Composers and their stage works 


(Medea, 431 B.C.)


A tragedy


Medea, a princess from Asiatic Colchis with the powers of a sorceress, has found refuge in Corinth with Jason, her Greek husband. Her overpowering love for him has caused her to murder her own brother, slay the dragon guarding the Golden Fleece, and commit other misdeeds that have helped Jason. In Corinth, Jason has deserted Medea and married Glauke, daughter of Creon, King of Corinth. According to Greek custom, this was acceptable because Jason's marriage to a Greek princess could secure civil rights for the children Medea had borne him. It seems clear, however, that Euripides was protesting the inhumanity of such a situation.

As the play opens, Medea, embittered by Jason's desertion, longs for revenge. Disturbed by her threats, Creon banishes her from Corinth, but she succeeds in persuading him to let her stay one more day. She is promised sanctuary by Aegeus, King of Athens, who reaches Corinth on his way home from consulting the oracle at Delphi, and is free to accomplish her revenge. Disarming Jason by a pretended reconciliation, Medea sends his bride a "peace offering," a poisoned robe and golden diadem that cause Glauke to die an agonising death when she puts them on. Creon tries to help his daughter and is also poisoned by the magic robe. Assured of her revenge, Medea then murders her own two children, for this will complete her vengeance on Jason, their father. As Jason runs in to accuse Medea of her crimes, she appears overhead in a chariot drawn by winged dragons, the children's bodies beside her. Telling him that he has deserved all that has befallen him because he broke his oaths and spurned her love, Medea departs to bury her children in a safer land.