How does feminism play an important role in the main character of Medea?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can't think of a woman in literature who takes more control of her situation than Medea.  She does what she thinks she needs to do no matter how horrrific the consequences.  Before the play opens, the tale of Medea includes her helping Jason win the Golden Fleece by the use of Medea's magical help.  In doing this, she wins Jason's heart, but she betrays her father, the owner of the Fleece.  As Jason and Medea are fleeing her homeland, she keeps her father from catching them my killing her own brother on board Jason's ship dismembering his body, and then throwing the parts overboard one at a time so that her father would have to stop and collect them for burial.  Talk about determination!

At the start of play we learn that Jason has left Medea to marry this princess of Corinth.  Jason thinks he is bettering his family's situation in Corinth, but Medea only sees it as the ultimate betrayal and a selfish act.  She can't let the act go unpunished -- she is way to full of pride.  Unfortunately for her, she also knows that no matter what she does to punish Jason will bring retribution on her (and her children).  She hates Jason so much and values her personal sense of honor so greatly that she does the unthinkable.  She kills Jason's new wife. That, all by itself, shows a pretty strong feminist will -- she will not let her status as a woman be demeaned -- the man, Jason, can't just do whatever he pleases.  The 2nd, even more horrific act, is that she then kills her own children.  She justifies this act by explaining that it would be better for them to die at her hand as opposed to King Creon's men who are now her bitter enemies.  It takes an incredible amount of strength to go through with the act of murder of her own children.  This is also used as the ultimate punishment for Jason -- he lives on to mourn all he has lost, knowing that his actions made Medea take her actions.

While Medea's choices are abhorent, there is a strong streak of feminism in them.  She refuses to just stand by and let the men in her life (father and Jason) determine her outcome.  She takes control of her destiny.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Medea is a sorceress who is guided by passion, not laws.Consumed by her love for Jason, she helps him to escape from her father, even killing her own brother in the process. She is the extreme example of a woman scorned by her husband. However, Medea does not just sit at home and cry when Jason takes another wife, nor does she committ suicide because she is so devastated over her husband's betrayal. Medea exacts the ultimate revenge against Jason, taking everything from him just as he has taken all from her. Killing her children is the worst of all her horrific deeds by any society's standards, but Medea, the female, strips Jason of his masculinity and humanity.

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