How can the influence of the myths Medea and Electra, as seen in Euripides's plays, Medea and Electra, be traced in medieval, Renaissance, post-Renaissance, or modern literature? How were the ancient myths transformed, adopted, or modified by the later authors? What is lost or gained by the changes?
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In tracing the influence throughout literature of either the myths Medea or Electra, captured in Euripides's plays titled Medea and Electra, one thing one is looking for is allusions to these myths. An allusion is a literary device in which one author refers to a passage, place, character, or event found in other literature; however, one can even allude to "mythology, biblical references, historical events, legends, or earlier literary works" (Dr. Wheeler, "Literary Terms and Definitions: A"). Shakespeare is one Renaissance author who frequently used allusions. We can even see Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's Macbeth as a representation of Medea.
Based on the myth, Medea takes revenge on her unfaithful husband Jason by poisoning a robe she gives to his new bride, plaguing the land with pestilence, and even killing their sons just to hurt Jason. In other words, Medea is characterized as a mad woman willing to stop at nothing for the sake of revenge and personal gain. It can be said that Lady Macbeth's own madness reflects and is an allusion to Medea's. The moment Lady Macbeth learns of Macbeth's prophecy that he'll be crowned king, her mind immediately conjures up means to "catch the nearest way," which of course would be murdering the present king (I.v.16). Her decision to encourage her husband to murder the present king can be likened to Medea's decisions for revenge because clearly Lady Macbeth will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Similarly, both Medea and Lady Macbeth are driven into fits of madness due to their actions. Medea goes mad because of her plans to kill her children, as we see in her line, "I in my madness--have devised these things" (1036), while Lady Macbeth goes mad out of guilt for all the murders she has had a hand in.
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