From Gerald R. Lucas

Medea’s Structure as Tragedy

The structure of Medea follows a well-defined framework, adhering to the conventions of classical Greek tragedy. The play consists of five distinct sections: prologue, parodos, episodes, stasimon, and exodos. Each section serves a specific purpose in advancing the plot, developing the characters, and evoking emotional responses from the audience.


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The prologue serves as the opening section of the play, usually featuring one or two characters who set the stage and provide essential background information. In Medea, the prologue introduces the audience to Medea’s backstory, her relationship and history with Jason, and the reasons for her current state of distress and anger. Medea presents her case and reveals her intentions, laying the foundation for the tragic events that will unfold.


The parodos follows the prologue and is the entrance of the chorus. The chorus in Greek tragedy functions as a collective voice representing the citizens or a group associated with the main characters. In Medea, the chorus of Corinthian women provides commentary on the events, expresses sympathy for Medea’s plight, and serves as a moral guide throughout the play. The parodos sets the tone and offers insights into the moral and emotional implications of the unfolding tragedy.


The episodes make up the main body of the play, comprising alternating scenes of dialogue and action. These episodes advance the plot and reveal the interactions between characters, particularly Medea and Jason. They showcase the development of the conflict, the rising tensions, and the emotional turmoil experienced by the characters. The episodes in Medea include Medea’s encounters with Jason, her manipulation of others, and the culmination of her revenge plot.


The stasimon are choral odes that follow each episode, providing the chorus with an opportunity to reflect on the events and offer commentary. These odes often explore larger thematic issues and provide a broader perspective on the characters’ actions. In Medea, the stasimon allow the chorus to express their moral judgments, contemplate the consequences of Medea’s actions, and reflect on the tragic nature of human existence.


The exodos serves as the concluding section of the play, typically featuring the final actions and speeches of the characters. In Medea, the exodos encompasses the dramatic climax, including the murder of Jason’s new bride, Glauce, and the killing of Medea’s own children. The exodos presents the devastating consequences of Medea’s revenge and brings the play to a tragic and emotionally charged conclusion.

The structure of Medea follows a linear progression, building tension and escalating the conflict as the plot unfolds. The alternating sections of dialogue, choral odes, and action provide a dynamic and engaging experience for the audience. Euripides masterfully structures the play to create a sense of inevitability and tragic fate, highlighting the complex interplay between personal desires, societal expectations, and the consequences of one’s actions.


Medea as Greek Tragedy

Tragedy, as a genre, typically involves the depiction of a protagonist who undergoes a series of unfortunate events and experiences a downfall due to a combination of their own flaws, external circumstances, and the workings of fate. Medea aligns with these key characteristics of a tragic narrative.

In the play, Medea, experiences intense suffering and undergoes a tragic transformation. She is betrayed by her husband, Jason, and endures a series of emotional turmoil and loss. Medea’s response to this betrayal, driven by her immense pain and desire for revenge, leads her to commit heinous acts. The play explores the depths of human suffering, the complexities of human nature, and the consequences of unchecked emotions.

Additionally, Medea adheres to the structural and thematic elements commonly associated with classical Greek tragedy. It follows a tightly constructed dramatic arc, featuring a clear beginning, middle, and end, and culminating in a cathartic resolution. The play explores universal themes such as betrayal, revenge, the abuse of power, and the clash between personal desires and societal expectations. It prompts audiences to contemplate moral dilemmas, question the nature of justice, and reflect on the human condition.

Medea exhibits the concept of hamartia, a tragic flaw or error in judgment, which leads to the protagonist’s downfall. Medea’s passionate nature, her overwhelming emotions, and her unwavering pursuit of revenge contribute to her tragic fate. The play showcases the tragic consequences of these flawed aspects of her character and the irreversible actions she takes.