female mask Questions and Discussion Topics:
Euripides’ Medea

Identify the incentive moment, climax, and resolution of this play. Analyze the formal structure of the play: explain how each scene is linked to the preceding and following scenes. Does the play have unity of action? Is there a direct cause-and-effect relationship between each event? What role does coincidence play in the drama? Does the play have a hamartia, peripeteia, and anagnorisis? If so, identify them.

According to the best interpretations of Medea, the major theme of the play is connected with the role of women in Greek society. Using a scene-by-scene analysis, describe this theme and explain how it is presented throughout the drama. What is Medea's primary motivation and how is it related to this theme? Describe the characterization of Jason and his part in developing the theme. Analyze the role of the chorus and the choral odes in relation to this theme. In this connection, what is the significance of the resolution of the play, especially Euripides' use of the mechane?

Some readers have found this play to be vigorously feminist (for example, British suffragists used to open their meetings by reading aloud passages from Medea), while others have viewed it as virulently misogynistic. Why is there such a range of responses to the play? In this respect, compare the characterization and actions of Medea with those of Clytemnestra, Antigone, and Deianeira. Does this play focus more on “the woman question” than the plays in which these heroines appear?

What is the role of the gods in this play? Does Euripides present a coherent vision of human life in this play (e.g., man's relationship with the gods, fate, human motivations, etc.)?

November, 1999
Barbara F. McManus
CLS 267 Topics Page