181. Medea by Seneca (c.50 AD)

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”

Plot:  Jason must marry Creusa, the daughter of King Creon of Corinth, in order to protect himself and his sons from the revenge of King Pelias’s brother.  This means abandoning his current wife Medea who has forsaken everything to ensure Jason and the Argonauts’ successful capture of the Golden Fleece and return to Greece. Medea not only turned traitor to her father to help Jason, but in doing so brought about the death of her own brother. Now she is to be exiled from Corinth.

Be sure she will not go quietly.

My version was in Seneca, The Complete Tragedies, published by University of Chicago Press and edited by Shadi Bartsch (Vol. 1, ISBN 9780226748238)

My thoughts :  Another familiar tale from Greek tragedy, and again also told by Euripides (see my earlier post https://chronolit.com/2016/02/23/34-medea-by-euripides-431-bc/).

The story of Medea is so horrifying that I can see why 500 years after Euripides’ version, and even today it captures the imagination. The reader alternates between pity for Medea in  her isolation, abandonment, hopelessness and rage, and horror at her past and future actions as she contemplates the most horrendous crimes a mother can conceive.

Whereas Euripides’ version dwells on describing the horror of the murders, Seneca visualizes for us the sight of Medea creating her dark magical poisons, calling down venoms from all the serpents in the constellations to prepare an agonizing fate for her rival, and in her madness evolving into a wild and vicious version of herself.

The editor’s notes mentioned that there were doubts if these plays were acted or recited, or both. Thinking this as I read, they would make great recitations for weekend parties in manor houses of not very nice people a la Agatha Christie mysteries.

Favourite lines/passages:

Medea :  “this day will perpetrate .. a deed all future time will talk about. I’ll attack the gods and shake the Universe”     Act IV. Lines 424-425

Digressions/diversions:  ‘fescennine’ : scurrilous or obscene.

Personal rating:  8/10

Next :  Continuing Seneca’s tragedies with The Trojan Women



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