Alive but Dead, The Role of the Chorus

This week’s reading told the story of Medea and her vengeful fixation against her husband, his new wife, Creon, and society. I took sympathy with Medea’s lament during the first pages in the following passage:
“Let it come! A thunderbolt
Straight through my head!
Why stay alive? In death
I can rest from a life I hate” (Medea 762)

This passage accurately conveys Medea’s nihilistic view of her situation; this view appears till the end of the story. I believe that Medea never really lived or existed in this story. She was always portrayed as an outsider because of her exile, her role as a woman, and the situation with her family. It must have been incredibly difficult and heartbreaking to kill her family for the sake of her husband to be a hero­– especially knowing that Medea would never receive due credit for her actions. In addition, the text portrays her as a failed woman. She failed as a daughter, she failed as a wife, and she failed as a mother. The above text really portrays the despair Medea experienced. The thunderbolt seems to be a hyperbole that is parallel to her wish to die. I think life and death are interchangeable in the story. They serve as a reminder that they are two sides of the same coin. The chances of a thunderbolt killing her are almost none. However, no matter how much Medea wished for death, she was the one not granted that wish. Although one can argue how “alive” and “rested” she is at the end of the story, Medea is the walking definition of alive but dead.

I also wanted to take a moment to discuss the role of the chorus in this play. In other plays, the chorus simply seemed to be at the scene, but here the chorus seems more active in their comments. The chorus this time is all composed of Corinthian women, which suggests that they be in a sense equal to Medea and understand her feelings. Yet, because they have different origins, one can argue that there are different gender roles within the women themselves.

2 thoughts on “Alive but Dead, The Role of the Chorus

  1. Cornelia, this is genuinely such a fantastic post! You made so many great points. When you mentioned “she failed as a daughter, she failed as a wife, and she failed as a mother” it all started to make sense. I think a large part of Medea’s struggle was not just from the Corinthians–but herself as well. I wish that there was more of an exploration of mental illness as she is such a complex character overall.

  2. Hi Cornelia! I agree with your observation of Medea’s status of being dead “alive” and that a coin has to side in a story. Euripides described Medea as a failure in all aspects of her life and pointed out to the reader that her madness was caused due the abandonment of Jason.

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