The Human Nature of Medea

Essay by TriplimUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, July 2004

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Euripides' contemporaries and classical scholars alike point out the non-Aristotelean elements in Medea, this might intimidate today's reader. Euripides, instead of following the guidelines established by Aristotle in his Poetics, has a stirring psychological truth of human nature. This is clear when we examine the monologues given by Medea during the play. Each speech develops the character and creates a certain audience empathy. Medea is not a tragedy of a good person with a flaw. It is the tragedy of what eruptions occur in oneself and one's society when morality is annihilated. However, his tragedy is not only a violation of a moral code, but also an act in violation of human rationality and dignity. While the culture and politics of Ancient Greece have changed over the centuries, the basic human emotions such as anger, fear and passion that Euripides has written about have not. This makes his work more widely accepted and understood today than that of his contemporaries.

Aristotle states that one of the vital elements in a successful tragedy is Character: "There will be an element of character in the play, if . . . what a personage says or does reveals a certain moral purpose; and a good element of character, if the purpose so revealed is good. Such goodness is possible in every type of personage, even in a woman or a slave, though the one is perhaps an inferior, and the other a wholly worthless being"(Aristotle 242). It is clear from the outset that Euripides has not created the protagonist of whom Aristotle speaks. Medea's purpose is not good. This is evident in her first exchange with the Chorus:

But I am deserted, a refugee, thought nothing of by my husband, something he won in a foreign land. I have no mother or...