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The old songs will have to change.
No more hymns to our faithlessness and deceit.
Apollo, god of song, lord of the lyre,
never passed on the flame of poetry to us.
But if we had that voice, what songs
we'd sing of men's failings, and their blame. History is made by women, just as much as men.
Medea has been betrayed. Her husband, Jason, has left her for a younger woman. He has forgotten all the promises he made and is even prepared to abandon their two sons. But Medea is not a woman to accept such disrespect passively. Strong-willed and fiercely intelligent, she turns her formidable energies to working out the greatest, and most horrifying, revenge possible.
Euripides' devastating tragedy is shockingly modern in the sharp psychological exploration of the characters and the gripping interactions between them. Award-winning poet Robin Robertson has captured both the vitality of Euripides' drama and the beauty of his phrasing, reinvigorating this masterpiece for the twenty-first century.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Euripides is thought to have lived between 485 and 406 BC. He is considered to be one of the three great dramatists of Ancient Greece, alongside Aeschylus and Sophocles. He is particularly admired by modern audiences and readers for his astute and balanced depiction of human behavior. Medea is his most famous work.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Outside the house of Jason and Medea in Corinth.
Enter Nurse from the house.
If only it had never happened like this.
If the Argo hadn't opened its sails and flown
to Colchis through the Clashing Rocks.
If the pines were still standing
in the glens of Mount Pelion,
not cut and turned
to oars for the Argonauts.
If Pelias the king hadn't sent those heroes
off to do his bidding, to cross the sea
and steal the Golden Fleece.
It would all be different. Not as it is.
My dear mistress, Medea,
would never have met their leader, Jason;
never fallen for him, head over heels,
never left a life behind to sail away with him.
Not tricked Pelias's daughters into killing
their own father. And not fled here, at last,
to Corinth, far from family and home.
In the beginning everything was fine.
Though a foreigner like me, Medea was welcomed
with her husband and her children --
and was happy in her new life, obedient
to Jason in everything he said and did.
In marriage that's the safest way, I think,
to follow your husband, and accept his rules.
But now this house is full of hate;
its timbers are rotten with it. Jason has gone
from her and the children, leaving them
for a royal bed. He's marrying this young thing,
the princess, daughter of Creon, the Corinthian king.
My poor Medea -- dishonored -- reminds him
of his oaths, invokes the gods of justice
and truth to witness what he's done, after all
she's done for him. To no avail.
Since she heard of his deceit
she's refused all food, and comfort;
she stays in her room and cries the days away,
won't lift her head for anyone,
won't raise her eyes from the ground.
Unmoved by words, by anything around her,
she's deaf as a stone or a wave in the sea.
Sometimes she turns to look away,
to call out for her father, her country
and her home: all abandoned
and betrayed for a man who now abandons her,
betrays her honor and her love.
She has learned the hard way
what it is to be an exile,
to have given up everything.
She loathes to have her children near,
and cannot bear to look at them. I am afraid
some plan is already forming in her mind.
She has a temper on her that is vile, and violent,
and she will never rest.
I know her well enough to be sure.
I fear she will creep into the palace,
stand at that double bed,
and drive a deep blade into each of them.
She is deadly, let me tell you,
and none who spark her rage will walk away.
Enter Tutor, escorting the two sons of Jason and Medea.
But look, here they are now, her boys,
hot from their games. They don't understand
their mother's grief; why should they?
Their minds are still too young for pain.
Old nurse, what are you doing,
standing out here talking to yourself?
Why aren't you with your mistress?
Old teacher, tired slave to Jason's children,
don't you know that if the dice fall badly
for our masters they fall the same for us?
I feel Medea's troubles as my own,
and have come out here
to share them with the earth and air.
So she is still crying?
Still crying? I envy your innocence.
This is only the start.
Her grief has just begun.
The poor ignorant woman -- if a servant may speak so
of a lady. She doesn't know the news.
What news, old man? Don't keep it to yourself.
Nothing. I shouldn't have said...
Please, I beg you as a fellow servant.
I can keep a secret if I must.
Well, I was down by the sacred spring at Peirene
where the old men play at draughts
and I happened to hear something
- though I was pretending not to listen --
something about King Creon banishing these children,
and their mother, from Corinth.
I don't know if it's true. I hope not.
