Medea Brief Summary
The play ‘Medea’ written by Euripides is a Greek tragedy that tells the story of a woman who has been created in ancient Corinth. Medea is a princess of Colchis and, at the start of Euripides’s play, she is just finding out that her husband, Jason, is leaving her for the daughter of Creon, the king of Corinth. Because Medea defied her father’s wishes in helping Jason to survive the tests that were given him and helped him escape from Colchis with one of the prized treasures of the land, the Golden Fleece, killing her brother in the process, she does not have the option of returning to her family. Nor does she have many friends in other lands because of her continued assistance to Jason. This earlier history, which would have been known by the Greeks, should have been a warning to Jason.
In Corinth at this time in history, a woman put aside as Medea has been losing all status and support, which is shown when Creon himself orders her out of the kingdom. At first, he says she must leave immediately, attempting to protect his family and knowing her history as a devotee of Hecate, the goddess of witches, but Medea convinces him to allow her to stay just one more day as she tries to figure out where she will go. Once she has her escape route figured out, she sends her sons with a wedding gift for the new bride that she has bewitched and that kills Glauce as soon as she tries them on. Because the dress was treated to kill anyone who touched it, Medea also succeeded in killing Creon, who came in contact with the dress when he bent to embrace his dead daughter in grief. When Medea’s sons return home, she kills them, too, so that none of her enemies will be able to harm them as a means of getting to her. To prevent Jason from having any comfort at all, Medea takes the bodies of her sons in her grandfather’s chariot (she is related to the god of the Sun), pulled by a dragon.
Following her dramatic escape from Corinth, Medea moves to Thebes, where she manages to use her arts to heal Heracles and earns herself a place to stay. However, the rest of the Thebans didn’t like her and drove her out of town. Then she moved to Athens and married Aegeus and had a son with him. Her happiness here ended when Aegeus’ older son returns home, threatening Medea’s son’s inheritance, and Medea attempts to have Aegeus murder him before his identity is known. However, Aegeus recognizes Theseus’s sword at the last moment and disaster is averted but Medea is again left homeless. Finally, she has no choice but to return to Colchis where she finds that her father has been deposed. Again using her dark arts, she kills her uncle and restores her father to his throne, thus gaining his forgiveness.
Throughout her story, it is difficult not to feel sorry for Medea. She loved Jason dearly and it must have been heartbreaking to find out that after all she had given up to be with him, he had no feelings for her whatsoever. It is heartbreaking enough in modern times when these kinds of things happen, but in those times, it was literally a matter of life or death. Medea was being thrown out of the entire city without a friend in the world to help her or support her. She was not of the lower class, but because of Jason’s carelessness, it was expected that she would be reduced to that status as women had no true means of supporting themselves. While it is understandable that the townspeople of Thebes would have been afraid of a woman known for killing her children, it is said that she was driven out of town even though she did nothing wrong there, but not so surprising when she’s asked to leave Athens. By then, she was using her knowledge for evil deeds with little to no provocation or need.