Medea

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The Children Character Analysis

The children, the two sons of Medea and Jason, each speak only once during the play. They are undifferentiated and, in some ways, more like set pieces than active characters. They, or, rather, their deaths are a means for Medea to express her rage at Jason and for the play to depict the all-consuming rage and barbarity of Medea, who is willing to kill her own children to revenge herself upon her betraying husband.

The Children Quotes in Medea

The Medea quotes below are all either spoken by The Children or refer to The Children. 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 901-1000 Quotes

I'll send her gifts, the finest in the world:
A finely woven dress and crown of beaten gold.
The boys will take them.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker), The Children, The Princess
Related Symbols: The Poisoned Crown
Page Number: 916-918
Explanation and Analysis:

Even while she's still speaking to Jason, Medea begins to plan her revenge. She decides to send the Princess (Jason's new wife) a beautiful set of gifts, including a dress and a crown, delivered by her own children--presumably so that the gifts will seem innocent, and the Princess will accept them. But the crown, little does the Princess (or Jason) know, will be enchanted to burst into flames as soon as the Princess puts it on her head, and the dress will likewise be poisoned.

In all, the passage is interesting because it shows that Medea is aware that her revenge on Jason will hurt other people who aren't necessarily guilty at all. Indeed, Medea has already planned to kill pretty much everyone except Jason--the best revenge, she seems to feel, is for him to survive amidst devastation, rather than to enjoy the "peace" of death. In her excessive fury and longing to get revenge on Jason, Medea is going to kill innocent people. Medea's fury is like a fire--once it breaks out, it's impossible to control or focus.

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Lines 1001-1100 Quotes

All for nothing tortured myself with toil and care,
And bore the cruel pains when you were born.
Once I placed great hopes in you, that you
Would care for my old age and yourselves
Shroud my corpse. That would make me envied.
Now that sweet thought is no more. Parted from you
I shall lead a grim and painful life.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker), The Children
Page Number: 1000-1006
Explanation and Analysis:

In this important passage, Medea has some second thoughts about killing her children. Medea sincerely loves her children: she's hoped that when she's an old woman, they'll care for her and continue to show love for her. But now, Medea's fury with Jason has led her to plot her children's deaths--she knows that killing her offspring is the best way to infuriate Jason.

Ironically, although the play begins with Jason "breaking up the family," it ends with Medea further destroying her family, murdering two innocent children. Medea's evident love and affection for her children reinforces her hatred for Jason--any mother who's willing to kill her own kids must really hate her ex-husband. At the same time, the passage conveys both Medea's monstrousness and her humanity. Even though she's planning to kill her kids (who are totally innocent of Jason's crimes), she actually loves them more than Jason does, and thus is arguably hurting herself more than she's hurting Jason.

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.

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The Children Character Timeline in Medea

The timeline below shows where the character The Children 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
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...Nurse fears Medea is dreaming up a dreadful plan. Just as she says this, the children return home with their Tutor. The Tutor asks the Nurse why she is standing alone... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...he says, he heard them say that Creon is going to exile Medea and her children. The Tutor says he doesn't know if the report is true. (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...and hide the rumor from Medea, and the Nurse advises the Tutor to keep the children out of Medea's sight. Just then, Medea cries from inside the house (offstage) that she... (full context)
Lines 301-400
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...and begs instead a single day in which to consider where to go with her children. She says she doesn't care about herself, only the children. Creon recognizes that he is... (full context)
Lines 401-500
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...marvelous husband. What a fine job he's done seeing to it that the wife and children who saved his life are being cast away as exiles and beggars. She bewails that... (full context)
Lines 501-600
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...had nothing to do with any woman, but was really to protect her and the children and to father new, royal sons. Medea rejects his help and his argument while Jason... (full context)
Lines 601-700
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...calls on the gods to witness that he is willing to help Medea and the children, that it is she who refuses his help and only making things worse for herself.... (full context)
Lines 701-800
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...she says, though it 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... (full context)
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...says the Chorus hasn't suffered as she has and so can't understand. Killing her own children, she says, is the way to hurt her husband most. The Chorus says it will... (full context)
Lines 801-900
Exile Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
The Chorus begins its third choral ode, calling the Athenians children of the gods and their land holy. They say that the nine Muses created Harmony... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
...his pardon for the way she acted and admits she was wrong. She calls the children out from the house and they enter through the door. She tells them to embrace... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
...behavior based on her sex. He calls her "a sensible woman." He then tells his children he has made their future secure and that he thinks that one day they will... (full context)
Lines 901-1000
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Medea says she is concerned for the children because she gave birth to them. She realizes, she claims, that it is best for... (full context)
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
...send a maid (a member of the Chorus) to get the presents and tell the children to take the gifts to the happy, royal bride. Jason calls Medea foolish for parting... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
...winning over mortals, she says, because mortals are so greedy. She says to buy her children out of exile she would pay not just with gold, but with her life. Medea... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Tutor enters and tells Medea that the children have been spared their banishment. Medea wails. The Tutor is perplexed and Medea wails again.... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...that she will and orders him to go into the house and prepare for the children's usual needs. He exits into the house through the door. She addresses her absent children... (full context)
Lines 1001-1100
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
Once, Medea says, she placed great hopes in her children and thought that they would care for her in her old age. Her life, parted... (full context)
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...herself, but at last resolves to go through with her original plan to murder the children. She knows, she says, that the Princess is dying with the poisoned crown on her... (full context)
Lines 1101-1200
Exile Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...relish in them. The Messenger tells her that the servants were delighted to see the children at the palace because they had been worrying over them and Medea. Now, they thought,... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Some servants, the Messenger says, kissed the children's hair, others their hands. He himself was overjoyed and followed the boys to the women's... (full context)
Lines 1201-1300
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Medea tells the Chorus she is resolved to kill the children and leave Corinth. She says she won't leave them for another to kill, that they... (full context)
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...terrible for a mortal to shed a family member's blood. The gods punish it. The children are heard screaming offstage. One of the children asks (from offstage) what he can do... (full context)
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Chorus asks if it should enter the house. The children cry for help. The Chorus calls Medea miserable and made of stone for killing her... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...earth or fly into heaven if she is to escape punishment. He cares about the children, however, and is worried his new relatives might do something to them to avenge Creon... (full context)
Lines 1301-1400
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Jason calls Medea the most detestable creature of all time. She has killed his children and destroyed him. He curses her. He says he is sane, but was mad to... (full context)
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...is old to mourn—it is too early now. Jason says he longs to kiss his children again. Medea notes the irony of his wanting to touch and talk to them now... (full context)