Medea

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Medea Lines 501-600 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jason responds with an elaborate analogy, saying that he is like a boat pilot steering himself over the tempest raised by Medea's foul tongue. He says that Medea did nothing for him, it was Aphrodite, goddess of love, who did him service by making Medea fall in love with him and help him. It was Eros, he says, Aphrodite's father, who drove her to save his life. Despite this, he contradicts himself, and says he is grateful for the help she gave him, but she, he swears, gained more than she gave.
By eliminating Medea's agency and attributing all of her devotion and assistance she has given to him as simply a product of Aphrodite, goddess of love, Jason heaps insult on the injuries he has done Medea. Like a lying child who changes the name of the friend he says gave him a toy he actually stole, Jason promptly changes his story, saying it was not Aphrodite, but Eros (Love himself) whom he has to thank for his good fortune. In Jason's world of twisted deceit and neglected duty, Medea has done nothing for him.
Themes
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The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
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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 now she knows what justice means and gets to enjoy the benefit of having laws. All Greece, Jason says, has come to know Medea's talents, but if she had stayed in Clochis she would have remained anonymous. Fame, he says, is more valuable than anything.
Jason continues to advance empty arguments: that being Greek is in and of itself better than being from any other country because of the Greeks' superior insight and that fame is the greatest possible human achievement. Jason's shortsightedness blocks him from seeing that people can be famous outside of Greece and from accounting for the tremendous difference between fame for heroic deeds and infamy for terrible actions.
Themes
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Jason now responds to Medea's spiteful words concerning his marriage to the Princess, arguing that what he did was wise and right. As an exile, the opportunity to marry Creon's daughter, the Princess, was the best thing Jason says he could have hoped for. It's not that he's tired of Medea or that he lusted after the Princess, or even that he wanted more children. He was only thinking of providing for his family by gaining access to the royal family's wealth; and, if he does have more sons, he could prosper by uniting the two families together.
Jason's most hypocritical and insulting argument—that he abandoned Medea and his children for their own good—is presented here. Jason is such a cunning rhetorician (arguer) that he is almost able to make his blatantly untrue position seem plausible. In reality, a sentence of exile in ancient Greece would have been incredibly onerous on a single mother with young children. Unprotected, Medea and the children would face danger and possible death at all times.
Themes
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon
Jason accuses Medea of being blind to his wisdom because of her sexual jealousy. He says women only care about sex, but as a man he has to think of his family's well being. Men, he says, should have found a way to procreate 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 wife.
Jason adds another entirely flawed argument to his speech—that the concerns of men are wholly dissimilar, higher, and more civic, than the concerns of women. It does not take a psychologist to see that Jason has abandoned his aging wife and young children not for their benefit and, at least in part, because of the opportunity for a fresh, young sexual prospect. The Chorus, naturally, is unconvinced by Jason's arguments. Euripides has made him a parody of empty rhetoric.
Themes
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The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
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Medea retorts that an unjust man who speaks well despite his injustice deserves of an 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 doing was right before remarrying. Jason sarcastically suggests that Medea would have been "most helpful" had he announced his wedding plans.
Medea is an advocate for principled speech—one should only use arguments and rhetoric in service of justice and the truth, not to make false claims seem believable. If Jason were to acknowledge his despicable behavior as despicable, then, according to Medea's view, he wouldn't deserve the severe punishment she is soon to administer.
Themes
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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 wife, in a new land. Jason reiterates his argument that his decision 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 insists that exile will be better for her and the children if she takes his money.
Money—an arbitrary sign of a thing's imagined value—and hypocrisy are intimately linked even from this earliest stage of Western literature and philosophy. Jason thinks that he can buy himself justice when, in reality, justice stems from proper conduct and is, like truth, invaluable. Medea attributes Jason's decision to abandon her to his unmanly fear of being an outsider and a pathetic need for social ease achieved via conformity.
Themes
Exile Theme Icon
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The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon
Justice and Natural Law Theme Icon
Medea and Jason argue about what Medea did to deserve exile. Jason says she called out curses and made threats on the royal family. Medea sarcastically asks if she married and then abandoned herself. Jason calls an end to the discussion, saying he is more than willing to give Medea money and letters of recommendation to his friends. Medea refuses Jason's aid.
Perhaps most surprising in the list of fatuous aids Jason proposes to give Medea are the "letters of recommendation." Though in some ways dissimilar from their modern counterparts, these letters, like money, represent a kind of social pretense. They are inflated representations constructed to avoid and diminish social obligations rather than fulfill them.
Themes
Exile Theme Icon
Truth vs. Rhetoric Theme Icon
Duty Theme Icon