“Jason is detestable – and uncomfortably like us. By contrast Medea, except that she is intensely a person in her own right, might be called Eros (love) incarnate, and because Love and Hate are closely allied, she has become Hate incarnate” (Ferguson 1990). To what extent do you agree with this analysis? I personally see where Ferguson is coming from, but disagree with this quote. The term ‘incarnate’ means embodied, or made flesh. It is often used in a spiritual or religious sense, for example Jesus Christ was the Word of God incarnate. This term is used because Jesus lived and died for the sole purpose of spreading the Word.
A villain may be described as ‘evil incarnate’ when all he has in his heart is the desire to do evil and cause pain. A character like Medea can be neither Love nor Hate incarnate; she is merely a betrayed human being. However, for a fair analysis of the quote, one must look at it from both a supportive and opposing point of view. In my opinion, Medea expresses far more human emotions than Jason. To me, she expresses vengeance such as every bitter rejected girlfriend dreams of wreaking on their lost love, and takes it to a higher moral (and actual) level.
In Medea’s mind, what she does is not in the slightest bit immoral, but a just retaliation for a broken heart. Granted, the way in which she brings about this payback is hardly conceivable to a sane human mind, and not what one expects others to do, but on an emotional and moral scale, the fact that she destroys Jason’s whole world in retaliation is understandable; to a passionate woman like Medea, love is an extremely powerful feeling, and Jason in a sense was her world and her whole life.
Although cunning, scheming and self-controlled, one must realise that, while not literally insane, Medea was not in touch with humanity as a whole and seemed to have little or no sense of moral scale. Yes, she displayed human emotions, and yes, in her own mind she may have been rightfully paying Jason back for his actions, but she did not realise that her bloodlust and seemingly cold killing was totally disproportionate on any conceivable moral scale to the cause – Jason’s betrayal. However, to begin an analysis by believing that Medea was Love made flesh turned into pure Hate is ridiculous, for a number of reasons.
Her first appearance is one of upset and understandable anger, as the unfaithful Jason has betrayed her. She displays signs of being utterly lost, even suicidal, without him. “Oh, oh! What misery, what wretchedness! What shall I do? If only I were dead! ” The fact that the first Medea we see is one hysterically upset and inconsolable immediately makes Jason seem evil, and Medea the innocent victim. Her anger and threats seem at first inane, as it is common for someone to say rash and hostile things when they are in a similar state, but it is the Nurse’s foreboding remarks which make her anger a thing to be greatly feared.
She warns Medea’s children to stay away from their mother, and even before Medea has began to make threats and become angry the Nurse makes her seem like a vengeful monster. “Her mood is cruel, her nature dangerous, Her will fierce and intractable. ” While the Nurse fears Medea and her wrath, the chorus of Corinthian women pity her, and invoke Zeus, the God of Justice, to plead her cause and refrain her from desiring Jason’s death. The hysterical Medea, however, invokes Themis, Goddess of Justice and daughter to Zeus, to bring down Jason and his wife.
Oh, may I see Jason and his bride Ground to pieces in their shattered palace… ” Medea had murdered her own brother and deserted her father’s city for Jason and had escaped with him to Greece, bound by love. She had given away all that she knew and loved for a place by Jason’s side, and had made him her whole life. For Jason to discard this and go behind her back with a younger and nobler woman destroys her life. There was nothing special about Medea’s love; she was not ‘Love incarnate’, but just a faithful and devoted woman who had space in her heart for no one else.
She has not only lost a lover, but her own life and self respect. Revenge is a basic human instinct, and as Medea has nothing left to live for, this becomes the only thing keeping her alive. As the Nurse says to the Chorus, “Sorrow is the real cause Of deaths and disasters and families destroyed”, not Hate. However the first signs of Medea’s cunning and planned vengeance are in her great self-control when she addresses the women of Corinth, straight-faced and cool. We would expect a normal similar victim to still be hysterical and pitied by others, but Medea wants anything but pity, and wants to be seen as a powerful woman.
This in itself would be quite a shock to a predominantly male Greek audience. She begins with no sign of anger or vengeance, and says bluntly that she wishes only for her own death, as Jason’s treachery has ‘crushed her heart’. She then goes on to damn men as parasites; creatures that live off a woman’s money and expect to be given complete control. She uses this very feministic speech to gain the favour of the other women, and succeeds skilfully in doing so. At the end of her rousing speech, she slips in the desire to wreak vengeance on Jason, and due to her cunning, they agree to let her.
A woman’s weak and timid in most matters… But touch her right in marriage and there’s no bloodier spirit. ” Creon, King of Corinth and father of Jason’s new bride, then approaches Medea with hostility, and orders her immediate banishment from the city. At first he doesn’t even recognise Jason’s wrongdoing, but treats her as a mindless enemy of the city, a being made of vengeance and hate alone. Medea responds to this woefully and pitiably, more out of cunning than genuine hurt. When she hears that Creon fears her she is surprised and humbles herself, asking why such a powerful and clever man as he should fear a mere woman.
