advance plan for escape. –But captured or not, she must still kill her enemies –The only change is in intensity: goes from dominant to “total.” Chorus is with her –Men’s broken pledges is associated with an unnatural reversing of the world’s order –And the dishonor of Medea wholly unjust
Jason’s “Assist” Jason appears and adds fuel to the fire –His “shrugging off” of her sacrifices –His effrontery in suggesting he’s done her a favor –His belittling of the “love question” Chorus’s sympathetic comments nevertheless foreshadow a shift in sympathy –Pure sympathy for Medea as exile, but –Sympathy for Medea as victim of “love in excess” implies also implies criticism (only love “in moderation” is “gracious”) –Chorus’s later horror will spring from what the “excess” will do!
Appendix B. Item 6 Aegeus’s “Assist ” Answer to her hope for a safe exile –Remember earlier statements about oaths? Why does she make him swear an oath? Any remaining “checks” on Medea’s her fury or her schemes of vengeance have now been removed –This includes the chorus who engage in the “ritual of supplication” but who have given their word
Final Evolution: From Dominant to Total Medea’s plans reveal a final perfection of motive Instead of two dead bodies, there will be four: The king, the princess, and her own two children—but Jason will live! Why should Jason live and the children die? –Shall we take seriously her words to the chorus: “there is none who can give them safely”? –Her real motive in its triumphant monotony: “For it is not bearable to be mocked by enemies” (781) –If we have any further doubt, there are her further words: “this is the best way to wound my husband”
Appendix B. Item 6 A Final Wavering underlines the Total “Swallowing ” Her conflict keeps her “human” But this same conflict also makes it clear that she is acting deliberately—not swept away on a sea of incoherent passion –She aims at an awful perfection: “I shall not mar my handiwork” –She unblinkingly accepts the “evil” of her fury even as she makes a final surrender to it. She is now wholly defined by the “master passion” which has “swallowed all the rest”
Euripides Warning? Another Greek dramatist might have made this play simply a warning against the excess which destroys the “golden mean” of moderation which that culture treasured In Euripides’ treatment, that excess does not belong simply and solely to the protagonist, but is a collaborative effort involving the forces of injustice and blindness which help generate an all devouring master passion