Medea

Medea Lines 1001-1100 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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 from them, will be grim and painful. Having moved to "a different sphere of life," they will no longer see their mother with their own eyes. Medea briefly loses her determination while looking at her children's eyes and smiles. She tells the Chorus her courage has left her and briefly resolves to take her children with her away from Corinth.
Medea begins to realize the full scope and weight of the unnatural action she is about to take. It is noteworthy that Medea characterizes her children's death as movement into a different sphere of life rather than a total departure from it. Having sworn, Medea almost considers it her duty to follow through with her plan, yet she begins to lose her resolve, increasing the dramatic tension and delaying what the ancient audience knew to be inevitable.
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Medea asks herself if she 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 and speaking to 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 head and she can't leave her work half finished. She justifies the horror of her actions by explaining that she is motivated by incredible passion, and passion "is the cause of all life's greatest horrors."
Medea continues to oscillate between action and inaction. It is practically her duty, to her mind, to finish the work she set out to do. We see her conviction that the Princess is already dead or dying. She has incredible confidence in her plan thus far and its inescapable conclusion. Somehow, in the midst of her "incredible passion," Medea also has the ability to step back and justify the actions she is about to take based on the fact that she is gripped by such passion.
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Following Medea's renewed commitment 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 by men. "Not all, but a few women" are creatively gifted by the Muses. Then the Chorus proceeds to relate the disadvantages of parenthood, saying it is best to be wholly without children. Parents are worn out with care, worrying how best to bring up their children and how to provide for their futures even though they don't yet know whether the children themselves are worth the effort.
Here the Chorus makes a case for the potential creativity and intelligence of some, if not all, women—still a somewhat radical suggestion in the entirely male-dominated Greek society. It implies, based on the motion of its interlude, that women may be limited from achieving or displaying their full creative potential due to the many burdens of parenthood. Parenting children is very challenging and the concerns associated with it by Euripides and the Chorus are much the same as parental concerns today.
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And the worst misfortune, the Chorus adds, that can befall parents is to have brought up and provided for their children and then to see them die. It is the most painful grief the gods impose on mortals.
Here, the Chorus emphasizes the familiar sentiment that outliving one's children is one of the greatest griefs one can endure. Medea's grief must be doubly intense as she is to kill her children herself.
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Medea addresses the Chorus 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 a "fresh disaster." The Messenger enters and tells Medea she has done a wicked thing. She should flee by any means possible. She asks him why she should escape. He tells her that the Princess is dead by her poison and Creon is dead from embracing her in her death throes. Medea calls it "wonderful news."
It is perplexing that the messenger from the palace would be so sympathetic with Medea after witnessing the gruesome disaster he relates in the coming lines. He understands, as he makes clear, that Medea authored the murders. Medea's relief that the Princess and Creon are dead briefly pushes her anxiety about having to kill her children out her mind. Perhaps the reason for the messenger's sympathy is that he is one of Jason's servants, meaning that he used to one of Medea's servants as well before Jason abandoned her.
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