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A reader's guide to Medea

Updated Friday 1st February 2008

Prepare yourself for doom and gloom as we explore the story of one the great Greek tragedies

We started the year with laughter, but this month the mood will be rather different! Medea is one of the great Greek tragedies, so we must prepare ourselves for doom and gloom.

The playwright, Euripides, lived from 484-407 BC, and Medea was first performed in Athens in 431 BC.

The play begins with an account of the heroine’s misfortunes. It’s a sad tale of man-trouble: Medea has been insulted and betrayed by the treacherous Jason, and her sufferings seem more than she can bear.

She is an exile from her homeland, living in Corinth with her children, and, at this point, she wins the sympathy of the audience. However Medea feels other powerful emotions too, including deep anger, a passionate desire for justice and a tenacious determination to get her revenge.

Medea staged by the Vortex Rep Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Jason Amato under CC-NC-ND licence  

I will not reveal how she achieves this vengeance, but I must warn you that it is a bleak and dismal resolution and your attitude to Medea may well change during the course of the drama.

It is a real change for us to discuss a play on the forum, so we have the opportunity here to think in terms of performance as well as exploring the written text. Medea features in the Open University’s courses A103 and AZX103, and contributions from students will be very welcome.

We might, for example, discuss some of the following: the play’s context; gender issues; the ways in which staging can be approached; the role of the Chorus, and elements of Greek tragedy generally.

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