Medea, Prologue and Parados Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Where does the action of the prologue and parados take place?

2. What is Medea’s homeland?

3. List three crimes Medea has committed on Jason’s behalf.

4. How long have Medea and her family been exiled in Corinth?

5. What has Jason done to cause Medea such pain?

6. Who is to be banished by Creon’s orders?

7. What does the Nurse think Jason will do about the banishment?

8. Why do the Nurse, Tutor, Chorus and Medea herself think Jason has left her?

9. Where is Medea during the opening moments of the play?

10. What is the Chorus’s reaction to Medea’s grief?

1. The action takes place outside a palace near Corinth.

2. Medea is a native of Colchis.

3. She betrayed her father, killed her brother, and tricked the daughters of King Pelias into killing their father.

4. Medea and her family have been living in Corinth a matter of some years: the Chorus refers to having known her over the years, but her children are still young.

5. Jason has decided to marry the daughter of the king of Corinth, thus abandoning Medea to the status of a woman with no male protection or rights.

6. Medea and her children are to be banished, according to the rumors of Creon’s orders.

7. The Nurse believes Jason will never consent to his children being banished. This later proves untrue.

8. The characters all seem to believe that Jason has tired of Medea, and is looking for a “change of bed.”

9. Medea has locked herself in her rooms at her palace.

10. The Chorus sympathizes with Medea against Jason, and wants to comfort her before she hurts herself or others.

First Episode: Medea and Creon Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Medea say she fears the Chorus will reproach her?

2. What does Medea say she’d rather do than “once give birth?”

3. What is her point in so saying?

4. Give three reasons why Creon fears Medea.

5. In what ways does Medea claim that having a reputation for being clever is in fact a liability to her?

6. What is Creon’s initial response to Medea’s claim that she harbors no ill will toward him and his family?

7. Give two reasons for Creon’s granting Medea her wish to remain in Corinth for one more day.

8. In her speech following Creon’s exit, who does Medea target for her revenge?

9. Why does Medea not act immediately upon this desire?

10. Why does the Chorus say, at the end of the episode, that there have been no women poets?

1. Having withdrawn into her rooms, Medea fears the Chorus will interpret this as a sign of arrogance and pride, of not desiring to fit in with the community.

2. Medea claims she would rather fight three times in battle than give birth once.

3. She says this to counter the claim that women lead risk– free lives within the safety of their homes.

4. Creon fears Medea because she is clever and has been part of evil happenings; she has been wounded by Jason’s treatment of her; and she threatens to do harm to Creon’s household.

5. Medea says clever people are envied and despised by others. “Stupid” people tend to think the clever are equally stupid, and those who consider themselves to be clever resent someone who is more clever.

6. Creon believes Medea’s quiet assurances mask a more sinister reality, and he doesn’t trust them.

7. Creon allows Medea to stay because he does not wish to appear to be a tyrant in his treatment of Medea. He also believes that one day is not long enough for Medea to do any harm.

8. Medea wishes “to turn three enemies to corpses”—Creon, his daughter, and Jason.

9. Medea decides to postpone her actions a little while, hoping that she’ll be able to secure safe refuge a
after the deed is done. If not, she will risk her own death to ensure theirs.

10. The Chorus says there have been no women poets because Apollo, the god of song, never passed on his gifts to a member of their gender.

Second Episode: Medea and Jason Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does Jason tell Medea she should count herself lucky to have received only exile?

2. What does Medea call the “worst disease of human minds”?

3. How does the fact that they have had children together enter into Medea’s argument?

4. Whom does Jason credit with the rescue of the Argonauts?

5. Why does Jason say Medea got more than she gave in the story of their time together?

6. What is Jason’s justification for deciding to marry the Corinthian princess?

7. What is the point Medea uses effectively to destroy the “surface logic” of Jason’s plans?

8. What does Medea suspect is really the motivation for this marriage?

9. Why does Medea refuse Jason’s offer of help?

10. What are two themes covered in the choral ode which ends this episode?

1. According to Jason, Medea has repeatedly cursed the king, an act of treason which could have resulted in death.

2. The “worst disease of human minds,” to Medea, is “having a blank where shame should be,” by which she refers to Jason’s arrogance in facing her after betraying her.

3. Medea claims that she could have forgiven Jason’s wandering if they had been childless, but as it is, he has broken faith with the children as well.

4. Jason credits Aphrodite, and only Aphrodite, with saving that...

(The entire section is 403 words.)

