How does the attitude of women in Medea differ from that of women today?

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The attitude displayed by Medea is not necessarily all that different from what is felt and displayed by some women today. The strong-minded, half-supernatural Medea was just an extreme case; but the play is significant because it deals with a problem that will always exist between men and women. Psychiatrists have long recognized the prevalence of a so-called Medea complex, which they define as: 

Murderous hatred by a mother for her child(ren), driven by the desire for revenge on her husband; it is a reference to Medea of Greek mythology,who kills her children.

A truly harrowing example of this Medea complex in action is to be found in a recent popular memoir by Dave Peltzer titled A Child Called "It." His mother's mental and physical abuse over a long period of his childhood is nearly incredible. See reference link to the e-notes summary of that book below.

There are numerous entries for the Medea complex to be found in Google. It is a well-known phenomenon. It is easy to understand why a woman might feel intense hatred for a man who abandoned her after fathering one or more children. Since he is no longer available to be the object of her hatred and wrath, she might take it out on his children, either consciously or unconsciously, although she would not necessarily murder them! Furthermore, a divorced woman stuck with a couple of small children to raise alone will find it hard to remarry. This can make the children seem even more hateful. That situation is increasingly common, so the incidence of examples of the Medea complex ought to be increasing as well.

Apparently, women suffering from the Medea complex react different to sons and daughters. With sons they may hate and abuse them because they see the boy's fathers in them. With daughters it is more common to brainwash them to hate men, just as their mothers do. Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations is an example of that kind of condition--although this woman was abandoned before she was married and did not have children of her own, just an adopted daughter named Estella.

Euripides was not writing about one exceptional woman but about a tendency he could sense among women of his time. Mothers are supposed to love their children, but this was not always the case then, and it is not always the case now.



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