It has been said that the first song of the chorus in Euripides' Medea could well be a feminist's theme song. How so?

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noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Euripides' Medea dramatizes, on some level, a barbarian woman's battle against and within the male power structure of mythical Greece. Euripides labels the chorus in this play as consisting of women from Corinth.

In their first major song, the women complain about the deceptive nature of men. They also claim that women are now gaining honor (something the ancient Greeks usually only thought of as being able to be possessed by men): "Honour's coming to the female sex" (Ian Johnston translation). 

Additionally, the Corinthian women claim that poets will no longer be able to criticize women for being unfaithful to their male partners: "Those songs by ancient poets / will stop chanting of our faithlessness" (Ian Johnston translation). This comment may be deliberately ironic because Euripides himself was stereotyped as frequently portraying women as unfaithful to their husbands.

The women suggest that if Apollo had given women the ability to make music, they would have sung a song in response to the slanders that male poets have cast upon them.

Thus, it is not surprising that this choral ode could benefit from a feminist reading. The ode does, indeed, give voice to a notion that women can feel powerful and proud of who they are.

Of course, later in the play the Corinthian women will be horrified by Medea's killing of her own children, so this choral ode should not be read in isolation, but should be weighed within the context of the entire play.

We should also note that in 431 B.C.E., when the Medea was first staged, Euripides' fellow Athenians were just beginning the Peloponnesian War with Sparta and her allies, one of whom was Corinth. Thus, Euripides' Athenian audience might have listened with hostile ears to anything coming from Corinthian lips.

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