Third Episode: Medea and Aegeus Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why is the Athenian king Aegeus in Corinth?

2. How does Aegeus greet Medea?

3. When Aegeus first learns of Medea’s situation, he tells her simply to forget Jason. What causes him to re–evaluate?

4. What does Medea ask of Aegeus?

5. What two reasons does Aegeus give for wishing to help Medea?

6. What does Medea plan to say to Jason when next she sees him?

7. What are the gifts Medea plans to send the bride?

8. Who is to deliver these gifts to the princess?

9. What does Medea say is the way to earn respect in Greece?

10. When the Chorus first tries to dissuade Medea from killing her children, why does she tell them it’s necessary that she do so?

1. He has just been to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, seeking a cure for his childlessness.

2. Aegeus greets Medea with a wish for happiness, as befitting a friend.

3. Aegeus seems to take more seriously the fact that Jason’s lust is not simply for another woman, but for the power of a royal marriage.

4. Medea desires Aegeus’ royal protection once she arrives in Athens.

5. First, he wishes to help her because he believes it would please the gods to do so. Second, he wishes to take advantage of her promise to cure his problem in reward for his aid.

6. Medea plans to tell him she wishes to reconcile with him, for the best interests of everyone. Further, she will ask that the children be allowed to stay in Corinth with him.

7. Medea plans to present the princess with a poisoned robe and wreath, or crown, which will cause her and anyone who touches her in them to die.

8. The children are to bring them to the princess as a gesture of Medea’s reconciliation.

9. Respect is earned by being “gentle to friends, implacable to foes.”

10. Medea claims that killing her children is the way to hurt Jason most.

Fourth Episode: Medea and Jason Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What are three examples of Medea’s false self–reproaching in her opening speech to Jason?

2. What motivates Medea’s first bout of weeping?

3. Why does Jason say he doesn’t blame Medea for her angrier moods?

4. Does Jason give any evidence that he has considered keeping the children in Corinth with him?

5. What motivates Medea’s second round of tears?

6. What is the real reason that Medea asks that the children be allowed to stay?

7. How has Medea come by the gifts of the robe and wreath?

8. When Jason balks at Medea’s disposal of her inheritance, how does she convince him to take it?

9. What are Medea’s instructions to the children?

10. In the choral ode which ends this episode, who does the Chorus seem to blame for the coming destruction, and why?

1. Medea berates herself for her stubbornness in not acting on Jason’s good advice. She blames her inability to curb her temper for her short–sightedness; and she admits she was acting childishly out of womanly frailty.

2. Medea is moved to tears by the act of handing her children over to Jason.

3. He says it’s natural for a woman to be angry when her husband takes a new wife.

4. No, it is apparent from his first response to Medea that Jason does not anticipate seeing the boys again until they are...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

Fifth Episode: Medea, Tutor, and Children Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How does Medea react to the Tutor’s news from the palace, and how does he in turn respond to this?

2. In Medea’s recounting of all the things she’ll miss by giving up her sons, we can learn something about ancient familial traditions. What mother’s rituals, for example, will Medea not be able to perform for her sons?

3. Similarly, what filial obligation will her sons not be able to perform for her?

4. What first causes Medea to re–think her original plan to kill her children?

5. What makes her renew her resolve after this?

6. In the end, what decides the children’s fate?

7. The children are present on stage the whole time Medea argues with herself about them. Is there ever any specific reference in her words as to what her final decision means?

8. How is Medea’s exchange with the Tutor an example of “dramatic irony”?

9. In the opening lines of the choral passage, how does the female Chorus characterize the gender–specific nature of philosophical debate it is about to enter into?

10. What is the substance of this debate?

1. Medea begins to weep, which surprises the Tutor. He thinks she’s overreacting.

2. She will not be able to decorate their marriage beds, nor “hold the wedding torches” over them.

3. They will not be able to prepare her body for...

(The entire section is 436 words.)

Sixth Episode: The Messenger Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What causes the Messenger’s haste from the palace?

2. How does Medea initially respond to the news that Creon and the princess are dead?

3. Why does Medea exhort the Messenger to tell his tale slowly?

4. To whom does the Messenger compare the princess, when he speaks of the honor he and the other servants pay her?

5. According to the Messenger, how did the princess first react upon seeing Medea’s children?

6. What made the princess change her mind?

7. How much time elapsed between the bestowal of the gifts and the death of the princess?

8. How did Creon die?

9. To what does the Messenger compare human...

(The entire section is 325 words.)