She flatters him in an attempt to soften him up. “I will bear my wrongs in silence, yielding to superior strength. ” At this point, Creon is set on banishing her, and intelligently says that “A woman of hot temper… Is a less dangerous enemy than one quiet and clever. ” Seeing that he will not change his mind, Medea humbles herself completely and begs the noble King to stay, in an emotional stichomythia. However, the sly Medea doesn’t give in to genuine emotion for long, and asks to stay one more day.
She ironically pleads for the lives of her two fated sons, and evokes the King’s pity, as he is a father too. This surprisingly immediately softens Creon, and he allows her one more day, foolishly believing that she ‘can hardly in one day accomplish what I am afraid of. ‘ Medea has now used her overpowering cunning twice in succession. This proves that she isn’t really as distraught as she claims to be, and her broken heart harbours vengeful intent, but is this an example of hatred in its purest form? Medea, a cheated and unfairly treated woman, is being victimized by the whole city.
Not one word was said by the King to blame Jason at all – he damns only her, having been ‘barred from Jason’s bed’. Medea, in honesty, was not barred as such but cast out unfairly. The fact that the King, a supposedly wise and just man, is tainted and biased towards Medea, and the fact that he treats her like a common criminal is yet more fuel for her rage. This isn’t an example of a hate-obsessed monster hell-bent on murder and destruction, but a broken-hearted woman, deprived of all that kept her sane, lost and loveless in an unfriendly, hostile city.
She seeks Jason’s demise not because of mere bloodlust, but for her own justice. Medea now launches into a rather malicious and sinister soliloquy, supported and pitied fully by the Chorus. This is the side of Medea hardest to defend; the villainous, scheming murderess who will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. What surprises me much about this speech is how she has manipulated the chorus of women to be entirely on her side. She basically outlines her plot to kill the foolish Creon, his daughter, and Jason. Notice that her only major fear is the mockery of her enemies.
This, on one hand, outlines her shallow and selfishness, but on the other hand it proves that her moral balance has been lost – she is not entirely insane, but the desire for revenge has overcome all other morals and cares. She also totally neglects her own safety, proving that she is overcome with emotion, and without Jason in love with her she could never be truly alive anyway. “I will… harden my heart to the uttermost, and kill them both, even if I am to die for it. ” Medea makes herself known as a witch again by invoking the Goddess Hecate, and addressing her as ‘Queen’.
Notice how at first she called upon Themis and Artemis, Goddesses of Justice and Childbearing, and now she calls upon the Goddess of Witchcraft. At the end of her speech, she again succeeds in retaining the Chorus’ support by commenting on the role of women; “useless for honest purposes, but in all kinds of evil skilled practitioners. ” After a Stasimon commenting on the oppression of male dominance in poetry and songs, and the equality of women and men, the Chorus give Medea their love, and empathise with her love lost and desire for justice.
When Jason assures her that it is not that he is love with this convenient princess, but that the deal is such a good one for all of them – including her, if only she would calm down and see it – that merely adds insult to injury. ” – Prof. Jasper Griffin, Professor of Classical Literature Jason, supposedly a great Hero, makes his first and rather unheroic appearance onstage. In fact, his appearance is an egotistical, rude and self-righteous one.
He claims Medea should have “quietly accepted the decisions of those in power”, meaning him, and men in general, and patronises her by saying she is lucky to get let off with mere banishment. He claims the immediate moral high ground in this rant, completely underestimates her intelligence, and patronises her even further by offering her pity money. “I will not desert a friend”. Throughout this battle of wit, a case with the Chorus as Judge, Jason continues to badmouth and insult Medea behind a self-righteous mask, trying to placate her and calm her down as he would a small child.
I refuse to believe that Jason is like us, if only for the reason that he is so blindly stupid. He claims to know Medea’s rage, and by this time the word of her bitterness and gall is probably spread throughout the city, but yet, blinded by his own pretensions, misogyny and affecting the controlling, moral and fair male, he completely underestimates her, and merely adds fuel to Medea’s wrathful fire. He also ignorantly believes that the reason Medea is so upset and intent on revenge is due to ‘mere sex-jealousy’, and even goes as far as to say that all women really care about is sex.
“… f all’s well with your sex-life, you’ve everything you wish for; but when that goes wrong, at once all that is best and noblest turns to gall. ” Of course, the malicious and gory murders of both the King and his daughter, and Medea’s own children are not on any conceivable moral scale just revenge for Jason’s crimes, well, to us anyway. But if your heart works like Medea, and the only love and life that you knew is robbed from you, any wicked deed seems a fair price to take away his smile. “the fiercest anger of all, the most incurable, is that which rages in the place of dearest love. “