Medea

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Jason Character Analysis

Jason is the son of Aeson. As a child he is given to the centaur, Chiron, to be raised, educated, and protected from his greedy half-uncle, Pelias, king of Iolocus. In an effort to get rid of Jason, Pelias sends him in quest of the Golden Fleece, but, with Medea's help, Jason succeeds in obtaining it. Until the cowardly and greedy behavior elaborated in Medea, Jason conducts himself more or less heroically. Within the play, he is a shortsighted representative of the ruling class of advantaged men. He is a cunning rhetorician (arguer), but, as we see in Medea, is arguments are not always in the service of truth. He is more concerned with making himself look good and defending his indefensible actions.

Jason Quotes in Medea

The Medea quotes below are all either spoken by Jason or refer to Jason. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Exile Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Cambridge University Press edition of Medea published in 1999.
Lines 1-100 Quotes

The people here are well disposed to [Medea],
An exile and Jasons's all obedient wife:
That's the best way for a woman to keep safe –
Not to cross her husband.
But now her deepest love is sick, all turns to hate.

Related Characters: The Nurse (speaker), Medea, Jason
Page Number: 11-15
Explanation and Analysis:

The Nurse provides the important expository information about Medea that we need to understand and enjoy the play. Medea was a princess in her native land, but when the hero Jason came to her kingdom, she betrayed her own family due to her mad love for Jason. Medea used her magic to help Jason succeed in his quest--then, she traveled back to Jason's homeland to be his wife.

But now, the Nurse confirms, there's trouble in paradise. Medea has no friends or well-wishers in her new home--on the contrary, everybody hates her for being a foreigner (the Greeks considered anyone non-Greek to basically be a barbarian). Medea has essentially thrown all her eggs in one basket--Jason. And now, Jason (supposedly a great hero) has betrayed Medea. The Nurse's lines set in motion the events of the plot--furious with Jason, Medea will enact a savage revenge.

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Lines 201-300 Quotes

My husband has turned out to be the most despicable of men.
Of all the creatures that have life and reason
We women have the worst lot.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker), Jason
Page Number: 218-220
Explanation and Analysis:

Medea has often been interpreted as an early feminist hero, and this passage goes a long way toward explaining why. Medea knows full-well that she has a bad lot in life: she was born a woman, meaning that she can't vote, own property, or control her own marriages. She's seen as property by most of the world. Jason, for instance, has no qualms about dumping her overnight, because he doesn't respect her as a human being--despite the fact that she's a powerful, semi-divine figure, and has given up everything for his sake. In short, Medea recognizes that through no fault of her own, she's been mistreated all her life. (Notice also that Medea is addressing the Chorus of women--she's commiserating with other females.)

But does the passage necessarily mean that Euripides shares Medea's point of view? While it's common for modern critics to interpret Medea through a feminist lens, it's likely that Euripides wasn't really critiquing his culture's idea that women are inferior to men. The play certainly seems to believe that Jason behaves unfairly toward his wife, thus justifying her disrespect--but it doesn't follow that women are equal to men.

Medea, scowling there with fury at your husband!
I have given orders that you should leave the country:
Take your two sons and go, into exile. No delay!

Related Characters: Creon (speaker), Medea, Jason
Page Number: 259-261
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we're introduced to Creon, who tells Medea that she's henceforth banished from the kingdom. It's interesting that Creon allows Medea to leave the kingdom with her children (the children she had with Jason). Jason seems to feel no love or affection for his own offspring--since he's divorcing Medea, he apparently believes that he has to say goodbye to his kids, as well.

Creon is an important character in the novel, because he embodies the corrupt authority of Corinthian (Greek) society. Creon shows no sympathy for Medea, despite the fact that he's destroying her life by banishing her, and through no fault of her own. In short, Creon's actions in this passage reinforce the harsh, selfish nature of patriarchal Corinthian society when it comes to foreigners and women--Creon is utterly unsympathetic to Medea or her children's feelings.

