Medea And Chorus

The exchange that takes place between Medea and the Chorus serves several
purposes in Euripides’ tragedy, The Medea. It allows us to sympathize with Medea
in spite of her tragic flaws. It also foreshadows the tragic events that will
come to pass. Finally, it contrasts rationality against vengeance and excess.

The Chorus offers the sane view of the world to the somewhat insane characters
of Medea, Jason, and Creon. As the passage begins on page 176, the leader of the
Chorus reveals that she has high regards for Medea despite the fact that she is
“savage still.” She acknowledges Medea as a foreigner and an outsider
and yet is sympathetic towards her. This alliance is apparently based on female
bonds rather than on any kind of national loyalty. Medea wastes no time before
she begins lamenting and cursing those who “dared wrong me without
cause.” The Chorus tries to comfort Medea, hoping that this might
“lessen her fierce rage / And her frenzy of spirit.” They show real
concern for her well-being, as well as for the well-being of her loved ones.

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This unselfish attitude is in stark contrast to the attitudes of the main
characters in the tragedy, who all seem to be extremely self-serving. So in just
a few short lines, it’s already become apparent that while the chorus doesn’t
necessarily agree with the way that Medea is handling her situation, they are
sticking by her and supporting her. This idea supports one of the important
themes of the play: the battle of the sexes. Medea now has a chance to get a few
things off her chest. She addresses the “Women of Corinth,” reminding
them that of “all things that live upon the earth and have intelligence we
women are certainly the most wretched.” She discusses the sad lot that
women must deal with in marriage and again stresses the fact that she is an
outsider, “alone, without / a city. Her speech is clever and compelling.

It’s a reminder that she is a very intelligent woman, certainly capable of
outsmarting Jason or Creon. This leads us to her plot. She tells the Chorus that
“a woman is timid in other things, and is a coward in looking on cold
steel, but / whenever she is wronged in her marriage there / is no heart so
murderous as hers.” The Chorus responds to this by telling Medea that she
has the right to seek vengeance on her husband. This certainly foreshadows her
plan to murder those who she feels have injured her. It also reveals her tragic
flaw. She is excessive in her love for Jason and in her reaction to the loss of
his devotion. This passage marks the last time that a civil exchange takes place
for quite some time. Much of the rest of the play is spent on bickering,
begging, and bad-mouthing. Whether you view Medea as a femme fatale or a tragic
hero, her progression from pain to anger to violence is very representative of
human nature. Most humans are capable of the excessive behavior demonstrated by
Medea; fortunately, most of us live more by the moderate and rational terms of
the Chorus.


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