Book (Play) Review: Medea by Euripides

A downright creepy story about revenge, girl power, and fiery death.

5/5 stars

cover-medea

synopsis for reviews 2

One of the most powerful and enduring of Greek tragedies, Medea centers on the myth of Jason, leader of the Argonauts, who has won the dragon-guarded treasure of the Golden Fleece with the help of the sorceress Medea. Having married Medea and fathered her two children, Jason abandons her for a more favorable match, never suspecting the terrible revenge she will take.
Euripides’ masterly portrayal of the motives fiercely driving Medea’s pursuit of vengeance for her husband’s insult and betrayal has held theater audiences spellbound for more than twenty centuries.

Add Rex Warner’s translation on Goodreads.

I read Robinson Jeffers’ translation in Man in Literature.

my thoughts for reviews 1

The school year has started, and with it, reviews of books that I never would have picked up myself. But I am so glad that my English class read this play because OH MY GOD it is badass.

Medea takes the classic Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts and focuses on the ending, where “heroic” Jason betrays Medea to marry a Greek princess. What is a brief portion of Jason’s tale in most versions of the myth is the entire plot of the two-act play: Medea getting her revenge.

Though Medea was written around 450 BCE, the story feels incredibly modern. None of the characters are entirely good or evil, and there are no definite right or wrong. Sexism and gender roles are discussed and sometimes condemned. Rather than in most “classics”—where I feel like I often have to swallow my anger and roll with the time’s sexist portray of women—Medea has a remarkably feminist slant, appealing to modern tastes.

I love Medea’s character. And by love, I mean that she is badass and sassy and scarily evil. I was drawn to Medea’s feminist side and fascinated with her consuming need for vengeance. Her dialogue was wonderful, and seeing her go head-to-head with Jason and call out his arrogance was perfection.

The plot of Medea is gripping and creepy. The play is short, taking place within the space of a day. The pacing starts slow but then picks up speed; by the end of the play, I was completely engulfed in the story and could not read fast enough. I loved watching Medea oscillate between her mad need for revenge and her more human impulses. Though the story has a fairly common focus (revenge), the plot was unexpected, in some ways defying the standard revenge arc. I was honestly shocked by the ending.

Perhaps my favorite part of Medea is the writing. (To be fair, I am not sure how much of the writing was Euripides and how much was the translator, Robinson Jeffers.) The dialogue brings each character’s voice to life in a way that once again struck me as surprisingly modern. The story builds gorgeous motifs, which I appreciate both from a literary standpoint and from the view of a student who has to write an essay about it.

I would recommend Medea to anyone who has a free hour and a desire to read a creepy but empowering story about revenge and death.

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