What was the importance of Medea to Greek society?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The story of Medea and her dangerous passion for Jason, and the extreme actions she commits as a result, represent a warning to the original audience of Euripedes. One of the central themes is that of passion which can overwhelm our common sense and reason. In ancient Greece, passion was thought to be a very dangerous emotion, and the chorus at various stages of the play makes reference to this idea. Note what they say after Medea refuses Jason's offer of financial aid:

Love with too much passion

brings with it no fine reputation,

brings nothing virtuous to men.

But if Aphrodite comes in smaller does,

no other god is so desirable.

To love "in moderation," as the Chorus continue, is the ideal. However, an excess of love is precisely Medea's central issue. She has abandoned her home and family, even killing her brother, showing that she loves Jason with a dangerous excess of emotion. It is this excess of emotion that is shown to curdle and sour, and lead to Medea's slaughter of her own children out of anger and grief. The character of Medea therefore represents the danger of extremes of passion and how it can lead humans to commit acts that are beyond the pale of acceptable actions.


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