Student Question

In Seneca's Medea, is Medea's character designed to entertain a violent Roman audience?

Expert Answers

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I think that Seneca does create Medea a frightful character in order to bring out a comment on the audience.  Seneca takes the basic Greek myth and "stylizes" it to be accepted by his audience.  Focusing on the vengeance and the steps she takes towards it, Medea is shown to be a character of intense action.  The supernatural element heightens this.  The drama opens with the invocation of the divine and ends with Jason's renouncing of them.  In this, there is an appeal to the audience's sensibilities in showing the Roman society the pain and wrathful nature of the Gods.  Given the time period, it makes sense, to a great extent, that this nature of the divine worship is seen.  In this, there is a definite statement about what is being constructed as religious zeal and worship.  There is little in way of reflection or doubt that Euripides evokes in his characterization.  Rather, it is quite evident where Medea is in this configuration.  She is a woman of action, possessing almost supernatural capacity.  This has to be seen as a statement on the audience's reception, for Seneca understands that this depiction is something that will be appreciated and grasped by his audience.  In doing so, he not only renders his own statement on Medea, but on his audience, as well.

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