January 2008 Love and Hatred in Medea Abstract This paper focuses on the issue of “Love and Hatred in Medea. ” Most people consider Medea as a bad and evil woman, but, she is not that evil. It is just because she has different levels of love and hatred toward different people, just as we do. First, I will focus on Medea’s intense love toward Jason. I mostly focus on the part that she sacrifices everything for Jason because of her love. Second, I focus on the reasons that Medea decides to take the revenge.
I focus on two reasons, Jason decides to marry Creon’s daughter and Creon decides to exile Medea because he is afraid that she might harm his daughter, Glauce, and himself. These are the reasons that Medea decides to kill Glauce and her own children. The last part I will focus on Medea’s different levels of love and hatred. I will compare her love toward Jason and her brother, Apsyrtus. Moreover, I will prove that she kills her children because of love. Then, I will focus on the part of hatred, the reason she kills Glauce and her children.
Most people will think that it is cruel to kill his/her own children, but, from my point of view, she is not wrong because of feminine sense. Key Words: Medea, Jason, Creon, Glauce, Apsyrtus, feminine sense For most people, Medea is considered as a drama that deals with the evil of woman because Medea killed so many people, but in fact, it is because of her different levels of love and hatred that she commits all the crimes. Moreover, people would consider Medea as a bad woman because she kills her own children, but is she really doing the wrong thing?
The main point of this paper is to explore the different levels of love and hatred in Medea, including whether her reaction is right or wrong. In the beginning of Euripides’ Medea and Other Plays, the nurse said: Then my mistress Medea would never have sailed to the towers of the land of Iolkos, her heart unhinged in her love for Jason, she would not have persuaded the daughters of Pelias to kill their father and would not now be living with her husband and children in this land of Corinth, gladdening the citizens to whose country she has come in her exile, a woman totally in ccord with Jason himself. (7-13) In Dramatic Suspense in Euripides’ and Seneca’s Medea, Stephen Ohlander also states that Medea “place[d] her[self] in the passive role of unfortunate captive of Love, divorced from her homeland, now abandoned by the man she loved and for whom she has sacrificed everything” (37). We know that Medea sacrifices everything for Jason from the following examples. First, Medea betrays her father and kills her brother, Apsyrtus.
According to the story, we can know that Jason went to Colchis for the golden fleece “for King Pelias, who had usurped the kingdom of Iolkos from Jason’s father” (Bloom 65) and the king of Colchis, Aeetes, subjected Jason to some tests because he didn’t want Jason to take away the golden fleece. Even though Aeetes’ tests for Jason were difficult, Jason completed the tasks with Medea’s help. Helping Jason to pass the tests is a kind of “betray[ing] her father” (Mastronarde 46). Moreover, according to Jan N. Bremmer, Medea kills her brother, Apsyrtus, because she wanted to “escape from Colchis with the Argonauts” (qtd. n Clauss and Johnston 83). Medea uses her killing of Apsyrtus and dismembering him at sea as a way to “slow down the pursuers” (Mastronarde 48) and Siegfried Melchinger states that it is a way to “make Jason’s escape possible” ( qtd. in Nardo 32); thus, we can know that Medea betrays her father and kills her brother because of her love toward Jason and this is the first thing that Medea sacrifices for Jason. Second, Medea leaves her native country and goes to Corinth, as a stranger, with Jason. Because of her first sacrifice for Jason, she has to leave her own country, Colchis, but this is another sacrifice Medea makes for Jason.
In Colchis Medea is a princess and she can have whatever she wants. On the other hand, Ruby Blondell claims, when Medea goes to Corinth with Jason, she is considered “as a ‘barbarian’ female witch, [and she] is located at the very margins of Greek society” (qtd. in Women On The Edge: Four Plays by Euripides 153, emphasis original); therefore, we can know that Medea sacrifices her own honorable identity in Colchis as a princess because of her love toward Jason and becomes a stranger and outsider in Corinth.
Afterwards Medea decides to take revenge because of the betrayal of Jason and the command from Creon. First of all, after Medea had sacrificed everything for Jason, did Jason treat her well? Obviously, the answer is no. We can know that Jason decides to leave Medea and marry Glauce because he wants to become the ruler of Corinth. Jason’s betrayal of Medea for his own desire of prosperity is selfish. Moreover, Jason acts arrogantly as if he didn’t do anything wrong when Medea accuses him of betrayal.
Stephen Ohlander states: Basically, [Jason] makes three points here: 1) Medea cannot rightly be credited for helping him for she was compelled to keep him safe by an inescapable power—Aphrodite (Cypris), the goddess of passionate love. 2) Medea has already been repaid for her services to him, for she no longer lives among barbarians but in Greece, a civilized land where, moreover, she enjoys honor and fame for being a clever woman. 3) His new wedding was a wise and clever (political) move for now they will all be taken care of and live well—he and the children and Medea. Ohlander 87) From these statements made by Ohlander, we know that these are excuses from Jason and these excuses are not acceptable reasons for his betrayal of Medea. The first point that Jason makes is not acceptable because “he deems [Medea] only [as] a tool or instrument of a divine force” (Ohlander 87, emphasis added). This is unfair for Medea because she does these things for him out of love, but Jason only sees her as a tool. The second point is also not good enough, because even though Medea lives in Greece, a civilized land, she is still being treated as a foreigner.
