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Role Of Women In The Medea Play English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1562 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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In both plays there is a dominant female character, who tries to control the direction of the play. In both plays the theme is for the dominance of the female character to show through with strong and dominant personalities. The Mother is the strongest presence in Lorca’s play ‘Blood Wedding’ whilst Medea, Jason’s wife is the dominant force in Euripides play.

In Blood Wedding we can see the role of the mother primarily more prevailing, we see this in many ways, in her language:

“We have to get back in good time. These people live so far away!”

This quotation shows that she has authority she demands respect from her son; she wasn’t giving Leonardo a alternative. She uses strong vocabulary to demonstrate and emphasise her power. The quotation also shows her willingness to speak her mind, this shows that she is in a dominant position in the family.

Another way she illustrates her power is via her actions “The Mother remains seated”. Usually as a sign of respect, the occupant of the house if seated will rise in order to greet and accommodate he guest into their home. The Mother’s reluctance to get up from her seated position shows us that she has status not just in her family but in her community.

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The mother likes to dictate the direction on how things should be. As a wife, mother, and widow she has lived her life with decorum and is respected and this has garnered her some power and respect amongst her social peers as much as she is able to for women in her society are allowed. This entails her to have total control over individuals primarily her son who is subservient to her commands. The mother suffers tragedy and indignity in silence as a show of strength in character.

This can be compared to the play by Euripides and the female character Medea and how she commits cold calculating murder of her children and other characters must not be understated. The time, focus and planning of Medea’s deeds to kill her own children for revenge goes beyond rationality into the realms of insanity.

Medea: Oh, what misery! … Cursed sons, and a mother … for cursing! Death take you all – you and your father …

Nurse: Why make the sons share in their father’s guilt?

Medea is exceptionally angry. She wants to seek revenge on Jason for his betrayal. The Nurse suggests the irrational and emotional stability of Medea plot in designing to kill her own children for revenge. The Nurse points to the fact the sons are innocent and should not be guilty for the father’s sins. They are manifestations of pure malevolence; she is someone with no conscience or a hint of remorse or humanity. But the simple fact is she is portrayed as a strong woman capable of any crime given the occasion.

Medea’s love for Jason is portrayed as unconditional and has no boundaries. She has unconditional love for him. She is willing to extinguish anyone who gets in her way. Medea’s extreme nature is evident right from the start. This love for Jason is capitulated to hate when he leaves her and the children. This hate manifest into a single obsession for revenge at all costs.

Although the mother in Blood Wedding doesn’t go to the extremes as Medea, these two characters share very similar traits. The mother acts out of love of her sadly murdered husband and eldest son, while on the other hand Medea’s actions are manifested by the betrayal of her husband Jason, whom she more than loved.

The mother in Blood Wedding lives in fear of losing her only son left, as a result of this she becomes obsessed with weapons, and starts to over react when Leonardo holds so much as a knife to perform everyday tasks:

“The knife, the knife… damn all of them and the scoundrel who invented them”.

This fear is portrayed in Medea but the difference between these two characters is the way they deal with their problems, in the case of Medea she acts with violence, brutality and no remorse. During the end of the play Medea detaches herself from the constraints of reality and loses control of her emotions: “They’re dead now. I hope it hurts”. This quotation shows Medea’s state of mind during the end of the play. She doesn’t seem to grasp the reality of her actions and has her eyes set on revenge.

It is hard to comprehend the degree of insanity behind Medea’s actions. She is a mentally strong intellectual individual. She can also be shrewd and manipulative.

Medea: lets me stay one extra day, to make three enemies corpses:

ha! father, daughter, and my husband.

It is difficult to interpret this quote because the plot is not clear whether killing the children were an afterthought. It is clear Creon and his daughter are killed and Jason was to be killed as well but he is left alive to feel the sever loss and pain. Again this could be an afterthought for Jason to live with the pain and the loss of his children. It could also be that she is not sure about her plans or lying about who she was going to kill. Medea is able to see behind the hypocrisies of her enemies and use these weaknesses against them. The detailed planning of her heinous acts is proof that the wickedness of her nature when she is perceived to be wronged. The crimes she commits far outweigh the Jason leaving her even when he offers her help to start a new life.

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Medea’s character is very strong willed. She is at war and takes no prisoners. For Medea the ends justify the means and her vengeance is the only single minded obsession she has and at no matter what the physical and emotional cost to her and to all those she holds in high esteem and dear to her like her children. The sheer scale of the murderess act on her own children is not seen as a cowardly act to Medea but a way to punish someone who has she has perceived as wronged her.

Jason: Anything you or the children want in exile,

let … me know; I’ll gladly furnish it […]

Medea: The presents of the wicked are pure poison

Jason is trying to appease Medea and the children when they are due to go into exile. He is probably feeling guilty about the pain he has caused Medea and possibly may even know that she may cause trouble having been married to her. Medea in her anger spurns Jason’s offer of appeasement and Jason is wicked and his offers are nothing short of poison. Medea’s character is portrayed as cold and calculating individual. Her character does not reveal much sorrow in the end for murdering her own children, and her actions are often preformed without hesitation and instinctively. Her actions in this case are of a person who is capable of performing heinous acts of killing the children in a calm and calculating manner. It seems part of Medea’s innate nature to easily perform these gruesome acts almost with little or no remorse.

Medea’s vengeance against Jason for marrying someone else clearly justified the perceived wronged inflicted on her. The emotional instability of Medea clearly instigated her single minded obsession to commit murder. The incidental acts of killing her own children were secondary to the retribution and pain she would cause her ex-husband Jason. The suffering that Jason would fell at the loss of the children was paramount to Medea’s plot and clearly played little part in the sorrow she would feel. The detailed planning and the time she took to implement the gruesome plot shows that Medea was a woman of guile and strong of character.

Medea’s Obsession with revenge can be compared to the Mothers obsession with the Felix family, in Blood Wedding:

“But i hear the name – Felix- and for me Felix is the same as filling my mouth with slime (she spits), I have to spit so it doesn’t poison me.”

This quotation shows her hatred towards the Felix family and her actions emphasize this fact. Her ‘spitting’ every time she says the Felix name shows the extent to which her hatred lies. She may not be as drastic as Medea but she the flare of revenge in her sights. As the play progresses we see that the mother only has her son’s best interest at heart, I think this is where the two plays mainly differ. Medea is only seeking revenge no matter what the cost is, the Mother has hatred but assumes the rightful place as ‘master’ of the house and looks for her sons best interest. This is the defining point of both plays the way in which Medea seeks revenge shows her unconditional love for Jason, while the Mothers desire to see her son happy portrays her love for her family.

In both plays there are dominant women characters who take the main/core leading the main plot and controlling the direction of the play. This Dominant role of women are eccentric for the standards of society in that time, even though both plays were written at different times the role of male dominance was significant. Therefore a female character taking a protagonist role was not ordinary.

Texts used:

Euripides Medea – Publishing Ltd 2002

Blood Wedding – Methuen student edition 1997


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