Medea and Nietzsche's Will to Power

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Medea and Nietzsche's Will to Power

When Medea kills her children, audiences react with shock and horror. Any sympathy viewers have built for the woman is, in the words of Elizabeth Vandiver, “undercut” by this act (15). Since Medea is the protagonist, we question why Euripides chose to make her a child murderer. Most scholars agree that he invented this part of the myth. He also lessened her role as witch by drawing attention to her human qualities. This only highlights the infanticide (14) because we cannot excuse her ruthless act as monstrous and non-human. However, Medea remains very human until after she kills her sons. Appearing at the end of the play in the deus ex machina, she takes over not only the position but also the words of the gods. Euripides has transformed her into a different character. Exactly what the character is and what Euripides’ message is remains arguable. However, if we agree that Euripides had a modern sensibility and an almost prophetic sense of upcoming social struggles, as many scholars have posited, then we can also see why this play continues to fascinate us so much (Kawashima 50; Bellinger 49; Skinner). Edith Hamilton points to one aspect of Medea that seems especially relevant to modern audiences: Euripides’ valuation of the individual. She believes that he is the only classical writer to tap into two dominant themes in today’s world: “sympathy with suffering and the conviction of the worth of everyone alive” (197).

Of course, as soon as we try to classify what it means to be an individual in the modern sense, we run into the plethora of theories out there. However, Medea poses difficulties as a protagonist that seem well-suited to the Nietzschean philosophy of tragedy and will. She ass...

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