The Messenger asks Medea if she is mad for celebrating news of Creon and the Princess's deaths—doesn't such news frighten her? Medea says she will answer, but first she wants him to recount their deaths in vivid detail so she can 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, their must have been some resolution of the Jason and Medea's quarrel.
Medea's passion and desire to hear the full account of the Princess and Creon's deaths provides a convenient motivation for the full description of events that would have been difficult to stage. There were few, if any, scene changes in ancient Greek drama, so any events that take place somewhere other than in the initially established space represented by the stage (in this case the courtyard outside Medea's house) had to be described in long, expository monologues.
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 quarters. The Princess had her eyes on Jason before she saw the children enter. Once she saw them, she pulled on her veil and looked away. Jason tried to sooth her and asked her to look with love upon what he loves. He asks her to take the gifts, for his sake, and to pardon the boys' exile.
The Messenger's story confirms that Medea was wise to choose the children to deliver her gifts as none at the palace suspected them. It enhances the dramatic tension that the Princess initially refused to look on Jason's children and their gifts only to be persuaded by Jason himself to take pity on them. The description also emphasizes Jason's love for his children with Medea, and emphasizes the further pain she is about to inflict upon him by murdering them.
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 poisoned crown and arranged her hair in the mirror. Then she stepped daintily around the room on her bare white feet. What they saw next was frightful: her skin changed color, she staggered sideways, her limbs shaking, and collapsed into a chair. One of her older attendants, thinking "the anger of Pan" had fallen on the princess, let out a cry.
The Messenger's vivid description of the events in the palace is perfectly calculated to evoke the most pity from the audience. The Princess's innocence, or innocent seeming behavior, is emphasized and reemphasized with rich diction and vivid imagery. The god of shepherds and herdsman, Pan, was sometimes thought to be the cause of groundless fear—giving us the root if not the meaning of our word ‘panic.'
But, the Messenger continues, when the attendant saw that the Princess was frothing at the mouth, that her eyes were twisting about in their sockets, and that the blood had drained from her skin, she 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 a frightful scream. The gold crown gave off a stream of all-consuming fire and the dress devoured her flesh. She jumped up on fire and ran trying to fling off the crown.
The doubling of the attendant's wail and her initial misrecognition of the severity of the Princess's condition, then the Princess's ‘dramatic' pause, heighten the intensity of the drama and suspense even as their vividness enhances the realism and plausibility of the scene described. That real seeming description, however, is soon interrupted by the supernatural behavior of the poisoned crown, perhaps making the supernatural seem more believable.
The Princess, the Messenger says, could not get the crown off. She fell and gruesomely died. The servants, having seen her death, were afraid to touch her but Creon rushed in and threw himself on the Princess and prayed to die with her. When he tried to rise, the dress clung to him and he tore his flesh from his bones wrestling with it. He died and now lies next to the Princess in the palace. The Messenger says Medea will determine for herself how to avoid punishment.
Creon's prayer to die at the Princess's side is promptly and fatefully answered. His death via entanglement in his daughters dress may serve to represent how he wrongfully, figuratively entangled himself in Medea and Jason's affairs by giving Jason his daughter to marry. The Messenger seems somewhat confident that Medea is cunning enough to escape from Corinth unscathed.