Student Question

What is the conflict in Medea?

Quick answer:

There are two main types of conflict in Medea. There is the conflict between Medea and Jason, and there's Medea's internal conflict. Medea also refers to the general conflict between the interests of men and women.

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Medea is an unusual tragedy, at least among the very small number of such plays that have survived. It does not involve the protagonist falling from a high position by means of a tragic flaw. Instead, Medea makes a terrible decision but one which allows her to triumph over her enemies and emerge from her troubles comparatively unscathed. Her power and the force of her personality are so great that the most important conflict is inevitably internal. Once she has decided to murder her children in order to complete her revenge, the rest is easy.

At the beginning of the play, however, it does not look as though it will be easy. Medea has been abandoned in a foreign land where she has no friends. Everyone is wary of her, with good reason. She wins the chorus (composed of Corinthian women) round to her point of view, but the king, Creon, remains hostile. Medea, therefore, has to navigate a series of external conflicts: with the Corinthian women, with Creon, and with Jason, and then make a bargain with Aegeus before she can carry out her plan. As she successfully wins these conflicts, she comments to the chorus on the nature of conflict between men and women and the way in which women are abused and undervalued by men. This extrapolates a wider point from her own conflict with her unfaithful husband.

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