First Episode: Medea and Creon Summary and Analysis
Creon: King of Corinth, father of Medea’s rival
Medea emerges from her palace to address the Corinthian women gathered outside. In a long speech, she appeals to their gender to understand her plight, by enumerating the inequities women face in their relationships with men. Her situation is further complicated by her foreign status, which has left her without family to turn to in her despair. The speech closes with an appeal to the women to remain silent about any plans she makes to take her revenge on her faithless husband. The Chorus women express their sympathy, and pledge to say nothing.
Creon enters and immediately begins to insult Medea, calling her a “sour–faced woman, squalling at [her] husband.” He proceeds to pronounce his banishment of her and the children, effective immediately. In blunt terms, he justifies this act by saying he is afraid of what she might do to his daughter, based on his knowledge of Medea’s cleverness, her past history, and the threats she has made against his family. He hopes that by removing her from Corinth, she will no longer pose a threat to them.
Medea responds with bitter self–recrimination, lamenting the fact that her reputation is working against her, when in fact she considers herself to be “not that clever.” She appeals to Creon, saying she does not hold this turn of events against him or his daughter, but against her husband, and promises to “keep the peace.” Creon remains suspicious, however, and repeats his order.
What follows is an example of stychomythia, a series of rapid–fire exchanges between Medea and Creon, while they argue about whether she will stay or go. It ends with Medea pleading for “just one day” in order for her to get her affairs in order, and devise a plan for where she and her children will go. In this, she appeals to Creon’s kindness as a father himself, claiming that it is not for her sake, but the children’s, that she is asking. Creon relents, even though he still fears it is a mistake, and warns her that if she is still there after tomorrow, she will die.
After Creon exits, the Chorus once more expresses its empathy for Medea, and wonders what country will welcome her now. Medea replies by reminding them that it’s not yet over. She “crawled and fawned” on Creon only to gain time to put other plans in motion, plans that despite her promises, harbour ill intent toward Creon and his daughter.
Medea then turns inward, debating with herself which course of action would be the most effective. Above all, she wishes her revenge to be definitive and final. There is to be no opportunity for her enemies to laugh at her when she’s done. She decides to wait a little while, to see if an opportunity arises when she can claim her revenge and escape to a safe place of exile. Meanwhile, she swears by the gods that she will use every means at her disposal to achieve her ends, bitterly referring to those means as the womanly “arts of cowardice.”
The Chorus closes this scene with a meditation on the cosmic ramifications of Medea’s plight and its consequences. Jason’s act has been shameful in the extreme, and reflects on all of Greece. Now all nature is turned upside down, and perhaps soon women “will have both rights and honour.”
From the moment Medea takes the stage, Euripides begins to flesh out her character beyond that of the legends about her, with which his original audiences would have been familiar. It is as a woman, not a witch, that Medea is able to strike a common chord with the Chorus of Corinthian women. And it is as a parent, not an unruly foreigner, that she is able to do the same with Creon. Nevertheless, we have the sense that behind these appeals to common humanity there is conscious calculation. There is a sense that Medea is...
(The entire section is 1597 words.)