The Alienation of Medea
Euripides’s Medea tells the tragic story of a “barbarian” woman who is brought to Corinth as the wife of Jason, the Argonaut, only to find that he is leaving her to marry a Corinthian princess, Glauce. Medea, who is originally from the country of Georgia, is not accepted in Greece. Ancient Greek society dictated that citizens come before foreigners and men before women, and even a foreign man comes before a resident woman. Medea, from the start of the play, is vengeful and dangerous, and her powers of sorcery abet the fear of the locals. Medea is alienated by society because she is an intelligent, foreign, powerful woman.
The first reason Medea is shunned is her gender. In the patriarchal society of Ancient Greece, femininity is a faux pas on its own. On top of being a woman, though, she is clever and intelligent; these qualities were not admirable in a woman of her time. King Creon states that “a sharp tempered woman, or for that matter a man, is easier to deal with than the clever type who hold her tongue.” Medea is, in fact, clever enough to hold her tongue and stay quiet. She says, “those who live quietly, as I do, get a bad reputation.” Medea shows her intelligence repeatedly, first in her negotiations with Aegeus. Her cleverness is shown most prominently, though, as she is consistently subtle to the public about her despair and her hatred of Corinth and society. If she spoke out, she could be punished or called a criminal, but instead she is just socially ostracized and must be allowed to continue her daily life. Because of her intellect, Medea is seen a threat to society. She is not just a woman, but also a woman smarter than many men around her.
The second point, Medea’s foreign citizenship, is a more complex one. While the people of Corinth view her as a barbarian, Medea was actually a princess and a demi-goddess in Georgia. Medea’s father explicitly told her not to help a sailor in danger, and Medea ignored his orders. This...