She has not been treated equally; therefore, Jason can not say that this is a repayment for Medea’s services. For the third point Jason himself states that: It was not for the sake of the woman that I made the royal marriage in which I live now. As I have said already, I wanted to keep you safe and produce royal offspring to be brothers and sisters to our children and thus defend our house. (594-598) This is really unreasonable because if Jason really made the royal marriage for the good of Medea and his children, then, he could have discussed it with Medea before he decided to marry Glauce.
No matter what, we can conclude that all the three points made by Jason are excuses for his abandoning Medea and the children. The betrayal of Jason has already made Medea furious; after these excuses, Medea is much angrier than before. Besides Jason’s betrayal of Medea, there is one more thing, the most influential one, which makes Medea decide to have her revenge. It is because of Creon’s command. According to Bernd Seidensticker, “[t]he situation is aggravated by the fact that the king fears her revenge and wishes to expel her from the city and that she does not know where to find a new shelter for herself and the children” (qtd. n Bloom 82). Creon decides to exile Medea because he is afraid that she might harm his daughter, Glauce, and himself. Actually, it is really cruel to exile a woman who has sacrificed “her whole life [for] one man and now he has proven himself despicable” (Ohlander 57). Moreover, the harsh words that Creon says to Medea is the main reason that Medea decides to kill all of them. We can see it clearly in the following quotes: CREON. I am afraid of you . . . that you may do my child an incurable hurt. . . And so I shall take precautions against these things before we fall victim to them. MEDEA. And so you fear me. What harsh evil are you afraid you may suffer at my hands? But it is not my way—have no fear of me, Creon—to offend a royal family. CREON. Your words are soft to hear, but terror makes me shrink—you may be plotting something evil in your heart. . . . Stop this talk. My decision is irrevocable and no craft of yours will enable you, my enemy, to remain among us. MEDEA. No, I beseech you by your knees and your newly married daughter. CREON.
You are wasting your words. MEDEA. But will you drive me out and show no respect for my prayers? CREON. Yes, for I love my family rather more that I love you. CREON. I understand: my children apart, I love my country far above all else. CREON. Off with you, you foolish woman, and trouble me no more. (281-333, emphasis added) From these quotes, we can clearly see that Creon has no sympathy with Medea’s situation. He only wants to exile her from his country. Furthermore, Creon does not treat Medea as a family member in Corinth, he treats her as an outsider with harsh words.
If he thinks that Medea is also a family member in Corinth, then, he shouldn’t say that “[he] love[s] [his] country far above all else” and “[he] love[s] [his] family rather more that [he loves her]” (327-329). The words he uses, such as, “foolish woman” really hurts Medea. Therefore, Medea decides that “[she] shall make three of [her] enemies corpses, the father, the daughter, and my husband” (375-376). Medea decides to kill Glauce, the princess, because she knows that it is the only way to revenge herself for Creon’s harsh words toward her.
She knows that “Creon’s worst fear . . . is that [she] will injure his daughter and he openly admits it” (Ohlander 60-61). Therefore, “by Creon’s proper solicitude for and love of his daughter” (McDermott 89), Medea realizes that she can “wreak vengeance on Creon” (89) by hurting Glauce. After knowing that Medea sacrifices everything for Jason and the reason that she wants the revenge, I would like to suggest that the reason that Medea has different reaction toward different people is because of her different levels of love and hatred.
Here, I will examine love and hatred in detail in the following paragraphs. Everyone feels love toward all the people he or she knows, but most of us will show different reactions toward different people because of our different levels of love. Medea is no different. First, Medea kills her brother, Apsyrtus, because she wants to help Jason to flee away from Colchis. This suggests that Medea has compared her love towards Jason and Aspytrus and she makes her decision by killing Apsyrtus. According to Jan N. Bremmer, there are three kinds of “Greek Sibling Relationships” (qtd. n Clauss and Johnston 88), such as, “brother-brother relationship”, “sister-sister relationship”, and “brother-sister relationship” (qtd. in Clauss and Johnston 90-93). Bremmer states that “brothers will treat each other as absolutely equal in the brother-brother relationship” (qtd. in Clauss and Johnston 90). Moreover, brothers may regard each other as a rival and that “brother-brother relationships [are] frequently fraught with competitiveness and strife” (Clauss and Johnston 16). On the other hand, Johnston declares that “sister-sister relationship suggests that they were somewhat closer, yet also marked by rivalry and envy” (16).
