Medea (431 B.C.E.)
by Euripides (480-406 B.C.E.)
Medea is easily the most vengeful character in all of western literature. The carnage is monumental. She kills everyone in her family to inflict pain on her faithless husband and spares him only so that he can feel the pain of losing his children. Euripides wants to depict the First Noble Truth that the Buddha had discovered but using a different approach.
Medea didn’t want to be one who suffers but one who inflicts pain. “What struck him [Euripides] most was the universality of suffering. Confronted with pain, every other human reality seemed to dissolve. Medea’s consuming hatred, kingship, laws, culture, self-esteem, and even motherly love have become meaningless.”
Euripides seemed to realize that humanity had no context within which to handle suffering. With Medea there is no comforting philosophy to put the tragic agony at a safe distance. There is no P-A offering refuge and no Point of Power Practice to empower her to cope with her husband’s betrayal. She cannot possibly understand that it is she who is creating her suffering not Jason. Medea’s revenge is about power and she takes control over all those who might thwart her plot to “create the identical agony in the person who created it.” Since all of her suffering is caused by identifying with her body, mind and emotions, she will find her attempts to seek satisfaction in making Jason suffer to be futile. There is no comfort to be found in reaction within P-B. “And both are utterly empty inside, except that Jason is now filled with the same burning hatred that possessed Medea.”
In P-B the play can be interpreted in this way: “This play operates on several levels. The antagonism between Jason and Medea can be read as the enmity between man and woman, between intelligence and passion, between civilization and barbarism, or between man and nature. In each instance the woman, the passion, the barbarian, the forces of nature—all embodied in Medea—have the power to turn and reduce the masculine elements to nothing.” The shattering of reality into the various elements described above provides the foundation of the P-B worldview and is the ultimate cause of all human suffering. Medea, with all her powers, could not distinguish reality from illusion and was trapped in the universal human paradigm wherein we create our own agonies.
References and notes are available for this essay.
Find a much more in-depth discussion on this blog and in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.