You are about to embark on a journey that was first performed almost 2,500 years ago. The Greeks believed that their tragedies were put forward in order to better the human experience; that through catharsis, a person would identify with the plight of the protagonist and therefore change his or her own ways so that he or she wouldn’t fall victim to the same iniquity.
Medea is considered the classic tale of a woman scorned. Her husband Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts) leaves her and their children to marry the daughter of the king in order to provide his family with position so that they will want for nothing. Medea, out of pain, anguish, hatred and revenge, goes on a rampage to destroy everything dear to Jason. Finally, she trespasses on the vilest immorality by killing her own children.
As a Christian I was left to ponder the justification of the action, and I found myself bankrupt for an answer. But as I looked deeper, I realized this story presents serious and important moral quandaries: “What are the responsibilities of our own actions, even the most seemingly harmless?” “What are the consequences of destroying the sacred ?”
These questions lead us to my central theme, “The death of the sacred is the birth of the profane.” We can see that Jason’s act of breaking the sacrament of marriage plants a seed of destruction deep within Medea. She allows pride, hatred and evil to squelch the love in her heart and, ultimately, the consequence of his actions drive her past madness into an almost demonic possession in which she destroys the very things she holds most dear.
We don’t agree with her choices; we abhor them in the realization that she is acting in pure evil. However, we must turn the story around on ourselves and ask if we are quite sure that our actions are truthful and pure at all times. The Bible reminds us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25). This verse shows us we must be on guard and take responsibility for our actions and words. Furthermore, it is a sober reminder that we are not the highest authority of what is good. The story of Medea illustrates the wreckage left by unatoned sin.
Below is a history of Jason and Medea—the myth from which Euripides pulled this excellent piece of tragic work. Please ponder the themes in this piece. May the difficult things presented in art change us and teach us so that we will not make the same mistakes.
The Myth of Medea
Medea was one of the great sorceresses of the ancient world. She was the daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis and the granddaughter of Helios, the sun god. Jason and the Argonauts were sent to Colchis by his uncle Pelias to obtain King Aeetes’ most valuable treasure, the Golden Fleece. Medea loved Jason and used her magic to help him obtain the Fleece through a series of almost impossible tasks. In return, Jason promised to marry Medea.
Jason fled in the Argo with Medea and her brother, Absyrtis. King Aeetes pursued them. To delay the pursuit, Medea cut Absyrtis into tiny pieces and threw him into the sea. King Aeetes stopped the pursuit in order to gather up pieces of his son for proper burial.
Source referenced: "Medea." Encyclopedia Mythica from Encyclopedia Mythica Online