Jason would never let that happen.
His quarrel is with Medea, not with them.
Old loves are dropped when new ones come along.
Jason's love no longer lives here.
We are done for, then.
We were weathering a squall and now it turns to storm.
You must say nothing to your mistress,
this is not the time.
Sweet children, do you hear
what kind of man your father is? He is my master,
so I cannot curse him, but such disloyalty
to those he ought to love...He is guilty...
What mortal man is not guilty?
A new woman in the bed
leaves no room for anyone else.
He has forgotten everything,
including his boys.
Has it just dawned on you
that we're each of us human:
we put ourselves above all others.
Go into the house, children, everything will be fine.
And you -- keep them as far away from their mother
as you can; she's distraught. I've seen the way
she looks at them, like a wild animal. I'm afraid
she might do something.
She will not let this anger cool
until she's brought it down on the head of an enemy.
And I pray it is an enemy she turns on,
not those she loves...
Oh gods, I am so wretched, so miserable.
Please, let me die!
Just as I said, children, your mother's heart's upset;
she's stirring the pot of her darkest temper.
Quickly, into the house, and don't go near her -
don't let her see you. She is fierce, my dears,
fierce with hate. Quick, inside!
Exit Tutor and children into the house.
The storm is upon us.
There is greater passion to come: lightning flashes
to burst these black clouds of grief
and bring down hellish weather.
What will she do, this proud unbiddable woman,
under the sting of this lash?
Do I not suffer? Have I not been wronged?
Can I not weep? Damned children of a damned mother,
I hope you die with your father,
and his whole house falls around you all!
Oh gods! What part have they in their father's guilt?
Why do you hate them? Poor children,
I'm so frightened you might come to harm.
She explains to the children.
Royal minds are different to ours, and dangerous.
Being used to giving orders rather than taking them,
they can become outraged -- and that rage is slow to cool.
Ordinary life is much better -- where everyone's equal.
I hope to grow old just as I am:
lowly, unremarkable and safe.
Moderation is a lovely word and we should live by it;
it's good for our souls.
Excessiveness brings mortals no advantage. All it does
is draw more ruin on us when the gods are wild.
Enter a group of Corinthian women as Chorus.
We have heard the cry of the unhappy woman of Colchis.
Tell us, nurse. Is she still no calmer?
Even through the double doors of the inner room
we could hear her keening. It hurts our heart
to hear such sounds of sorrow
from within a house of friends.
This house is dead. It is no longer a home.
The husband rolls in a royal bed, while the wife,
my mistress, stays in her room,
beyond the soothing words of any friend,
wasting her life away.
Oh, let a flash of lightning pierce this skull!
What use is there in living?
Give me the freedom of death,
so I can leave behind this life I hate.
Did you hear that, Zeus? Sun and Earth,
did you hear that creature's dreadful cry?
You are rash, woman: it is just as wrong
for you to desire the bed of death as it is
for Jason to thresh in his bed of desire.
Why hurry death?
The marriage is over. Let it rest.
Let Zeus advance your cause, and save your heart.
Oh mighty Themis, vengeful Artemis,
look down on my suffering
and these broken marriage bonds, the oaths
that bound me to my husband now all forgotten.
I will see him and his bright young bride
ground down to nothing,
and their whole house with them.
Was it for this I fled my native country, Father,
leaving you in my wake
fishing up pieces of my broken brother?
You hear? She calls on the gods, on Themis,
daughter of Zeus, goddess of Justice
and guardian of all promises made by men.
Such anger is not easily appeased.
We wish she would come out and listen to us,
meet us face to face.
She might feel her fury lessen amongst friends.
Fetch her from the house, nurse,
and tell her we support her --
but be quick, before she hurts those inside.
Her passion grows so strong the air around her burns.
I'll try, of course, but I doubt I'll persuade her.
When any of us approach
you can see her hackles rise -- like a lioness
when you get between her and her cubs.
If only we could charm her with music;
but those old composers were such fools:
they wrote melodies only for the happy times --
festivals, grand banquets, celebrations.
None of them thought to make a music for real life,
music that would salve our wounds
and soothe our bitter griefs. Didn't they see
these wounds and griefs destroy us,
and a music that healed such sorrow
would be precious?
What is the point of music and song at a feast?
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