Easy Lit Notes website uses cookies to ensure that you get the best possible experience while you are visiting our site. We use cookies to help analyze our web traffic and to monetize our website. For More Info, please visit our Cookie Policy.

February 3, 2012

Medea by Euripides- Summary

Medea by Medea- Summary

Medea- princess of Colchis and wife of Jason
Jason- son of Aeson, King of Iolcus
Creon- King of Corinth
Aegeus- King of Athens


The tragedy begins with Medea's nurse grieving over her mistress's cruel destiny. She wishes that Jason had never been sent to retrieve the Golden Fleece in Colchis, because then he would have never met Medea. Medea betrayed her family and homeland all for the sake of passionate love. She became Jason's wife and bore him two children, residing far from her homeland in the city of Corinth. Medea was completely devoted to Jason, until he left her and their children for a more favorable match, Creon's daughter. Now, Medea refuses sustenance and only cries in agony over the betrayal of her husband. She no longer wants to see her children. There is no telling what she might do given her current state, she may even kill King Creon and the newly-wedded Jason.

The children's tutor breaks in upon the nurse's lamentation, and informs her that he has overheard that Creon planned to exile Medea and her kids. He also told her that Jason was okay with the King's decision, and did not fight him at all on it. The nurse tells the tutor to keep the children away from Medea.

Medea, alone in her house, calls out to Themis (goddess of justice) and Artemis (goddess and virgin, who is sensitive to the plight of women), begging to see her husband and his new bride, and their palace destroyed for what they did to her. A Chorus of Corinthian women come to console Medea, and she tells them that all she wants to do is die. Medea lectures them on the downside to being a woman: "of all things which are living and can form a judgment we women are the most unfortunate creatures. Firstly, with an excess of wealth it is required for us to buy a husband and take for our bodies a master; for not to take one is even worse. And now the question is serious whether we take a good or bad one; for there is no easy escape for a woman, nor can she say no to her marriage. She arrives among new modes of behavior and manners, and needs prophetic power, unless she has learned at home, how best to manage him who shares the bed with her. And if we work out all this well and carefully, and the husband lives with us and lightly bears his yoke, then life is enviable. If not, I'd rather die. A man, when he's tired of the company in his home, goes out of the house and puts an end to his boredom and turns to a friend or companion his own age. But we are forced to keep our eyes on one alone. What they say of us is that we have a peaceful time living at home, while they do the fighting in war. How wrong they are! I would very much rather stand three times in the front of battle than bear one child" (8-9). She feels as if her husband only thinks of her as something that he won in a foreign land.

Creon approaches Medea and tells her that she and her children must leave Corinth immediately. She asks him why, and he tells her that it is because he fears what she might do, especially since she is well-versed in the black arts. Medea tells him that she is not angry with him, only her husband. She tells the King that she wishes her husband and the princess a lucky marriage, and asks Creon to let her stay in Corinth. Creon refuses, but finally agrees to allow Medea to stay for the rest of the day; if she is not gone by morning she will die. Creon leaves her.

A little later on, Jason comes to see Medea. Jason tells Medea that if she wasn't so stubborn and didn't speak badly about the King, Creon may have let her stay. He tells her that he doesn't dislike her, and he came there to make provisions for her and the children. Medea called him a coward. She reminded him that she saved his life, and sacrificed everything for him. She has been a good wife, who bore him children; if she hadn't bore him children she would understand him taking another wife. She asks God, why men don't have marks on their bodies that would distinguish the good from the bad. Jason counters by saying that it was Cypris (Aphrodite) who saved him, and it was her power that made Medea keep him safe. He tells her that he gave her more than she gave him. It was clever, wise, and in the best interest of Medea and the children that he married Creon's daughter. He can do right by his kids by giving them royal siblings. Medea tells him that if he weren't such a coward, he would have discussed the marriage with her, instead of hiding it from her. Now, she has nowhere to go. Jason fires back by telling her that she chose her fate, and none of the blame falls on him. He offers to help her financially and introduce her to some people that will take good care of her, but Medea refuses to take anything from him. Jason leaves.

Aegeus, an old friend of Medea, comes to see her. Medea asked Aegeus what he was doing in Corinth, and he said that he had come to see the oracle of Phoebus, because he and his wife were having trouble conceiving children. Medea tells him of her situation, and begs him to take pity on her and bring her to his home. She promises to help him and his wife have children. Aegeus tells her that he will not take her away from Corinth, but if she manages to make it to his house he will protect her.
Medea tells the Chorus of her plan for revenge: She is going to ask Jason to come and speak with her once more. She will tell him that he made the right decision when he married the princess, and ask him to allow the children to stay in Corinth. She will have the kids take gifts to the new bride-a finely woven dress and a golden diadem. If the princess wears them, she will die and whoever touches her will also die. Next, she must kill her children; killing the children and preventing him from having any royal children will be the ultimate revenge. Then, Medea must flee Corinth and go to Athens where she will live with Aegeus's family. The Chorus is upset about Medea's plan, and begs her not to kill her children.

Jason returns to speak with Medea. Medea begs for his forgiveness. She tells him that his decision to marry the princess was a wise one, and if she had known about his plan she would have helped him. Medea calls for the children, and when they come she tells them to say goodbye to their father. Jason accepts her apology. He tells the kids that he has made great provisions for them, and can't wait to see them as young men. Jason sees Medea crying and asks her why. Medea asks him to beg Creon to let the children stay in Corinth. Jason agrees to talk to Creon, and tells Medea that he plans to enlist the help of his new wife. Medea says that she wants to help Jason convince his new wife to help, and gives the children the poisoned dress and diadem to give to Jason's new wife. Jason leaves with the children.

The tutor returns with the children. He tells her that the princess accepted the gifts, and the children can stay in Corinth.

Medea begins to repeat the phrase: "I am lost!" as she paces her home. She begins to have second thoughts about her plan for revenge.

After a while, one of Jason's servants comes quickly to warn Medea that she must leave immediately, because the princess and Creon are dead. The princess began to foam at the mouth and then flames shot out of the gold diadem on her head. She died. When Creon came in and saw his dead daughter lying on the floor, he held her lifeless body in his arms. He became stuck to the princess's dress, and the more he tried to pull away the more stuck he became. He fought so hard that he pulled his skin off of his body and died.

Medea decided that she must kill her children before anyone else had the chance. The children begged for God's help.

Jason rushed to Medea's house. He runs into the Chorus, and they tell him that Medea killed their children. Jason has his attendants open the gates to Medea's house, and they see Medea above the house, in a chariot drawn by dragons. She has the bodies of her dead children with her. Jason demands that she give him the bodies of his boys, but she says no. She wants to bury them at Hera's temple on the promontory; so that no one can desecrate their graves. She plans to have a holy feast and sacrifice there every year, in order to atone for her guilt. She will go and live with Aegeus.


Euripides. Medea. Trans. Rex Warner. New York: Dover, 1993.