“Medea Unleashed”

“In life, the worst disasters come from passion”. Medea by Euripides

“Women don’t like violence, But when their husbands desert them, that is different”. Medea by Euripides

In Greek mythology, Medea (Greek: Μήδεια, Mēdeia, Georgian: მედეა, Medea) was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and later wife to the hero Jason, with whom she had two children, Mermeros and Pheres. In Euripides’s play Medea, Jason leaves Medea when Creon, king of Corinth, offers him his daughter, Glauce. The play tells of Medea avenging her husband’s betrayal by slaying their children.

“When love is in excess it brings a man no honor nor worthiness”. Medea by Euripides

Medea figures in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, a myth known best from a late literary version worked up by Apollonius of Rhodes in the 3rd century BC and called the Argonautica. However, for all its self-consciousness and researched archaic vocabulary, the late epic was based on very old, scattered materials. Medea is known in most stories as an enchantress and is often depicted as being a priestess of the goddess Hecate or a witch. The myth of Jason and Medea is very old, originally written around the time Hesiod wrote the Theogony. It was known to the composer of the Little Iliad, part of the Epic Cycle.

Film

In 1969 the world’s greatest opera diva Maria Callas made her first and only venture into the world of film when she played the lead role in director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Medea.

Pasolini took Maria aside. “Let me explain what I’d like you to do in the first scene. As Medea drives by in a cart with her brother, she sees Jason, her future lover and husband, for the first time. This priestess, sorceress, is instantly smitten. The impact of that encounter changes her life. I want you to show what Medea feels, just with your eyes, your expression. Va bene? Let’s try it.”

Together Pasolini and Callas created a hypnotic cinematic experience and a powerful ideological tale of the clash of two cultures.And without Callas singing a note.

Art

 Medea , a 1868 painting by Frederick Sandys

Medea, a 1870 painting by Anselm Feuerbach

“Great people’s tempers are terrible, always
Having their own way, seldom checked,
Dangerous they shift from mood to mood.
How much better to have been accustomed
To live on equal terms with one’s neighbors.
I would like to be safe and grow old in a
Humble way. What is moderate sounds best,
Also in practice is best for everyone.
Greatness brings no profit to people.
God indeed, when in anger, brings
Greater ruin to great men’s houses”.
Medea by Euripides

Theatre

“I’d started going to acting classes at 14, played ‘Medea’ at 15 and really wanted to be a classical actress”.  Barbra Streisand

Medea (play), an Ancient Greek play by Euripides
Medea, a 1st-century AD play by Seneca the Younger
Médée, a 1635 play by Pierre Corneille
Medea, an 1821 play by Franz Grillparzer
Medea, a 1946 play by Jean Anouilh
Medea, a 1946 Broadway stageplay, translated by Robinson Jeffers and starring Judith Anderson
Medea, the Musical, a 1994 musical comedy by John Fisher

“Let no one think of me that I am humble or weak or passive; let them understand I am of a different kind: dangerous to my enemies, loyal to my friends. To such a life glory belongs”. Medea by Euripides

“Aren’t we of all god’s creatures the most unlucky,
We women? First we have to buy our husbands–
Actually pay for a man to lord it over us…
Think yourself lucky if you get a good one;
It isn’t done for women to divorce,
Oh no. And what preparation do we get
For marriage? None. If you do find you’re able
To live with him, you’re lucky. If you don’t,
You’ve had it. Compare us with a man;
If a man no longer fancies the wife he has,
He’s off, and battens on to another woman.
But we’re chained to one person; everything
Depends on him. Oh I know what they say–
We live a safe, comfortable life at home,
While they go out to war, risk life and limb,
Fighting with swords and spears to protect us.
I’d far rather serve in the front line
A dozen times, than go through childbirth once!”
Medea by Euripides

Opera

Médée (Charpentier), a 1693 opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Medea (Benda), a 1775 opera by Georg Benda
Médée (Cherubini), a 1797 opera by Luigi Cherubini

Medea (Pacini), an 1843 opera by Giovanni Pacini
Medea, an 1851 opera by Saverio Mercadante
Médée (Milhaud), a 1939 opera by Darius Milhaud
Medea, a 1988 opera by Mikis Theodorakis
Medea (Reimann), a 2010 opera by Aribert Reimann, premiered in Vienna

In Corinth, Jason abandoned Medea for the king’s daughter, Glauce. Medea took her revenge by sending Glauce a dress and golden coronet, covered in poison. This resulted in the deaths of both the princess and the king, Creon, when he went to save her. It is said that her two sons Mermeros and Pheres helped her mother’s revenge and murdered by Corinthians for their crime. According to the tragic poet Euripides, Medea continued her revenge, murdering her two children Tisander and Alcimenes. Only one son Thessalus was survived. Afterward, she left Corinth and flew to Athens in a golden chariot driven by dragons sent by her grandfather Helios, god of the sun.

“You women are all the same, if bed’s all right,
You think everything else can go to the wind.
But if there’s any infringement of your bed-rights,
Then fair is foul and all hell’s let loose”
.
Medea by Euripides

When we talk about Medea, we might begin by thinking about how reversal plays an important role in understanding Euripides’ intentions. First, as the play opens (prologue), the Nurse gives us history and a view of the “diseased love” between Jason and Medea. There is no equivocation; Jason has wronged Medea. The audience (and the reader) will perhaps fill sympathy for this woman and Corinthian women in general. Obviously the patriarchal elitism and the consequent double standard of masculine behavior is put on display. Women live oppressed lives. Jason himself will confirm these sympathies as his reasoning and thus his words (in the second episode) are visibly absurd. He is transparent and vain.

Medea kills her own children and in doing so nullifies any initial sympathy we might have for her. In fact by the end of the play, one might have a great deal more sympathy for Jason instead of Medea and in this Euripides has reversed the sentiments of the audience through dramatic action. It appears that the idea of having Medea kill her own children was solely the creation of Euripides. So while Medea gets away with murder–unlike Clytemneastra–she also brings destruction on Athens (in the future) for King Aegeus offers her sanctuary in that city. Harboring a murder brings the waft of the furies.

The theme of the children is important in this play. They remain central throughout, always visible or nearby. It is the children that bring about this reversal

“Moderation, the noblest gift of Heaven”. Medea by Euripides

Medea: Harlan’s World, a collection of short science-fiction stories

Jason is ably played by Todd Armstrong. The acting is quite good for a film of this type. Jack Gwillim as King Aeetes of Colchis is a bit melodramatic, but overall, the actors are believable. Hera is played by Honor Blackman, best known as Pussy Galore in the Bond film Goldfinger. Medea (Nancy Kovack) has quite a dance routine as part of her worship to her goddess. The wonderful score by Bernard Herrmann is heroic without being overblown.

Medea Teixeira

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