Medea Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Seneca’s Medea has its Greek forerunner in a surviving play by Euripides of the same name, yet its brusque style and emphasis on Medea’s passionate revenge make it thoroughly his own work. Reflecting Seneca’s fondness for the supernatural, the play opens with Medea’s prayers to the gods, with whom she seems uncannily familiar. Cursing her husband, Jason, for abandoning her in Corinth to comply with the wish of the local king Creon that Jason marry the king’s daughter, Medea implores the “powers of feuding vengeance” to aid her.

Effectively drawing the audience into her confidence, Medea immediately promises “evil actions/ of brutality unknown” which will nevertheless let Jason live to face “something worse” than simple death. The Chorus, however, sides with Jason and condemns Medea: The fact that she has helped Jason to steal the Golden Fleece from her father and killed her brother to distract her father from her elopement with Jason makes Medea a monster whom Jason is justified in leaving. Yet the question of Jason’s exact culpability is not as important for the play as is Medea’s passionate, but incredibly self-conscious, effecting of her revenge. In a tense dialogue with her Nurse, Medea shows clear knowledge that her plans will not only endanger her life but also place her apart from the rest of humanity.

When King Creon appears, Medea persuades him, against his better judgment, to let her stay in Corinth...

(The entire section is 469 words.)

Medea Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Costa, C. D. N., ed. Seneca. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974.

Griffin, Miriam Tamara. Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1976.

Henry, Denis, and Elisabeth Henry. The Mask of Power: Seneca’s Tragedies and Imperial Power. Chicago: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1985.

Inwood, Brad. Reading Seneca: Stoic Philosophy at Rome. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Littlewood, C. A. J. Self-Representation and Illusion in Senecan Tragedy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Mendell, Clarence W. Our Seneca. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1941. Reprint. New York: Archon Press, 1968.

Motto, Anna Lydia. Seneca. New York: Twayne, 1973.

Sorensen, Villy. Seneca: The Humanist at the Court of Nero. Translated by W. G. Jones. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Sutton, Dana Ferrin. Seneca on the Stage. Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1986.

Veyne, Paul. Seneca: The Life of a Stoic. Translated by David Sullivan. New York: Routledge, 2003.