To what extent does Euripides’s play Medea provide the audience with the classical expectation of catharsis?

Medea doesn't provide the audience with catharsis in the classical Aristotelian sense of the purgation of the emotions of pity and fear, which remain even after the play is over. In Medea, Euripides evokes a different kind of catharsis to which Aristotle refers in Poetics as rhaumaston, which is the sense of wonder and awe that the audience experiences as the culmination of all the emotions they've felt throughout the play.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When a person watches a tragic play, the events of the play produce in that person a wide range of emotions, including happiness, pity, fear, sorrow, revulsion, and so on. In his Poetics, Aristotle defines catharsis as the release, cleansing, or purging of these emotions, particularly the emotions of pity and fear.

Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; ... through pity and fear, effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions. (Poetics, book 6)

In Medea, the action of the play elicits these same emotions, but catharsis isn't achieved in the conventional sense, because many of these emotions aren't purged and instead remain with the individual audience member long after the play is over.

During the course of the play, Medea does terrible things to avenge the wrongs that other characters in the play have done to her. She kills Jason's wife, Glauce, and...

(The entire section contains 474 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 1, 2020