Lines 401-500 Quotes

Consider yourself lucky that your punishment
Is merely exile…

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Medea
Page Number: 433-434
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we're introduced to Jason, Medea's ex-husband. Jason, though a famous hero of mythology, is a callous, hypocritical man, who clearly feels no love or affection for Medea whatsoever. Jason even has the nerve to scold Medea for not being more grateful that she's been "rewarded" with exile instead of being executed. In other words, Jason wants Medea to accept her fate quietly and demurely.

Jason is the very embodiment of the sexism and hypocrisy that Medea intends to punish. He seems to be speaking un-ironically--i.e., he genuinely believes that Medea should consider herself lucky for being banished. Jason's insensitivity to women is so great that he treats them like animals or disobedient children. He is, in short, begging for a nasty comeuppance.

You vile coward! Yes, I can call you that,
The worst name that I know for your unmanliness!

Related Characters: Medea (speaker), Jason
Page Number: 444-445
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Medea says everything she's been wanting to say to Jason. She accuses him of being a coward and "unmanly"--quite the accusation to level against a legendary Greek hero.

It's hard to deny that Medea has a point. Jason only succeeded in obtaining the legendary Golden Fleece because Medea did almost all the hard work for him. She used magic to help him fight off his enemies and lead him to victory. Now, Jason--always ungrateful--is banishing Medea, almost as if he's forgotten the help she gave him.

Jason's "unmanliness," then, doesn't consist of his weakness or his dependence on Medea. Medea doesn't have a problem with helping Jason become a hero--as long as he shows his gratitude to her. Jason becomes "unmanly" in the instant that he betrays and turns his back on Medea--effectively denying that she helped him become great.

Lines 501-600 Quotes

As for your spiteful words about my marriage with the princess,
I'll show that what I've done is wise and prudent;
And I've acted out of love for you
And for my sons…

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Medea, The Princess
Page Number: 524-527
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Jason shows himself to be a smooth operator and a generally slimy, hypocritical person. He argues to Medea that he's divorced her and married a new woman because he loves Medea and wants her to be happy. Jason goes on to argue that he's remarried because his new bride is a princess. By marrying the princess, Jason suggests, he'll be able to provide for Medea and their two children, improving everyone's life.

Jason's argument is laughable and contradictory (he's obviously left Medea because he's looking out for his own happiness and prosperity, not his family's). It's even possible that Jason himself believes his own lies--he's so self-centered and confident in himself that he doesn't have any real respect for Medea or their children.

Jason, you have put a fine gloss on your words.
But – I may not be wise to say this – I think
You've acted wrongly: you have betrayed your wife.

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Medea, Jason
Page Number: 553-555
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the Chorus accuses Jason of being a good public speaker but a bad husband. Jason has just finished a long speech in which he argues that he's abandoned Medea for her own good. The speech is well-delivered, but hypocritical and full of contradictions. The Chorus's interpretation of Jason's monologue, then, is spot-on: Jason speaks well but behaves poorly. The Chorus arrives at a blunt point: Jason has betrayed his wife, end of story.

It's interesting that the Chorus makes a distinction between words and actions, between appearance and reality. Jason, it's suggested, is better at "seeming" to do the right thing than he is at actually doing the right thing. More subtly, the Chorus implies that Jason isn't really much of a warrior or a hero--he's succeeded thanks to his ability to woo and seduce other people. In this sense, the Chorus's speech belittles Jason and mocks him for his delusions of machismo and heroism.

Lines 1301-1400 Quotes

Hateful creature! O most detestable of women
To the gods and me and all the human race!
You could bring yourself to put to the sword
The children of your womb. You have taken my sons
and destroyed me.

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Medea, The Children
Page Number: 1302-1306
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jason condemns Medea for killing their two children. Medea has personally murdered her children with a sword, even as they cry out for help, and she's also killed both Jason's new wife and his father-in-law. Even more sadistically, she's arranged for Jason to survive her revenge plot. Instead of killing Jason, Medea forces him to face the crushing truth: his entire family and life is in ruins.

