Sunday, May 14, 2017

Medea by Euripides translated by Robin Robertson

Medea will not accept being abandoned

Jason, a noble Greek, and Medea, a barbarian sorceress, have had many adventures and two sons together. Now, Jason, much to Medea’s surprise, plans to marry the king of Corinth’s daughter and prefers that Medea step gratefully aside. Medea, who because of her murderous actions on Jason’s behalf can never return to her home, will have none of it, and achieves a savage revenge on everyone who would have cast her aside.

Euripides is my favorite Greek playwright so far, not interested in playing nice or in cosseting the audience. The play is cleanly plotted, its detonations are perfectly timed. There are many hints of what Medea will do well before she does it. The theme is the sometimes deadly unpredictability of women, and the untrustworthiness of the barbarians. And yet, the viewer, I’m sure, is supposed to feel sympathy for Medea. It is so easy to understand why she can’t accept the sound logic of Jason’s argument. The truth rings out clearly throughout the centuries. The final image of Phoebus' carriage takes the play into another realm all together.

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