Medea

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The Chorus Character Analysis

The Chorus is composed of a group of Corinthian women who have assembled outside of 's house because of the loud wailing and lamentation they have overheard coming from it. In many cases the Chorus can be taken as standing in for the audience of the play—reacting as the audience would (and in doing so subtly guiding the audience in its own reactions). The chief difference, of course, is that the Chorus participates in the action and dialogue.

The Chorus Quotes in Medea

The Medea quotes below are all either spoken by The Chorus or refer to The Chorus. 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 101-200 Quotes

Tell us, Nurse. At the gate I heard [Medea]
Crying inside the house.
I don't like to see the family suffering.
I sympathize with them.

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker), Medea, The Nurse
Page Number: 123-126
Explanation and Analysis:

In this moment, the Nurse interacts with one of the key "characters" in the play, the Chorus. The Chorus, a traditional Greek theatrical device, is usually a group of singers and actors who interact with the characters in the play and provide commentary and emotional feedback for the action. Here, for example, the Chorus (which is described as a group of women from Corinth) shares the Nurse's sympathy for Medea, as well as the Nurse's fear for Medea's state of mind.

It's interesting that the characters we meet onstage are, for the most part, sympathetic to Medea, considering that they say that the entire kingdom hates Medea. The key word in this passage is "sympathize." In spite of Medea's foreignness and exotic status in the kingdom, it's possible to feel for her suffering--to understand her sadness. In no small part, it's suggested, the characters feel for Medea because they're women--they know what it's like to be abandoned by an arrogant man, and to be generally subdued by a patriarchal, oppressive society.

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Lines 301-400 Quotes

Sacred rivers flow uphill:
Justice and all things are reversed.

Related Characters: The Chorus (speaker)
Page Number: 399-400
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, the Chorus of women cries out that the natural order of the universe is being reversed. The Chorus is referring to Medea's plot to enact revenge on Jason and Creon--by acting with strength and furor, Medea is challenging the expectation that all women should be passive and demure.

The Chorus's speech suggests the play's assumptions about women's nature. Euripides implies that women's inferiority to men is a law of nature, as basic as the laws of gravity. Medea is thus violating natural law by meddling with Creon and Jason's lives.

There's another, more radical interpretation of the Chorus's speech. Some critics have argued that Medea is only reacting to Jason and Creon's behavior--behavior that is itself cruel, immoral, and a violation of natural law. So in this way, Medea is balancing out Jason's injustice with injustice of her own, punishing her husband for reversing injustice and ultimately restoring the natural order of things.

Lines 501-600 Quotes

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.

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The Chorus Character Timeline in Medea

The timeline below shows where the character The Chorus appears in Medea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 101-200
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...be forced through extremes as Medea has. The middle course, the Nurse comments, is best. The Chorus of Corinthian women enters, and speaks for the first time, saying it heard Medea crying. (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Chorus asks the Nurse to tell them what's going on. The Nurse responds that Medea and... (full context)
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
The Nurse asks if the Chorus hears the way Medea calls out to the gods, and says that she's certain to... (full context)
Lines 201-300
Exile Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
Medea enters at the door. She tells the Chorus of Corinthian women that she has come out because she does not want them to... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...that, despite what men say, women's lives are no safer than theirs. The women of the Chorus , Medea says, have a home, but she has no family or safe place to... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
She asks the Chorus for a favor, not to say anything if she can find a way to punish... (full context)
Lines 301-400
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Chorus wonders where Medea will find refuge from her troubles. Medea admits that she is beset... (full context)
Lines 401-500
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Chorus begins its first choral ode by singing that sacred rivers now flow uphill. Men are... (full context)
Lines 501-600
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...without women and women shouldn't exist at all. Then, he says, life would be happy. The Chorus responds by saying Jason speaks well, but that he has acted wrongly and betrayed his... (full context)
Lines 601-700
Exile Theme Icon
The Chorus begins the second choral ode, reflecting on the occurrences in the preceding exchange. The Chorus... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
In its ode, the Chorus insists that it witnesses the terrible suffering of exile first hand in Medea and wishes... (full context)
Lines 701-800
Exile Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...She wishes Aegeus luck on his journey and swears she will reach his city soon. The Chorus makes a prayer to Hermes, the messenger god and god of travellers, to guide Aegeus... (full context)
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Chorus says that because Medea shared her plan, it wants to help her, but says it... (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... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
...won't live long because of their impending exile. She weeps on one of the boys. The Chorus interrupts to say it too is weeping and hopes things don't get worse. (full context)
Lines 901-1000
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Medea tells Jason to send a maid (a member of the Chorus ) to get the presents and tell the children to take the gifts to the... (full context)
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Chorus begins its fourth choral ode, singing that it has no more hope for the boys'... (full context)
Lines 1001-1100
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
...to her plan, there is a choral interlude, not a formal choral ode, in which the Chorus of Corinthian women suggests that women, too, feel inspiration—even if it's lesser than that experienced... (full context)
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
And the worst misfortune, the Chorus adds, that can befall parents is to have brought up and provided for their children... (full context)
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
Medea addresses the Chorus members as friends and says that she sees the Messenger from the palace, one of... (full context)
Lines 1201-1300
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
...can only be more 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... (full context)
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... (full context)
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
The Chorus begins its fifth choral ode. It asks Earth and Sun (Helios) to look down at... (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... (full context)
Exile Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Jason enters and questions the Chorus if Medea is still in the house. He says she will either have to hide... (full context)
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Jason asks where the children were killed. The Chorus tells him to open the door. He commands his servants to undo the bolts. He... (full context)
Lines 1301-1400
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
The Chorus speaks the final words in the play, saying that Zeus ordains many fates and the... (full context)