Medea's revenge balances out Jason's cruelty to Medea, and yet it also exceeds Jason's cruelty by a mile. (This reflects a common idea in Greek tragedy, in which the vengeance often outweighs the original crime, leading to an endless cycle of violence.) As the play began, Medea was going through the agony of leaving her family behind forever--now, Jason is going through the same agony. And yet Medea also eliminates Jason's chances for a glorious future: without sons or a wife, Jason will be unable to produce heirs, meaning that his lineage and his reputation end with his own life. Jason's humiliation is complete, all thanks to Medea.

No Greek woman
Could ever have brought herself to do that.
Yet I rejected them to marry you, a wife
Who brought me enmity and death,
A lioness, not human…

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Medea
Page Number: 1318-1322
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jason--who's gotten the news that his wife has been burned alive and his children have been murdered, too--condemns Medea. Interestingly, Jason accuses Medea of being wicked because she's not a Greek woman. Jason assumes that Greeks are calm, controlled, and peaceful; only foreigners like Medea would be capable of such savage acts of revenge.

It's hard to tell if Euripides agrees with Jason or not. Throughout the play, Medea has been portrayed as an exotic, mysterious woman, full of magic, confidence, and rage. Furthermore, her decision to kill her own children seems to reflect her outsider status in Greece: she uses her foreign magic to achieve her ends.

And yet Jason misses the point. Medea didn't kill her children because she's from another country--she killed the children because she was provoked and humiliated into revenge. Jason, hypocritical as always, condemns Medea but refuses to acknowledge his own cruelty and insensitivity. The play certainly doesn't excuse Medea for her acts of murder, but it does encourage us to question Jason's shallow monologue. Medea was a stranger in a strange land, but if Jason had been kinder to her, she would never have lashed out against Jason and his country. (Furthermore, it's important to remember other, even more monstrous acts committed by "true" Greeks--like Atreus killing his brother's children and serving them to him as food, for example.)

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Jason Character Timeline in Medea

