A Battle of Wit – Medea

“When you propose a clever plan to dullards,
They see you as useless rather than clever;
And those who are thought to be sophisticated
Are bothered when the people think you’re smarter.
I’m clever, so I’m envied by one group
[to some I’m idle, to some the reverse]
And annoy the rest—cleverness has limits.” (Euripedes—Medea, 765-766)

This week we focus on Medea and the themes of deception and acceptance. Medea displays a distinct set of traits clueing into something—or someone else beneath the surface. On the one hand, she displays the capability to sympathize but is often quick to make judgments due to her level of cunning. She finds solace in remaining clever above the rest of her foreign counterparts.
The dullards she describes are expressed as not having the ability to discern between someone “useless rather than clever”. They lack a vital component—one that Medea immediately feels she has. This quality evokes an air of superiority amongst those around her further alienating herself.

Medea even notes a rather distinct difference in the groups of the city where the “sophisticated are bothered when the people think you’re smarter”. Her ability to deceive and manipulate allows her to retain a sense of control over herself yet destroys her ability to join the populace and embrace her role as a mother. Even so, those that are too clever are viewed differently for stepping out of line with differing opinions. She is “envied by one group” while “to some [she is] idle, to some the reverse]”. Medea further hones in on the fact that she is an inspiring figure to some but a problem for others ensuring that she is not where she belongs.

Medea sees herself as different; above her peers.

Medea is akin to the wolf in sheep’s clothing; able to feign ignorance and care all the while plotting the unthinkable.

Perhaps being a foreigner was not what led the people of Corinth to alienate her—but Medea herself.

One thought on “A Battle of Wit – Medea

  1. I really like your analysis of Medea’s character. I think we can obviously say that Medea’s pride and arrogance were contributing factors to her demise. I also wonder if her characterization was done so because she was considered an outsider. In a town where people see her as powerless in addition to being foreign, Medea’s wit might have been the only thing to bring her comfort in such a troubled society. In addition, I think she truly represents the dichotomy of what it means to be human. Humanity is not clear cut to determine who is good and evil, as both words represent a lifetime of choices that can be viewed differently in people’s life.

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