Medea, by Euripides - Constructing Medea’s Compelling Persona

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Medea, by Euripides - Constructing Medea’s Compelling Persona

In the play Medea, by Euripides, many techniques are incorporated to augment the compelling persona of the protagonist, Medea. She has an overpowering presence, which is fashioned through the use of imagery, offstage action and language. Dramatic suspense, employment of the chorus and Deus Ex Machina also serve to enhance the intense persona assumed by Medea.

Medea is frequently associated with images of violence and rage. “She’s wild. Hate’s in her blood. /She feeds her rage…Stormclouds of anger.” These images suggest hatred, and anger, they are powerful and present a strong, illustration of Medea’s persona. Like nature, Medea is constructed as commanding and yet also unpredictable; this consequentially creates uncertainty as to what she shall do next and thus intrigues the audience with her character. Parallels between Medea and wild animals are often drawn in order to portray her as wild and untamed. “Bullglares, lions claws” and “you hellhound, you tigress,” these comments serve to highlight Medea’s animalistic side thus increasing her onstage presence and compelling persona. Medea’s two-fold personality is revealed through imagery of stone and harshness. She is both passionately emotional and coolly calculating, depending on which enhances her cause. “Cold as stone, cold eyes,” in 5th Century BC the eyes were considered of great importance, reflections of the soul, thus to have cold eyes is to have a cold soul. This notion is confronting to the audience and heightens Medea’s onstage presence.

The use of offstage action is effective in constructing Medea’s authoritative persona. “Fe-oo! Fee-oo! Weep. Pity me.” These lamentations are passionate and emotional, exactly what many men of Ancient Greek society would expect of a woman. Suspense is built and the audience’s attention captured, focusing it on Medea and the moment of her on-stage arrival. However, when Medea does appear on stage she is calm and composed, dispelling the notion of a “wild woman”. “Ladies, Corinthians, I’m here./ Don’t think ill of me. Call others proud.” The Medea character has the power to command the audience through this presentation of her dual natures; she can be defined within the typical female gender role as emotional and passionate, yet she usurps masculine traits of rationality, resourcefulness and int...

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... most powerful men in Greece, is describe in gory details after his death, a defeated man. In opposition to the imagery of the broken and deceased men, Medea is the victor, she “came out on top”. “Name me you names, /I have your heart” Medea sounds almost proud in this moment, she is triumphant; her overpowering persona has revealed itself in full light.

Deus Ex Machina was a commonly used technique of ancient Greece. It involved the character in the God’s favour being lifted from the theatre on a crane. At the end of Medea this is precisely what happens, suggesting that the Gods support Medea. This is confronting especially after the infanticide and Jason’s accusation “Unholy. Vile. Woman! /Hated by Gods.” This approval by the Gods, especially in regards to a 5th Century BC audience, would have proved quite a shock and served only to increase Medea’s power.

The play Medea, by Euripides, many dramatic techniques such as imagery, off stage action and dramatic suspense are utilised in the construction of Medea as a compelling persona and an overpowering presence.

Work Consulted

McDermott, Emily A. Euripedes’ Medea: The Incarnation of Disorder. University Park, PA. 1989.

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