Thursday, July 23, 2015

TFBT: Reading Medea

After my shower this morning I donned the club tee-shirt and a navy sports coat, lowered my crown on my brow and prepared for the performance.   We read “Medea” by Euripides.  During preparations Janet asked where I got my crown.  She thought it was wonderful that my wife  had made it for me the night before our reading of “Antigone”.  I played “Creon” there too.  Sarah S. played Medea and did an incredible job!  I always thought Medea was mad and rambling in her early speeches, but Sarah’s chilling performance made it clear that Medea was perfectly sane and plotting out loud.  The death of Glauce and her father is one of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever read, but the silent Medea stole the show cackling and giggling as the messenger recites in horror the princess’ demise.  Jessica as usual did a great job.  She was the messenger.  She said she would have body checked Sarah if they were together for upstaging her.  Paul O’M, a professional actor with classical experience played Jason  and actually made the character convincing.  Medea and Jason’s (Sarah and Paul’s) more intimate scenes were amazing! 

I heard so many things differently this time.  I heard things I’d not seen while reading;
o   At Hour 25, we had a discussion in the forums about the Iliad’s Sheer Cliff and Gray Sea Metaphor.  So this morning we heard of Medea “as if she were a stone, or the ocean swell, (28)   I will have to look at the Odyssey when Odysseus approaches the cliffs of Pheaecia. 
o    What mortals need is some other way to get our children. There should be no female sex. With that, men would be rid of all their  troubles.”  Medea, Euripides (571)  Maya M and I have been studying the Five Ages of Man; no women and no troubles is the Golden Age. 
o   “Aegeus; A man called Pittheus, king of Troezen.  Medea; He's Pelops' son. They say he's a very holy man.” (683-3) Who says, Pittheus is a very holy man?  He “died” in the hubristic attempt to kidnap the goddess of death and prostituted his daughter to King Aegeus.  It’s like; “Peleus the most chaste of men,[i] blameless Peleus, [ii] Peleus, one dear to the hearts of the immortals[iii]  Peleus was a double murderer!  The things that make Pittheus and Peleus precious to the gods, I don’t understand.
o   “I'll turn three of my enemies to corpses—father, daughter, and my husband.” (375)  And yet, for all her unearthly viciousness she doesn’t kill Jason. Is Eros’ terrible staff still stuck in her heart?  Is Jason alive because Medea still loves him?

Great session this morning.

[i] Plato, Republic 391c
[ii] Homer, Iliad 20. 207
[iii] Homer, Iliad 24. 59


  1. Medea knows that Jason will wander in utter misery until a piece of the Argo falls on his head and kills him. I guess, she thinks that Jason's instant death would be too merciful for him. Similar to gods' punishment of Bellerophon.

  2. I'd defend Pittheus. His daughter has been raped by Poseidon. The father presumably knows that rapes by gods, unlike those by mortals, always result in pregnancies. So he must urgently find a mortal stepfather for his grandchild. I think he did his best. As for an attempt to kidnap Persephone - I hadn't heard of this. I knew that gods had queued to ask her hand in marriage, but her mother had some weird ideas of a Golden Age without males and sent away everybody. Maybe Demeter regretted later, when the Host of Many bypassed her and took her daughter. It would be funny if multiple mortals had also queued to kidnap Persephone after she got married, and to whom!

  3. Maya,

    You cut me to the quick with the comments above! The daughter of Pittheus is Aethra! I worked so hard on that piece and for the Hour 25 version. I thought you'd remember. Evrything you discussed above is explained there.


  4. Yes, she is Aethra. I checked the Library again:

    "And journeying by way of Troezen, he (i.e. Aegeus) lodged with Pittheus, son of Pelops, who, understanding the oracle, made him drunk and caused him to lie with his daughter Aethra. But in the same night Poseidon also had connexion with her."

    To me, the text is ambiguous who was with Aethra first and who second. However, basic physiology makes me think that Poseidon was definitely first. Otherwise, the embarassment for Aegeus would be too great.