Gender Roles In The Medea By Euripides

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Challenging Social Hierarchies through Tragedies The Medea by Euripides ends up with the ghastly infanticide of Jason’s children at the hands of her unusual mother, while The Bacchae begins with an unconventional bacchic dance starring the previous king of Thebes, Cadmus, wearing fawn skin clothes. No doubt, Euripides is not known for sparring his audience of disquieting plots. Euripides’s plays with the concept of carnivalesque, mocking traditional social hierarchies. In Trojan Women, Euripides uses the carnivalesque atmosphere of a conquered city and displays the misery of the city’s captured royal family to challenge the societal roles of Greeks/non-Greeks. The Bacchae presents the assassination of an orthodox king who, obsessed on restricting…show more content…
For instance, in the Bacchae the gender role switch of the Maenads shreds Pentheus to pieces. In The Medea the outcome of switching such gender roles is catastrophic as well. Whereas the Medea succeeds in changing Medea and Jason’s gender characteristics, i.e. Jason is anti-heroic and social while Medea is brave and remorseless, it ends up with the infanticide of Jason’s son (Medea 1270-2) and the gruesome assassination of King Creon and his daughter (Medea 1214-20). However, the play does not actively enforce women’s role for as Steiner puts it, “the spectators (and especially the men) are compelled thereby to view, however reluctantly, Medea’s psychology as relevant to their own…” (Steiner 2). Euripides may not have foster female rights as an alternative to a patriarch society for the idea was too beyond his time, and the consequences might have been too chaotic (e.g. The Maenads shredding Pentheus to pieces), but we cannot ignore the fact that he demonstrates a certain fascination by their condition. His display of women’s dilemma is still present and troublesome in the heart-breaking lamentations of Andromache, Hecuba and Medea. Satirists throughout the ages have pointed fingers at the mistakes made by rulers, but few of them have publicly suggested a coup-d’état against them for they knew the consequences to be discouraging, and the idea to be outrageous. In the same manner, Euripides knows women’s role…show more content…
In Trojan Women, Euripides commands his script to bring us another perspective on warfare—probably aimed at the late abuse of the Melians—and he pushed the concept of humane victory in the eyes of his audience instead of overpowering cruelty by switching the nationality (i.e. Greek/non-Greek) roles. Meanwhile, The Bacchae turns out to be a call towards acceptance of Dionysian impulses by switching the roles of gender and age. Through The Medea we can finally address Euripides enforcement of a restrictive patriarchal society in the way he displays women’s condition in Greek society. To this extent, not only does he prove to us that challenging the norm needs not a suggested alternative but pointing the problem is enough to bring change by subverting the Greek values in the long term through the audience’s

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