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Friday, December 18, 2009


by Euripides
20 typed pages, via
first produced in 431 BC

translated from Greek

*** About the Play ***

This is one of those classic Greek tragedies that many of us learned about in school. Before the play begins, Medea had fled her homeland with her new husband, Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts fame, the guy who stole the Golden Fleece), killing her brother in order to save Jason. The couple has settled in a new land where Jason has befriended the king. Now Jason announces that he is divorcing Medea so he can marry the king's daughter. The play itself tells the story of Medea's reaction to this announcement and what she does in retaliation.

*** Why I Read It ***

As a child I had a gorgeously illustrated book of the women of Greek mythology. The illustrations all showed these women in all their physical glory, well-toned muscles and curves clearly visible and accented by their scanty clothing. I wish I knew more about that book - I'd love to have it again now! Anyway, Medea gave me the creeps. The fact that she killed her brother and later her children was horrifying to me; I would skip over her story every time I looked through the book. As an adult, I wanted to revisit Medea and see what the fuss was all about. I chose to read this play now because it fits perfectly into the Really Old Classics Challenge that I'm co-hosting.

*** My Thoughts ***

I'm sure you've heard that old saying, "Beware the wrath of a woman scorned." That could have been written about Medea! This gal doesn't take anything lying down; she takes some gruesome vengeance on those who have wronged her. Not that I approved of what she does, but she definitely gets her point across. Oh, and Jason, who I loved in the old movie, is a real jerk!

If you are looking for an easy dip into the Really Old Classics, this play might be a good place to start. I expected it to be difficult to read but it was not at all. I read it over a few days during my lunch break at work, but it could easily be read in one sitting - and would probably be even easier to understand that way.

The version I read through Project Gutenberg included lots of footnotes to better explain both the story and the translation. If you are interested in comparing translations, the footnotes do some of that as well.

But ... this is a REALLY SHORT play! It was easy to read, despite the language and the format, but it is REALLY SHORT. It felt to me like it should be one Act or maybe even one Scene of a longer play. I wanted to learn more about Medea, about the reasons for her actions, and the results, and her backstory, but this play didn't give me what I wanted.

Which leads me to a question for all of you ...

*** Your Thoughts ***

Do you know of any books that relate Medea's complete story? Of course I realize I could find it in an anthology of myths, but I'd really rather read a novel about it. Do you have any suggestions?

The only other person I know who has reviewed this is Rebecca Reads - am I missing anyone else?!

*** In the Movies ***

Medea featured in the 1963 version of Jason and the Argonauts ...

Have you seen that movie? I love it!

I haven't seen the 2000 version ...

I wonder how Medea is portrayed in that one?


StephanieD said...

I read a book a few weeks ago, On Monsters by Stephen Asma, which talks about Medea at length as an example of a human monster.

A couple I know (the father is of Greek descent) named their girl Medea. I'm not sure if they knew the whole history of the name. It has a lovely sound but...

Alessandra said...

May I recommend Medea by Christa Wolf? It's a very good book (but I enjoyed Christa Wolf's Cassandra more)

Alyce said...

I've always been really intimidated by Greek Mythology, so this story sounds like it would be an excellent place to start. I have read some of the classics (mostly in college) like the Aeneid, and the Iliad, and they were really a lot of work to read (which I think had a lot to do with the translations we were using too). Other than that (and because of that) I have avoided the older works.

Beth F said...

I have no recommendations, but I I did like this play when I read a long time ago for work.

Heather J. said...

Stephanie D - It really is a lovely name, but I'm not sure I could get past the "baggage" it brings ...

Alessandra - I'll check it out, thanks!

Alyce - I've had the best luck with audio versions of the classic Greek tales; good translations being read aloud seem to work well for me. You might want to try that!

Beth F - It is a good one, that's for sure, but I just wanted more from it.

Rebecca Reid said...

I felt that thought it was short, the complication of Medea's actions made it so intriguing. No, I too can't condone what she did, but still, I found myself rooting for her. I was surprised to see how much she took charge of the situation. I was used to the gods always interfering I guess, and I loved how it was all about Medea choosing her own course, disturbing as it was!

How fun that we both read it this month!

Heather J. said...

Rebecca - I agree with everything you said, but still, I wanted more! :)

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