The timeline below shows where the character Jason appears in Medea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-100
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Outside the door to Medea's house in the city-state of Corinth, the Nurse laments that Jason's ship, the Argo, ever sailed to Clochis, Medea's non-Grecian homeland, in search for the Golden... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
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...daughters, then, the Nurse says, Medea would never have come to live in Corinth with Jason. Where, the Nurse claims, Medea is hated and Jason has betrayed her and his children... (full context)
Lines 101-200
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
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...asks the Nurse to tell them what's going on. The Nurse responds that Medea and Jason's family is finished and recounts Medea's grief and Jason's infidelity. Medea wails from off stage... (full context)
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The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
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...more calls out from off stage, asks the goddesses Themis and Artemis to witness how Jason has broken the oaths he made to her. She once more cries for her lost... (full context)
Lines 201-300
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Her husband, Jason, she says, is the most despicable man, and adds that, of all creatures on earth,... (full context)
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...is afraid she will hurt his daughter. He has heard reports that she is threatening Jason, the Princess, and him. (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
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...him? she asks. She doesn't grudge him his success and claims that she wishes him, Jason, and the Princess good luck. Then, for good measure, she concedes defeat and begs Creon... (full context)
Lines 301-400
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...that she is beset by host of problems but hints that the troubles of Creon, Jason, and the Princess are yet to come. She laughs at Creon and calls him a... (full context)
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Medea prophesizes that it will be a bitter and painful wedding for Jason and the Princess. She tells herself to spare none of her skill and go boldly... (full context)
Lines 401-500
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Jason enters. Medea and he converse in the area outside Medea's house. Jason scolds Medea for... (full context)
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Medea calls Jason a coward for his unmanliness. She says his coming to her is neither bravery nor... (full context)
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Medea condemns Jason for taking another woman when he already has two sons. He has shirked his fatherly... (full context)
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The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
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...all her friends are now her enemies because of the things she has done for Jason. She is sarcastic with Jason, calling him a marvelous husband. What a fine job he's... (full context)
Lines 501-600
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Jason responds with an elaborate analogy, saying that he is like a boat pilot steering himself... (full context)
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Medea's home country, Clochis, Jason argues, is savage and primitive (not Greek) and living in Greece is inherently better because... (full context)
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Jason now responds to Medea's spiteful words concerning his marriage to the Princess, arguing that what... (full context)
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Jason accuses Medea of being blind to his wisdom because of her sexual jealousy. He says... (full context)
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...even greater penalty. Such a man brazenly dresses up his wickedness in false words. If Jason was a real man, Medea says, he would have convinced her that what he was... (full context)
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Medea says that it is not her bitterness that spurred Jason to take a new wife but rather his growing embarrassment at having her, a foreign... (full context)
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Medea and Jason argue about what Medea did to deserve exile. Jason says she called out curses and... (full context)
Lines 601-700
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Jason calls on the gods to witness that he is willing to help Medea and the... (full context)
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Medea wishes Aegeus success. Then he notices her wan look and vexed condition. She recounts Jason's betrayals. Aegeus is shocked and outraged. He is especially sympathetic when she reveals that Jason... (full context)
Lines 701-800
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
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...as a sign from the gods. She reveals her plan to have a servant fetch Jason back to her so that she can speak submissively and beg that the children might... (full context)
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...causes her grief, the next step will be to kill her children. She will demolish Jason's whole house and leave the country. She says she can endure the unholy crime of... (full context)
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...It is no time for moderation. She sends a member of the Chorus to get Jason. The Chorus member exits. (full context)
Lines 801-900
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Jason enters saying that, despite Medea's ill-will, he will listen to her. Medea deceitfully apologizes for... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
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...out from the house and they enter through the door. She tells them to embrace Jason. She feigns fear that the children won't live long because of their impending exile. She... (full context)
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Jason is glad that Medea has come around to his view and says he doesn't blame... (full context)
Lines 901-1000
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...that it is best for her to be banished, but that the boys should stay. Jason should beg Creon to let them. Jason says he will try to persuade Creon. Medea... (full context)
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Medea tells Jason to send a maid (a member of the Chorus) to get the presents and tell... (full context)
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...palace, kneel before their father's new wife and beg her to spare them from exile. Jason and the boys exit. (full context)
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...doom, her death. She will put on the gifts and die. The Chorus sings that Jason blindly brings death upon his new wife and children, and that it shares Medea's grief. (full context)
Lines 1001-1100
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...wants her enemies to laugh at her for losing her resolve and leaving her enemy (Jason) unpunished. She suffers from a crisis of confidence, going back and forth between her options... (full context)
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...members as friends and says that she sees the Messenger from the palace, one of Jason's servants, whom she's been awaiting. He is agitated and out of breath with news of... (full context)
Lines 1101-1200
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...overjoyed and followed the boys to the women's quarters. The Princess had her eyes on Jason before she saw the children enter. Once she saw them, she pulled on her veil... (full context)
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Seeing the fine gifts, the Messenger says, the Princess agreed to all Jason asked. Jason left the room and she put on the embroidered, poisoned gown and the... (full context)
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...let out a deeper more shocked wail. Maids rushed to the king, Creon, and to Jason. People rushed all about the palace. The Princess said nothing for some time then gave... (full context)
Lines 1201-1300
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...or less fortunate, not happy. His long, expository monologue concludes and the Chorus says that Jason earned this great calamity. It pities the Princess for her attachment to Jason. (full context)
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Jason enters and questions the Chorus if Medea is still in the house. He says she... (full context)
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Jason asks where the children were killed. The Chorus tells him to open the door. He... (full context)
Lines 1301-1400
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Jason calls Medea the most detestable creature of all time. She has killed his children and... (full context)
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Medea says she would respond at greater length, but Zeus knows what she did for Jason and how he dishonored her. He can call her a lioness if he likes, but... (full context)
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Jason says his infidelity would be a small matter to a sensible woman, but to Medea... (full context)
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Jason calls on avenging Furies and bloody Justice to destroy Medea. Medea asks what gods could... (full context)
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Jason calls on Zeus to witness how Medea, a child-murderer, is driving him away. He swears... (full context)