And in the brother-sister, “brother’s role [is] as his sister’s protector, most notably in the absence of his father” and “her sexual honor, in particular falls under his protection” (16). Hence, from the above explanations about the three different kinds of sibling relationships, we know that the brother-sister relationship between Medea and Apsyrtus is the closest one of the three. According to Bremmer, “[t]hrough Apsyrtus’ murder, [Medea] simultaneously declared her independence from her family and forfeited her right to any protection from it” (qtd. in Clauss and Johnston 100).
But, Medea still kills her brother; it shows that she made this kind of decision because she was deeply in love with Jason. Thus, we can conclude that her love toward Jason is at a higher level than her love toward Apsyrtus. Second, Medea kills her own children because she loves them too much and doesn’t want them to be hurt by anyone else, except by herself. We can understand this from the following quotes by Medea from Euripides’ Medea and Other Plays: Not that I would leave my children in a hostile country for my enemies to insult. . . . Nobody is going to take them away from me. 781-793) From the above, we realize that Medea kills her children because of her “tender protectiveness toward [them]” (McDermott 26). As Medea’s plan is to borrow her children’s hand to kill the princess, she knows that her children will be killed after Glauce died; therefore, according to Siegfried Melchinger, “[i]f she wants to prevent her enemies from taking revenge on the children, she will have to kill them herself” (qtd. in Nardo 37). Moreover, Rick M. Newton declares that “[i]n killing her children, the distraught heroine believes that she is protecting them from her foes” (qtd. n Nardo 49). Thus, we know that Medea kills her children out of her love toward them. Besides love, Medea has hatred toward different people. First, she hates Creon’s daughter, Glauce, because she is going to become Jason’s wife in the near future. The reasons that she wants to kill her are because of Creon’s harsh words to her and Jason’s betrayal. Because of Glauce, Jason betrays Medea and their marriage vow. Because of Glauce, Medea is going to be exiled from Corinth. Hence, Medea hates her and wants to kill her in revenge for her own miserable fate.
Bernd Seidensticker states: For her [Medea’s] love of Jason she has sacrificed everything; for Jason she has betrayed her father, left her native land, and during her flight, in order to save her lover, killed her own brother. Expelled from Iolcus, she now lives in Corinth, a stranger, isolated, except for her husband and children. At the very moment when she finally hopes to find peace, her husband, whose life she saved more than once, decides to leave her and to marry the daughter of Creon, the king of Corinth. Her life is destroyed. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the king fears her revenge and wishes to expel er from the city and that she does not know where to find a new shelter for herself and the children. Totally isolated and deeply hurt in her sense of loyalty and justice as a wife, in her pride as a woman, and in her love of Jason, she decides to take revenge. (qtd. in Bloom 82, emphasis added) Therefore, we know that she is more determined to take revenge on Glauce because of Jason’s betrayal and Creon’s harsh attitude toward her. Furthermore, we know that Medea is going to kill her own children from the nurse’s monologue: But she hates her children and feels no joy in seeing them.
I am afraid that she may be planning something we do not expect. (36-38) These lines clearly show that “[t]he children are in danger because they are the tokens of Jason’s false marriage to her” (Morwood 169). Besides, Medea thinks that this is the best way she can hurt Jason; thus, she kills her children because they remind her that Jason betrayed her. People will distinguish different levels of love and hatred toward different people just as Medea does in the play and this distinction of love enables everyone to treat one another differently.
Moreover, I do not think Medea’s action is wrong in a feminine sense because the reason she killed these people is because of her love toward Jason and she wanted to defend her marriage with Jason. I suggest that she is wrong in a feminine sense because her reasons for committing the crimes are related to women, such as her intense love toward Jason and her desire to protect her own marriage. Although Simon declares that “Medea’s passion has carried her too far; the death of Creon and his daughter we might have accepted, but the murder of the children is too much” (Simon 641), but I still think that her reaction is correct.
According to Marianne McDonald, “I see Medea’s act as heroic, . . . [because] no one suffers the loss of a child more than the child’s mother” (qtd. in Clauss and Johnson 304). Moreover, Murray states that changes in a person are natural after one has met some situations in life; thus, we can say that Medea’s attitude changing from love to hatred is acceptable because she has already devoted her “love for Jason” (The Medea of Euripides ix). As Hendin mentions, some people would think “[m]other love is the bedrock assumption about the nature of woman and the stability of the family”, but, he main thing that overturns this conception is the “heartbreaker effect” (32). If we look deeper inside the reasons of Medea’s killing, we can conclude that her reaction is not wrong in a feminine sense. Because Medea totally sacrifices everything for Jason, the man she loves—betraying her father, Aeetes, killing her brother, Apsyrtus, leaving her country, Colchis, and becoming a hateful fugitive—but who later is cruelly betrayed by the same man.
Moreover, Medea has already lost everything, she has been scorned by Creon and is going to be exiled; thus, we can feel Medea’s “rage and humiliation” (McDermott 44), because “her marriage is all she has” (McDermott 44). Hence, we can blame Medea for being morally wrong on committing the crimes, but, we can not blame her for being wrong in a feminine sense because she is protecting her own love and marriage.