Medea

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Pepa Hernández Villalba

MEDEA

TABLE OF CONTENTS

• Introduction page.1

• EURIPIDES´ MEDEA. The dichotomy of the human soul. page.2

• SENECA´S MEDEA. The Black-hearted witch. page.6

• BUTLER’S DEMEA. Redefining Medea in a contemporary context. page.10

• Conclusion page.13

• Bibliographypage.14

INTRODUCTION

In 431 BC Euripides presented his tragedy Medea, along with the plays Philoctetes, Dictys and Theristai at the Dionysia festival. In spite of getting the third place on the competition, the complex portrayal of his mythical female character, Medea, shifting the boundaries of mythology has become an “archetype”, not only for the ancientliterature, as in Ovid´s Heroides or Seneca´s tragedy Medea, but also for modern times, where dramaturges as Anouilh or Heiner Müller or even the film maker Passolini dissected the complex mythical character of Medea..

But, what makes the myth of Medea inspire so much attention in the ancient world and how it prevail its importance in modern time?

Through this essay we will try to analyzethe elements which made this tragic character from Euripides tragedy become an “archetype[1]” for different culture over the time.

But even thought Medea is a clear example of the universality of the myth among literature, we must start with the premise that each play or interpretation was made for particular audience, for a concrete occasion or with a specific purpose. Thus, we will tryto deepen the elements that differ some posterior interpretation of Medea from the version of Euripides, taking into account the different contexts in which they were made and the circumstances and problems they reflect.

With this purpose, and due to the pantagruelic number or reference of this myth in the literature, we will reduce the scope of our analysis, focusing our attention in threeemblematic plays from three different contexts.  

As a starting point, we will focus on the works of Euripides, since it represents one of the most symbolic points of reference for later versions. From Greece we will move on to the Imperial Rome, where we will analyze the Medea of Seneca as a good example of the reception of Greek culture and literature in the Roman world as its newcontributions. Finally we will try to compare these Greco-Roman versions with the contemporary Butler’s Demea as it brings the myth to an new an totally different context, presenting Medea as a Black African woman in a mix-raced marriage.

EURIPIDES´ MEDEA. The dichotomy of the human soul.

Euripides, ‘the most tragic of the poets’ as it was describe by Aristotle in his Poetics , it´s theyoungest one of the great dramatist of the Periclean age, along with Aeschylus (525/4-456/5 BC) and Sophocles (496/7-406/5 BC). He lived in the age of the sophistic Enlightment and Athenian’s power height; The Athens of the democracy and free thought.

In his lifetime Eurpides aroused great controversy due to his realism and the excessive humanization of the character which threatened thegreatness of the hero. Euripide´s tragedy, as we will see in Medea put the accent on the nature of human character, controlled by internal emotions.

Sophocles and Aeschylus, however, set the tragedy in the conflict between the man and the cosmos; linked to the will of the gods who represent the mystery, the impossibility of knowing the root causes of things. Thus, Euripides has beenconsidered by many scholars as the precursor of the contemporary tragedy as he focus the action in the tragic condition of the human being, instead of the sense of the tragedy as a providence that Aechylus and Sophocles tried to depicted in their tragedies.

This approach to the human soul, made Euripides break up the monolithic figure of the hero, presenting us a more doubtful image, more...
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