Final Episode and Exodos Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why is Jason’s entrance in this scene another example of dramatic irony at work?

2. Why is Jason trying to find his children?

3. Where does Medea appear in this scene?

4. Why is Medea protected while in the chariot?

5. Where are the children?

6. Which of Medea’s previous crimes does Jason choose to illustrate her wickedness?

7. How does Medea reply to Jason’s accusations?

8. Who does Medea maintain “began this agony”?

9. Why does Medea deny Jason’s request to take the boys’ bodies?

10. How does Medea prophesy Jason will die?

1. Jason’s entrance...

(The entire section is 312 words.)

Electra, Prologue and Parados Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who was Agamemnon?

2. How did Agamemnon die, according to the Farmer?

3. Why does the Farmer call a fool anyone who calls him foolish for not sleeping with his wife?

4. What has Aigisthos ordered to protect his own place on the throne?

5. Which god has charged Orestes with avenging his father’s murder?

6. What has Orestes left at the tomb of Agamemnon?

7. What is Pylades’ relationship to Orestes?

8. When he first sees her, who does Orestes think Electra is, and why?

9. Why are the Chorus women so happy?

10. Whom does Electra seem to blame more for her woes—her mother Clytemnestra or her...

(The entire section is 317 words.)

First Episode: Electra, Orestes and Farmer Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How does Orestes present himself to Electra?

2. When Orestes asks what he should do “if” he comes home, what does Electra respond?

3. Why does Electra not recognize her brother?

4. Who is the only man whom Electra claims would recognize him?

5. What does Electra claim she would do to “let blood from her mother’s throat?”

6. Why does Electra envy her mother’s slaves?

7. What is Electra’s accusation against Agamemnon, besides the fact that he participated in her father’s murder?

8. What is the Farmer’s response to meeting the two travelers?

9. After he has met the Farmer and learned of his...

(The entire section is 332 words.)

Second Episode: Electra, Orestes, and the Old Man Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who is the Old Man?

2. What are the signs he points to that prove it was Orestes who recently visited Agamemnon’s grave?

3. What is the final proof of Orestes’ identity?

4. What does the Old Man tell Orestes he must do to avenge his father?

5. What part will Orestes play in the plan?

6. What is Electra’s role?

7. Who are the pair’s allies in this plan?

8. To whom and for what do the trio pray before Orestes sets off?

9. According to the Chorus, what caused Zeus to reverse the course of the sun and send famine to the earth?

10. To what is this long–ago crime compared?


(The entire section is 362 words.)

Third Episode: The Messenger and Orestes’ Return Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is Electra prepared to do when she first hears the offstage “howls of death”?

2. What is her response to the Messenger when she first sees him?

3. What is the lie Orestes told Aigisthos to mask his identity?

4. For whom was Aigisthos preparing his feast?

5. Why did Orestes butcher the calf?

6. Why is Orestes given the cleaver with which he will kill Aigisthos?

7. Who among Aigisthos’ company recognized Orestes?

8. Why does Electra’s long speech to Aigisthos’ corpse stand against convention?

9. Why does Electra think Aigisthos is a military coward?

10. What does Orestes’ say...

(The entire section is 255 words.)

Fourth Episode: Electra, Clytemnestra, and Orestes Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. According to the Chorus, who are Clytemnestra’s brothers, and what have they become?

2. To what other sibling of Clytemnestra does Electra refer?

3. Which double standard does Clytemnestra complain of in her defense to Electra?

4. Why does Clytemnestra feel Iphigenia’s death so bitterly?

5. What is Electra’s interpretation of the sacrifice of her sister, relative to Clytemnestra’s response to it?

6. How does Electra compare her situation to her sister’s?

7. After the matricide, what are Orestes’ and Electra’s fears for the future?

8. How did Clytemnestra try to stop Orestes from killing her?


(The entire section is 358 words.)

Final Episode and Exodos Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why have the Dioskouroi (Castor and Polydeukes) appeared at the farmhouse?

2. Who will protect Orestes from the hounding goddesses of doom?

3. Where will Orestes’ trial take place?

4. How will the court decide on the matter of Orestes’ matricide, and why?

5. Where will Orestes then live out his days?

6. What is to become of Electra?

7. What will be the fate of the Farmer, and the bodies of Clytemnestra and Aigisthos?

8. With what two questions does Electra challenge divine wisdom?

9. What does the Chorus see that makes them warn Orestes to run toward Athens?

10. Where are the Dioskouroi...

(The entire section is 291 words.)