Sunday, September 27, 2015

Euripides-- The Odd One Out?

I find it pretty strange that Euripides wrote this play about a woman protagonist. Women had practically no rights back in these days, and most men went along with and did not question this. As the textbook points out, Euripides's contemporaries were not very fond of his work. I think it may quite possibly be because he takes a sort of feministic approach in his writings (at least in Madea). Euripides is not simply writing about a typical day in the life of a Greek woman. Rather, he addresses social matters from a woman's perspective. One quote that stands out to me in these first few pages is, "What they say of us is that we have a peaceful time living at home, while they do the fighting in war. How wrong they are! I would much rather stand three times in front of battle than bear one child" (621). Of course, the "they" refers to Greek men. Euripides is distancing himself from who he actually is (a man), and showing the audience a side of society they don't typically get to see. Norton sums up this idea nicely when he writes, "The myth is used [by Euripides] for new purposes, to shock the members of the audience, attack their deepest prejudices, and shake them out of their complacent pride in the superiority of Greek masculinity" (615). I don't assume that many writers typically write about matters they do not believe in. So, Euripides probably actually really did support women's rights. It's interesting to consider whether or not there were many more people, besides women, who also were supporters of equal rights in Ancient Greek times.

As a side note, he even sort of "disses" men and writes, "It is the thoughts of men that are deceitful, their pledges that are loose" (625). This is coming from the mouth of a woman in the play (as is my quote above), which may sometimes throw us off. But, when you remember who it is that is actually writing the play, the answer introduces a whole new perspective in our reading.


Jac said...

I totally agree with you. Especially after discussing Euripides work in class today, I can see how difficult it must have been for Euripides to write about these new things. He definitely had a different viewpoint about the importance of women, and the reader can clearly see this as we hear Medea's side of the story. Euripides clearly was a visionary of his time, doing things way differently than everyone was accustomed to. I have a lot more appreciation for Euripides' work knowing that womens' rights were not even considered, let alone accepted. It is understandable that his contemporaries would not have accepted his feelings towards women, but I applaud his novice attitude.

master123 said...

Here is a fun way to twist the story around: What if, since Medea is pretty villainous in the play, Euripides could have been saying that if women are too clever, as Medea is often described, then they will be running around trying to find vengeance against the ways of society. Medea kills four people, her two sons, the king and his daughter, this blood shed is reeking havoc in society. Also to mention the quote Madison used were said from a clever woman who has figured out her life can be more than a child bearing one. This piece of literature might not be feminist in nature but a warning of what could come to society from clever women. This twist is a stretch to me, but there is that "what if?"

madison kahn said...

I think that's actually a really cool way of looking at it. However, the Greeks valued cleverness very much. Jason even points this out when he tells Madea that she would not have been as appreciated as she is in Greece had she of stayed in her "barbaric" land. So, the fact that Euripides gives Madea such a prestigious quality leads me to believe that he was an advocate of women rights. Disregarding this though, I see where you're coming from. After all, Madea killed her own children! I mean that can't be something that people thought was an "okay" thing to do (the chorus even openly condemns it). I think the real reason she kills her children is because of pride, not necessarily cleverness. Her cleverness does of course play a role the planning aspect, but her pride is the driving motive. And so, going back to what you said about women being too clever, I don't think he is necessarily warning about cleverness. Rather, he may be warning about excessive pride. And who's to really say whether he's warning about excessive pride in just women or the entire human race? Personally, because I see him as a supporter of women's rights, I think the answer would be the latter, but then again, that's personal opinion.