Medea

The Roles of Men and Women Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Medea, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Roles of Men and Women Theme Icon

The events of Medea take place in a male-dominated society, a society that allows Jason and Creon to casually and brutally shunt Medea aside. The play is an exploration of the roles of men and women, both actual and ideal, but it is not necessarily an argument for sexual equality. Creon and Jason find Medea's cleverness more dangerous and frightening because she is woman. "A sharp tempered woman…" Creon says, "Is easier to deal with than the clever type who holds her tongue." The chorus, too, feels it can offer Medea advice on what behavior best suits a woman. "Suppose your man gives honor to another woman's bed," it says. "It often happens. Don't be hurt./ God will be your friend in this."

Everyone, it seems, has a different opinion on what a good woman or a good man is and does. Jason says it would be better if men "got their children in some other way" and women didn't exist at all. "Then," he says, "life would have been good." Medea herself frequently weighs in on the subject, "We women are the most unfortunate creatures." Despite the plethora of opinions, many of them contradictory, the question isn't necessarily resolved in the play. Jason insists Medea is "free to keep telling everyone [he is] a worthless man"—not a difficult opinion for him to hold, given the comfort of his new position as Creon's son-in-law and member of the royal household. Medea promptly assures him that he is a "coward." She names him such in "bitterest reproach for [his] lack of manliness." The play is imbued with a sense that neither men nor women are doing as they should, neither are behaving as they ought, and, perhaps more importantly, that if they were, the tragedy might have been averted.

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The Roles of Men and Women ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Roles of Men and Women appears in each section of Medea. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The Roles of Men and Women Quotes in Medea

Below you will find the important quotes in Medea related to the theme of The Roles of Men and Women.
Lines 1-100 Quotes

The people here are well disposed to [Medea],
An exile and Jasons's all obedient wife:
That's the best way for a woman to keep safe –
Not to cross her husband.
But now her deepest love is sick, all turns to hate.

Related Characters: The Nurse (speaker), Medea, Jason
Page Number: 11-15
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 101-200 Quotes

The middle course is best in name
And practice, the best policy by far.
Excess brings no benefit to us,
Only greater disasters on a house,
When God is angry.

Related Characters: The Nurse (speaker)
Page Number: 116-120
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Lines 201-300 Quotes

My husband has turned out to be the most despicable of men.
Of all the creatures that have life and reason
We women have the worst lot.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker), Jason
Page Number: 218-220
Explanation and Analysis:

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A woman, coming to new ways and laws,
Needs to be a clairvoyant – she can't find out at home,
What sort of man will share her bed.
If we work at it, and our husband is content
Beneath the marriage yoke,
Life can be enviable. If not, better to be dead.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker)
Page Number: 228-233
Explanation and Analysis:

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The fools! I would rather fight three times
In war, than go through childbirth once!

Related Characters: Medea (speaker)
Page Number: 240-241
Explanation and Analysis:

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Medea, scowling there with fury at your husband!
I have given orders that you should leave the country:
Take your two sons and go, into exile. No delay!

Related Characters: Creon (speaker), Medea, Jason
Page Number: 259-261
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 301-400 Quotes

The direct way is best, the one at which
I am most skilled: I'll poison them.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Poisoned Crown
Page Number: 372-373
Explanation and Analysis:

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…But we are women too:
We may not have the means to achieve nobility;
Our cleverness lies in crafting evil.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker)
Page Number: 396-398
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 401-500 Quotes

You vile coward! Yes, I can call you that,
The worst name that I know for your unmanliness!

Related Characters: Medea (speaker), Jason
Page Number: 444-445
Explanation and Analysis:

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Zeus, you granted men sure signs to tell
When gold is counterfeit. But when we need to tell
Which men are false, why do our bodies bear no stamp
To show our worth?

Related Characters: Medea (speaker)
Page Number: 495-498
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 501-600 Quotes

As for your spiteful words about my marriage with the princess,
I'll show that what I've done is wise and prudent;
And I've acted out of love for you
And for my sons…

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Medea, The Princess
Page Number: 524-527
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Lines 1001-1100 Quotes

All for nothing tortured myself with toil and care,
And bore the cruel pains when you were born.
Once I placed great hopes in you, that you
Would care for my old age and yourselves
Shroud my corpse. That would make me envied.
Now that sweet thought is no more. Parted from you
I shall lead a grim and painful life.

Related Characters: Medea (speaker), The Children
Page Number: 1000-1006
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 1301-1400 Quotes

Hateful creature! O most detestable of women
To the gods and me and all the human race!
You could bring yourself to put to the sword
The children of your womb. You have taken my sons
and destroyed me.

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Medea, The Children
Page Number: 1302-1306
Explanation and Analysis:

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No Greek woman
Could ever have brought herself to do that.
Yet I rejected them to marry you, a wife
Who brought me enmity and death,
A lioness, not human…

Related Characters: Jason (speaker), Medea
Page Number: 1318-1322
Explanation and Analysis:

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