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The influence of Medea's initial portrayal and on-stage interactions on audience sympathy in Seneca's and Euripidis' versions


Medea's initial portrayal and on-stage interactions in both Seneca's and Euripides' versions significantly influence audience sympathy. In Euripides' version, Medea is depicted more sympathetically, focusing on her emotional suffering and betrayal by Jason. In contrast, Seneca's Medea is portrayed with a more vengeful and ruthless demeanor, diminishing audience sympathy and highlighting her darker traits.

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How does the start of Seneca and Euripidis' versions of Medea influence audience sympathy for Medea?

This is a good question. Euripides's version of the tragedy portrays Medea in a more sympathetic light than Seneca's version. Right from the beginning, the audience has a different feeling. Let me explain why.

First, in Euripides's work, Medea is seen as passive. She does not even speak of her plight. The nurse relays all of this information to the audience, while she is filled with sorrow offstage. She is, in short, seen as a victim, and people generally speaking have lots of sympathy for victims. In Seneca's version, Medea is filled with rage. She will take justice into her own hand. Medea is portrayed as a woman you do not cross. The audience at this point is not so much filled with sympathy but fear. The audience also gets the sense that this work is more about revenge.

Second, from the point of view of the gods, Euripides portrays Medea as an pawn of fate. In other words, what could she do? In Seneca's version, Medea takes control, does not show reverence towards the gods, indeed, she seems godlike herself. For this reason, sympathy is not something that comes to the fore.

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What's the impact of Medea's on-stage interactions on audience sympathy in Seneca's and Euripidis' versions?

In Euripides's version, Medea is offstage as the work opens up and her difficulties are communicated through her nurse. Medea is alone and she is weeping in anguish over what has happened to her. This is effective in creating a sense of pathos for two reasons.

First, when someone else speaks in your stead, there is a greater sense of transparency, honesty, and modesty. To be sure, this is not always the case, but often when someone communicates your plight for you, it give the impression that the one who is speaking is a more objective communicator.

Second, by having Medea offstage (perhaps only hearing her wails), she is characterized as passive. Tragedies have been done to her. She is a victim of the gods. She does not even have a voice. All of this creates pathos.

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