The Unconventional Hero: Medea
The Unconventional Hero: Medea

The Unconventional Hero: Medea

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  • Pages: 4 (1016 words)
  • Published: November 23, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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Medea is a unique character who defies typical Greek societal norms and values of the time that the play was written. Despite being a woman, she possesses traits and characteristics typically associated with Greek heroes, including strength, power, intelligence, cunning, volatility, and independence. It's possible that a typical Greek audience of the time (predominantly male) might have found her absurd or ridiculous due to their gender biases and beliefs about women's capabilities.

The foreign background of the protagonist contributes to her credibility. Growing up outside Greek society, which was considered the only civilized society, explains her malice and scorn due to her barbarism. She questions where she can flee, as all of Greece hates the barbarian, despite being a mother to the children of the citizens. In addition, her femininity was subjugated by having a male actor play


her role. But perhaps most significantly, Medea was written by Euripides, a man. His modern thinking may explain why Medea achieved greater success after his death.

By focusing on realism, the playwright created a female character with relatable emotions. Unlike traditional Greek tragic characters, she doesn't fit the roles of hero or villain. While some view the play as feminist, I don't share that view. The reason a Greek audience accepted the portrayal of a Barbarian woman achieving heroic strength was because it showed how a woman guided by her emotions, rather than her intellect, ultimately harms herself and those around her.

The play Medea showcases the consequences of women holding positions of power in Greek society, reinforcing its current principles and criticizing those of others. It is noteworthy that Euripides did not artificially imbue Medea with masculine traits;

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rather, he highlighted preexisting qualities dating back to her mythological origins. Medea was already a hero, assisting Jason in defeating both the army born from dragon's teeth and the sleepless beast protecting the Golden Fleece with her remarkable apothecary skills, accomplishing the seemingly impossible. This stands in stark contrast to Jason, who is also a hero in the Argo Tales but not depicted in the conventional heroic mold.

In this text, Euripides highlights the recurring theme in the Jason myth that portrays women as the ones who do the work despite him being the hero. The things that Medea doesn't do are done by the goddesses Hera and Aphrodite. Jason extends his ability to gain power through women by marrying Glauce, which goes against his oath of marriage to Medea and defies key male values revered in Greek society. This justifies Medea's actions, as breaking an oath was considered a fatal act.

Euripides' Medea brings to light gender tensions in Ancient Greek society that were not openly discussed. The play exposes the oppression of women by male power, highlighting the dangers that women face. As Medea herself says, "I would rather stand three times in the front line than bear one child." Pygmalion, another work based on a Greek myth, is an interesting counterpart to Medea. In Pygmalion, a sculptor falls in love with a statue he created, drawn to the lifelike realism of his creation rather than any real-life women.

Pygmalion's prayer to Aphrodite led to the statue being brought to life, resulting in their marriage and the birth of a child. However, this differs greatly from the plot of George Bernard Shaw's play,

which highlights the contrasting values and tastes of Greek and British societies. In Shaw's version, Higgins' creation rebels out of frustration for being treated as a toy without regard for her feelings or future. This is apparent when Mrs. Higgins remarks in Act 3, "You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll."

In Act 4, Liza expresses her disgust towards Higgins by throwing his slippers at him, after the success of the garden party. She does so upon hearing him say "no more artificial duchesses," and that the whole thing has been a simple purgatory. Liza finally feels relieved and can now go to bed without dreading tomorrow. But despite this, Higgins still refuses to acknowledge Liza as a human with a past, as mentioned by Mrs.

Pearce observes in Act 2 that it's inappropriate to approach a girl like a random pebble on the beach without knowing anything about her, including her family background or marital status. Higgins himself echoes this sentiment when he speaks of Liza, whom he sees as a mere creation out of the Covent Garden. He still treats her like a statue and belittles her by calling her a "presumptuous insect" despite winning his bet. Throughout the play, the female characters such as Mrs. Pearce, Mrs. Higgins, and Liza herself occupy the moral high ground with their sensibility and wisdom.

Despite possessing wealth, status, and intelligence, the men in the play are depicted as frivolous and childlike. The play argues that having status alone does not automatically make a person good, a noteworthy idea for its time that aligns with the rising feminist literature and ideas

in England. The author, Shaw, was a prominent contributor to the Fabian movement, which advocated for equal rights for men and women and an end to working-class abuse. He also had close ties to the Suffragettes and was strongly opposed to the First World War, which caused significant public outrage.

The enduring popularity of Pygmalion demonstrates its forward-thinking nature, much like Medea. Eliza's role as a woman is intriguing, as both Pickering and Higgins view her as disposable and believe they can dominate her due to her working-class background. Their expectations align with those of Victorian society, in which women were expected to marry and conform. Eliza, on the other hand, holds more contemporary views – she has no desire to marry and intends to work in a flower shop to support herself.

In this context, society's conflicts have co-opted the ideas of masculinity and femininity, effectively pitting them against each other in a debate over the true rights of women amidst prevalent beliefs and practical applications. Bibliography: GBS http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw Pygmalion Medea

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