After her speech, Creon trusts Medea even less than before even though, he says, she sounds harmless. He is terrified she is plotting evil. Medea gets on her knees and begs Creon by his daughter, the Princess, to let her stay. Despite her innocence, Creon will not put Medea before his own family. Mede laments that love can be a great evil for us while Creon weighs in that it depends on one's circumstances. Medea implores Zeus to remember that Creon performed these injustices.
Creon accurately judges Medea's character, yet rules unjustly by sentencing Medea into exile. She has, as yet, done nothing wrong. He bases his judgment on rumors he hears circulating at the palace. Medea's prayer to Zeus foreshadows the strange justice she will administer as the play progresses, and her conviction that she is seeking vengeance not only against the wrongs done to her but what she considers to be wrongs against the natural order that the Gods uphold.
Creon threatens to forcibly eject Medea with the help of his men, so Medea relents 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 making a mistake, but consents to let Medea stay a single day. He threatens that, if Medea is still in Corinth the next day, he will execute her, and, wrongfully, supposes that a day is not long enough for her to do the damage he fears. He exits.
Perhaps out of pity, Creon rules against his better judgment. His sense that Medea will bring harm to him and his daughter if given the chance increases the intensity of the tragedy. His great failure , ultimately, is underestimating Medea's skill and cleverness, thinking her incapable of causing the harm he fears in a single day when, in fact, she is capable of it and more.
The Chorus wonders where Medea will find refuge from her troubles. Medea admits that she is beset by host of problems but hints that the troubles of Creon, Jason, and the Princess are yet to come. She laughs at Creon and calls him a fool for allowing her to stay, saying she has given him one day to make three deaths. She wonders which way to kill her enemies. Should she set fire to the bridal home or drive swords through their hearts? She decides to stick with her most trusted method: poison.
Medea quickly shows that the rhetoric she employed to convince Creon to let her stay in fact hides her true intentions. She reveals her plan to kill Creon, the Princess, and Jason. Medea's choice to use poison as a means for murder underscores her intelligence, craft, and cleverness, and suggests something of her ‘savage' (non-Greek) nature with its connotations of witchery.
Medea wonders where she can go after the deed is done. Will anyone offer to protect her? She decides there is no one and that her best course of action is to wait and plot a little longer. If she finds somewhere to go, she will execute the murder by craft and stealth. If not, she resolves to attack them with a sword even at the risk of her own life. She swears by Hecate, whom she calls her chief goddess, that no one will ever cause her grief and not suffer for it.
Euripides describes here how improbable Medea's escape and survival would be if she commits the plans she plots without a place of refuge. It was nearly inconceivable, it seems, that anyone, especially a solitary woman, could manage without the refuge and backing of a polis (city-state). Without a place of refuge, Medea need not conceal her crimes because her chances of getting away are slim to none. Hecate was the goddess of witches.
Medea prophesizes that it will be a bitter and painful wedding for Jason and the Princess. She tells herself to spare none of her skill and go boldly into danger, and reminds herself that, unlike Creon and his family, she is of divine birth, the granddaughter of Helios, the sun god. Then she says, though divine, she is also a woman and may not have means to achieve nobility. Her cleverness lies in crafting evil.
Medea further foreshadows the Princess's death, building the suspense and dramatic tension. She reminds herself and the audience of her divinity, perhaps lending some supernatural justification to actions and plots that the Athenians would have considered simply unacceptable in a mere mortal. We get one of the first of several reminders, from Medea's own words, that the play's conception of gender roles is, at best, proto-feminist (pro-women in a not quite modern way). Not even Medea thinks men and women are equal. Earlier Creon connected a clever woman with danger, and here Medea goes further, connecting her own cleverness with plotting evil.