How Something as Good as Loyalty can Cause Something as Terrible as a String of Murders
Throughout Greek dramas there is always an underlying message of opposing values. This message allows the audience to learn about human nature, and life lessons. The play Medea, by Euripides, is no exception to this overall pattern in Greek dramas. The play exhibits the conflict between the opposing values betrayal and loyalty through characters and their shifting sympathies. Euripides seems to value loyalty over betrayal through his demonstrations of the dangers of one who lets their emotions take over reason in his tragedy Medea. He shows this through elucidation of secondary characters, a vivid pathos, and clear logos.
The main secondary character in the play is the chorus which serves as the play's conscience. The job of the chorus is to provide the ideas and reactions that an ideal audience would have. In the beginning of the play, the chorus sympathizes with Medea, and offers her consolation, “You are in the right, Medea, In paying your husband back. I am not surprised at you For being sad” (9). Again she is portraying herself as the victim of the dilemma, which then convinces the chorus to support her when she meets with Jason. Though, when she begins to excogitate about revenge the chorus' loyalty begins to decline. When Medea informs the chorus about her scheme to murder her own children as part of her overall plan to get revenge on Jason, the chorus is shocked and mortified. They tell Medea that it is unneeded and vile that she would even consider that a plan, “Can you tearlessly hold the decision For murder? You will not be able When your children fall down… you will not be able to dip Steadfast your hand in their blood” (28). This shows that Medea's desire for revenge and betrayal will eventually cost her the loyalty of others and separate her from the rest of the community. The chorus warns her, out of loyalty, that if she keeps this plan going she will have caused herself more hardships and pain, but she ignores them just like how she ignores Jason's offer to help her and the children.
The play uses pathos, or emotional appeal, to emphasize the importance of loyalty. Medea, in the beginning of the play, was suffering, because Jason did not have the loyalty to stay with her, so the people felt sympathy towards her. Her emotional state was caused by how important loyalty was to her, and now she is completely broken psychologically, “Oh I wish That lightning from heaven would split my head open” (6). That quote reflects how she is truly feeling, hopeless. Emotionally, Medea brings up the fact that she betrayed her country, her father, and killed her own brother to how emotionally connected she is with her loyalty to Jason, “Oh, my father! Oh, my country! In what dishonor I left you, killing my own brother for it” (6). From that quote, Medea does not use any words of retribution, which has given her enough emotional appeal that the chorus truly believes that she is the victim of the situation.
Logos, or logical appeal, is used in the play to show that Medea's acts of violence were centered more on revenge rather than the prosperity of her children. Medea has had numerous opportunities to obtain a secure lifestyle for herself and her children. Medea is faced with an opportunity to make her and her children's life better from Jason, and she turns him down saying she doesn't want his pity, “I shall never accept favors… Nor take a thing from you… There is no benefit in the gifts of a bad man” (20). Jason was making a logical argument, but Medea lets her emotions cloud her judgment and refuses Jason's offering, “But you refuse what is good for you… You are sure to suffer for it” (20). This is showing that Medea is more focused on betraying Jason than her children's well being, because Jason had offered a logical argument that would have benefited her. If she had accepted Jason's offer, her children would have had some kind of support when they got into exile. Furthermore, if Jason had been able to marry again, her children would have been considered royalty and would have had a claim for the throne.
Medea's avaricious hunger for revenge eventually brings her to slaughter her children. She kills them out of her own benefit not their own, because she is blinded by her own emotions, “I know indeed what evil I intend to do, But stronger than all my afterthoughts is my fury, Fury that brings upon mortals the greatest evils” (35). That quote reveals her true desires when she is on stage alone. The logical argument here comes from the chorus whose position is that there is no reason good enough for her to slaughter her own children. The chorus eventually had to beg the Gods for Medea to stop and have her reconsider logically about her decision to murder her children, “O heavenly light, hold her hand, Check her, and drive from out the house The bloody Fury raised by fiends of Hell” (41). That quote shows that Medea has truly gone mad in that she has thrown away all of her sense of reasoning, and is focused entirely on getting revenge. Through logos, Euripides shifts the audiences' sympathies from Medea to the victims of her plans. This shows that Loyalty is being emphasized more, because of Jason's offering of help, and the chorus' plea to help the children.
Some would argue that Euripides makes a strong case for the dangers of betrayal, and that there is not a case for loyalty. They may claim that Medea killed her children because she wanted to betray Jason. Another claim would be that the chorus betrayed Medea because she was going to kill her children. Though, that argument fails when the audience looks at the emotional and logical claims presented by the chorus and Jason. Despite the arguments the Jason presented were callous and anti feminist, the truth is that they support the value of loyalty. Jason believes that Medea's suffering was caused by her own hand, and that if she had been loyal and less emotional the whole epidemic could have been averted. An example would be Medea's exile, which was caused by her cursing the royal family, and thirst for revenge and betrayal, “You called down wicked curses on the King's family” (20). Another example would be the death of the princess, which was justified by the chorus whose still loyal to Medea, “Heaven, it seems on this day has fastened many Evils on Jason, and Jason deserved them” (40).
During the entire play of Medea, Euripides is advocating loyalty by displaying the dangers of uncontrollable betrayal. Through the use of elucidation of secondary characters, a vivid pathos, and clear logos Euripides demonstrates the consequences of one who lets their emotions interfere with their reasoning. He is able to presents that by chasing loyalty, one could never their eyes on the path of retribution.