This barbaric nature in Medea is denoted through the stark contrast of Medeas irrational, cold-hearted temperament and Jasons seemingly sophisticated and calm demeanour. Jasons actions are not driven by emotional desires, like Medea, rather status and money while superficial, his actions are seemingly more reasonable and logical. He explains to Medea, I have not disowned my family…
I am looking to your future (460), attempting to show that while his emotional desires were not to marry Glauce, but he is protecting his own family. This poses Medea as slightly egotistical and dramatic, for she only sees the situation in a superficial light of Jason no longer being with her. Having this initial label attached to her exacerbates her actions that fulfil this notion, as people were already fearful of her or disrespect her as an immoral outsider that is unwanted.
This feeling of protectiveness for the peace of the Athenian audiences homeland was pertinent in the time of Medea, as the play was set in Corinth, a city of close geographical proximity to Athens, engendering a sense of fear for the safety of their own city, thus inviting the classification of Medea as a barbaric foreigner. This apprehension for Medea is manifested in her encounter with Creon, the king of Corinth, when he states I fear you You are a sorceress and a woman who is no stranger to dark knowledge. 58) This dangerous reputation of Medea results in her own exile, showing that one is ostracised from society, subtly or physically, as being a foreigner. While the audience can be sympathetic to Medea at some points of the play, Medeas true barbarity is solidified when she declares that she will murder her own children, depicting a true subscription to her tainted status as a foreigner.
The Chorus can parallel the audiences disgust and horror for this action, and they chant … rom a heart that wishes you well yet would not bbreak mankinds laws, do not do this thing. This shows that even those who have their loyalty resting with Medea, and the Athenian women who endured the hardships of women and would want justice, could not approve of this horrific action. Furthermore, the Chorus and thus women of the time naturally feel opposed to this, as the responsibilities expected to be a loving mother were engrained in their nature, and for Medea to kill the fruit of her womb (83) is an act beyond justification.
While Medea claims that it is to achieve justice, in many points of the play this objective is undermined by her superficial and egotistical desires for revenge on Jason, and a desire stronger than her love for her own children to be viewed as victorious in the agon between Jason and Medea. Medea asks herself, Are you to be laughed at by this Jason and his Sisyphean wedding(61). Here Medeas justification is revealed to be to not be the victim, and thus depicts Medeas plot as one in seek of petty revenge.
The murder can also be interpreted as an effort to annihilate all remnants of Medeas relationship with Jason. In her rage, particularly at the start of the play, she cries O cursed children of a hateful mother, I want you to die along with your father (54), proving her wish for them to be dead, out of anger against them as she sees Jason within them. The innocence and vulnerability of the children highlights Medeas irrationality and cold-heartedness to punish and neglect her own children when it is not them to blame.
Throughout the play they do not vocalise their thoughts, rather stay in the background absorbing the chaos of the adults conflict, until the murder scene when they plead for help, allowing the audience to question what monstrous being could possibly commit such an act against the innocent children. These actions solidify Medeas barbaric nature as a foreigner, making it difficult for the audience to have sympathy elicited for her and feel welcoming to her.
However, Medea also shows to challenge these stereotypes, yet it is difficult to do so with such a tainted and strong reputation among the Greek society. With Euripides displaying a controversial nature, indeed he presents Medea as a convoluted character, attempting to reveal the profoundness of justification and to what extent people can subscribe to notions, particularly in regards to foreigners.
Indeed, at many points in the play Medeas proficiency in the art of controlling her emotions and carefully plotting her schemes, whilst somewhat menacing, degrades her irrationality and reputation of being driven by foolish emotion and almost being mad. Originally being depicted as a vicious, foolish character in her lamentations for Jasons betrayal, when she re-enters the stage the audience can be shocked by the stark conversion of Medeas temperament to one of a calm tempered woman.
The stage directions describe this scene, marking a transition in the play, as the doors of Jasons house open to reveal Medea she begins to address the chorus in measured tones. (56) This astonishing juxtapoisition works to degrade the initial perception of her as a barbaric foreigner. Furthermore, Medeas success in achieving her objectives mainly stemmed from an underestimation of her capabilities, particularly from the men in society who were not foreigners, those who were considered dominant.
Medea was able to manipulate Creon into allowing her to stay one more day in Corinth, as he hardly believe you can do what I fear in one day. Ultimately, as a result of Creon misconstruing her shrewdness, his daughter was murdered and he sentences himself to die with her out of mere despair for her death. By challenging these common notions, and proving them to be more convoluted than it seems, Euripides allows the audience to contemplate their harsh judgement of others and enlighten them, possibly allowing them to accept those harshly ostracised from society, including foreigners and women.