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XIR182676 Jason and Medea, 1759 (oil on canvas); by Loo, Carle van (1705-65); 63x79 cm; Musee des Beaux-Arts, Pau, France; Giraudon; French, out of copyright

XIR182676 Jason and Medea, 1759 (oil on canvas); by Loo, Carle van (1705-65); 63×79 cm; Musee des Beaux-Arts, Pau, France; Giraudon; French, out of copyright

Story by Atomou

A new adaptation of Euripides’ Medea is being staged at the Le Boite in Brisbane, by Suzie Miller.

Suzie Miller speaks with Sarah Kanowski of ABC RN


It is an interesting interview and Miller is not only a great thespian but also a very competent scholar. She gives her reasons why she had made the changes she did to Euripides’ work and whilst her views have a genuine validity, I tend to disagree with her on a number of fronts. However, disagreements in these works are a glowing sign that the works cover huge canvasses of human nature and affect the careful mind and heart quite profoundly.

Euripides, like his two near-contemporaries, Aeschylus and Sophocles, was a chef in the kitchen of thought, of expression, of human behaviour and emotions.

I quibble a bit with Miller because she takes the easy road of condemning albeit cautiously, Medea as being “crazy” or motivated by “revenge” and ambitious for “political(?) power” and that she was a “strategist.”

One could write a book, of course and many have been written about her character, as depicted by Euripides and about her motives for killing her two sons. I do not believe that any of these three views is correct at the very least because they are far too simplistic and because they “flatten” Medea’s most complex character.

Above all else, Medea was a foreigner, the word in Euripides’ day was “barbarian” and while Greeks were enormous xenophiles, they did not accept citizenship for foreigners too lightly. Their cities (countries) were small and any newcomer could upturn the decisions of the city by voting in favour of their original homeland. It wasn’t so much about eugenics as about civil clarity. So they frowned upon barbarians who overstayed their welcome. Medea was the wife of a Prince and so the Corinthians put up with her and her sons and all was going splendidly until Jason decided to marry again, this time the king’s daughter. This pushed not only Medea into the background but made the two sons foreigners, stateless, which is what this government of our is trying to do with those who hold dual citizenship and who went to off to fight in the ranks of the enemy, whoever that might me according to the Minister at the time.

Forgive my navigation into other shores!

The consequences of that, of the civil alienation from Corinth would be devastating for Medea and more so for the two young boys. They would be, according to Medea -and she would know- torn limb from limb!

Jason’s suggestions that they would be well looked after didn’t ring true in anyone else’s ears.

Luckily for Medea, King Theseus from Athens arrives and promises her asylum in his country. (This, incidentally, is a common ploy by Euripides to show that his country, Athens is always ready to help people who are treated unjustly.)

But she can’t take the kids with her and so she kills them herself, rather than leaving them to the sharp and vicious claws of the Corinthians. She just couldn’t take them with her, since even the benevolent Athenians wouldn’t want a woman to run off with a man’s sons. Daughters perhaps but sons -who could defend the father by brawn, if not by brain- no way!

I won’t go on, so as to give you the time to listen to Suzie Miller’s excellent summation of the play.

My translation is here: https://bacchicstage.wordpress.com/euripides/medea/

Patrons of the pub might remember my little article on Medea back in the olden days, called, I think, “Would you marry Medea?”

Let me know what thou thinkest!