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Euripides' "Medea"


            Of the three most famous Greek dramatists, Euripides was the youngest and lived during the 5th century B.C. Although he was celebrated in his own time, he was misunderstood and even mocked by his cohorts . However, Euripides eventually became lauded as a brilliant artist whose lexicon is celebrated even today. One of his more poignant tragedies is his play "Medea" which illustrates the final interaction between Medea and her once heroic husband, Jason. In Robert B. Palmer's essay "An Apology for Jason: A Study of Euripides" Medea", he defends Jason's many repugnant actions and purports that a 5th century Greek audience was more forgiving than more recent critics. He appeals to the reader to understand Jason's character as a 5th-century Greek would. Although Medea herself is not blameless, Jason should be equally maligned, and thus an apology to him is completely unnecessary. .
             Although Medea is the protagonist of the tale, Palmer writes that it is Jason who evokes pathos in his audience. He believes that the conflict of the tale is Medea's struggle within herself as both the kindhearted mother of her two young sons and the scorned wife who will stop at nothing to seek vengeance. Aristotle maintained that all Greek tragedies must arouse feelings of "pity" and "fear" for their characters. Palmer mentions in his footnotes that Medea induces pity and fear at the beginning of the play, but by the end "her metamorphosis into a demon is so complete that the audience is left with a feeling of utter frustration mingled with horror and disgust". And, according to W.N. Bates, it is through their children, not Jason or Medea themselves who the audience feels these emotions for Palmer criticizes Bates" position because he is hesitant to accept that such importance would be placed on minor characters that remain silent throughout the play. He insists that the children are important only because their unfortunate destiny has a devastating effect on their father.


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