The exchange that takes place between Medea and the Chorus serves severalpurposes in Euripides’ tragedy, The Medea. It allows us to sympathize with Medeain spite of her tragic flaws. It also foreshadows the tragic events that willcome to pass. Finally, it contrasts rationality against vengeance and excess.
The Chorus offers the sane view of the world to the somewhat insane charactersof Medea, Jason, and Creon. As the passage begins on page 176, the leader of theChorus reveals that she has high regards for Medea despite the fact that she is”savage still. ” She acknowledges Medea as a foreigner and an outsiderand yet is sympathetic towards her. This alliance is apparently based on femalebonds rather than on any kind of national loyalty.
Medea wastes no time beforeshe begins lamenting and cursing those who “dared wrong me withoutcause. ” The Chorus tries to comfort Medea, hoping that this might”lessen her fierce rage / And her frenzy of spirit. ” They show realconcern for her well-being, as well as for the well-being of her loved ones. This unselfish attitude is in stark contrast to the attitudes of the maincharacters in the tragedy, who all seem to be extremely self-serving.
So in justa few short lines, it’s already become apparent that while the chorus doesn’tnecessarily agree with the way that Medea is handling her situation, they aresticking by her and supporting her. This idea supports one of the importantthemes of the play: the battle of the sexes. Medea now has a chance to get a fewthings off her chest. She addresses the “Women of Corinth,” remindingthem that of “all things that live upon the earth and have intelligence wewomen are certainly the most wretched. ” She discusses the sad lot thatwomen must deal with in marriage and again stresses the fact that she is anoutsider, “alone, without / a city.
Her speech is clever and compelling. It’s a reminder that she is a very intelligent woman, certainly capable ofoutsmarting Jason or Creon. This leads us to her plot. She tells the Chorus that”a woman is timid in other things, and is a coward in looking on coldsteel, but / whenever she is wronged in her marriage there / is no heart somurderous as hers.
” The Chorus responds to this by telling Medea that shehas the right to seek vengeance on her husband. This certainly foreshadows herplan to murder those who she feels have injured her. It also reveals her tragicflaw. She is excessive in her love for Jason and in her reaction to the loss ofhis devotion. This passage marks the last time that a civil exchange takes placefor quite some time.
Much of the rest of the play is spent on bickering,begging, and bad-mouthing. Whether you view Medea as a femme fatale or a tragichero, her progression from pain to anger to violence is very representative ofhuman nature. Most humans are capable of the excessive behavior demonstrated byMedea; fortunately, most of us live more by the moderate and rational terms ofthe Chorus.