A Formal Comparison of Euripides' Medea and Seneca's Medea

1597 words 7 pages
Euripides’ Medea and Seneca’s Medea are the two surviving ancient tragedies of Medea. Both versions are drastically different and contrast in several aspects. Euripides portrays Medea as more human. She is the epitome of the oppressed housewife and only after her suffering is she capable of the crimes she committed. Seneca’s Medea is even more vengeful than Euripides’ and she is angry from the very beginning. Seneca’s version also portrays Medea as a vengeful sorceress whereas in Euripides’ version, though she is known to be a witch and have remarkable skill in poisons and potions, that aspect is not as crucial and significant as in Seneca’s Medea. The two poets offer contrasting depictions and characterizations of Medea, the most …show more content…

Seneca also presents Medea as more of a sorceress than Euripides does. In Seneca’s play, Medea performs a ritual in which she prepares the fatal gifts to be given to Creusa, causing her death as well as that of Creon. The Nurse acknowledges that Medea “plunged into her inner sanctum where she compounds death, opening every vial and cabinet, taking ingredients that even she had always feared” (82). She, Medea, charms snakes and evokes everything snakelike, employs Saharan sand and Arctic ice, prays before sacred fire. She calls upon Hecate as well as “silent hordes and gods of death” (85) to witness her ritual. She even “slashes her arms with a sacrificial knife, and lets her blood drip on the altar” (87) to complete her ritual. In Euripides’ play Medea’s sorcery is not as prominent. Medea promises to use her sorcery to grand Aegeus fertility and no more is mentioned of her powers. In the end, Medea kills her children, not only to punish Jason, but to sever her ties with the human world and reclaim her virginity. She kills the first child inside the house, but climbs to the rooftop with the second as Jason appears with his mob of Corinthians. She kills the second child in front of Jason, telling him that it is her “sole, inevitable way of going into exile” (97). She then gives Jason the bodies of the