Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Feminism or Misogynism?

When reading Medea it is impossible to overlook the motif of feminism. For starters, it is rare for the main character of a Greek play to be a woman - which shows Euripedes being sort of progressive, but at the same time he chooses to portray Medea in a very cold way- killing her own children, a princess, her brother, and basically anyone that makes her angry. Now, it must be said that the story of Medea predated Euripedes, she was part of Jason's myth of the Golden fleece. Anyway, there are various times in the play were I found myself asking if Jason was trying to voice women's plight- Medea recognizes her status within Greek society as a "[...] most unfortunate creature [...]" (621). But simultaneously Euripedes forthrightly states that women have are unequal to men in the marriage -where women can see one, men can see many (621). She goes on to say that she would rather act as a man, and be a soldier in battle than give birth to one child. So while Euripedes may be progressive in his ideas voiced, and the casting of women characters, he still recognizes women as inferior beings, and portrays' Medea as a cold and murderous person. Take?

5 comments:

Austin Falk said...

I was kind of thinking the same thing. It is odd that Medea plays the role she does. She basically is in control of everything that happens in the play. Reading this after Oedipus the King makes for an interesting contrast between the two plays. The Greeks were not known for giving a lot of power to women. In Oedipus the King, Jocasta does not seem to have nearly as much power as Oedipus. Even though Medea does seem to have a lot of power in the play, she still is not treated all that well by others as she is constantly exhiled.

Madeline Davis said...

I was thinking there was a mix of feminism and misogyny. Yes, Medea is portrayed as violent, revengeful, and dangerously clever, but Jason isn't portrayed in such a great light either. I don't want to jump to conclusions and say that Euripides was criticizing all people in general, but more that he portrayed characters who went against the ideal. Neither Medea nor Jason are exemplary characters, but I do think it's remarkable that, in light of all their faults, Euripides portrayed them on almost an equal footing. Jason generally gets the credit as the better parent and person because he wasn't the one to murder his children, but regarding power and capability, Medea and Jason are pretty equal.

TSHAH said...

I agree with you analysis of Euripides commenting on the role of women in the play as he often makes references to the stereotypical image of women and the mentality men acquired about them during the Greek era. Euripides comments regarding women include: "you are incapable of controlling your bitter temper", and "we women are the most unfortunate creatures", which supports Will's comment on women being viewed as inferior subjects within society. However in "Medea", women seem to play a dominating role as opposed to men typically having this position, which makes me wonder is this Euripides's version of a reversal?

Mitchell D said...

I think that Euripides was more or less trying to show that women are capable of poweful acts. However if he would have portrayed Madea as an infallible women with strength equal to men, the large portion of his audience would be unhappy and criticize this perceived lie. He wasn't going to write a play talking about how great women are, but through the play he gives women emotions and realistically portrays women. Also, using A woman as the main character could have solely been for attention, as there is a huge uprising from his use of women in the play. In this way he is able to be both progressive in his storyline, and continue d stereotypes to prevent his play from being dismissed.

Laura N said...

Euripides calls attention to the plight of women in ancient Greece. For example, Medea says “…It is required for us to buy our husband and take for our bodies a master; for not to take one is even worse.” (621) As we said in class marriage was in a sense a business contract and a way to create alliances between aristocratic and probably common families. The women seem to get the short end of the stick because they have to “buy” their husband with a dowry and they don’t make any decisions on whether to marry or not. In this way, the women are objectified as a commodity that the husband legally possesses through a marriage contract. In Medea’s monologue on pg 621, I think Euripides is trying to drum up sympathy for women by exposing the double standard for men and women’s roles in society, lack of personal sovereignty for women, and the objectification of women. Later she is portrayed as a diabolical character, plotting revenge on her husband and killing her own kids, so in a way, Euripides doubles down, and reverses out of his previous pro-women view. But at the end, Medea suffers from her own doings (infanticide) and suffers no punishment from the gods and in fact borrows Helios’ dragon lead chariot for to make a quick getaway. Perhaps Euripides thinks what she did was justified. Obviously Medea was not a perfect human being, but I think the fact that Euripides mentions the double standard for male and female roles in a sympathetic light shows a movement/ viewpoint in favor of women.