how are life and death figured as extensions of exile


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Modern audiences have difficulty conceiving of how horrible exile was for the ancient Greeks. A person's city-state was home and protector; to wander, without friends or shelter, was considered a fate as horrible as death. Medea, for the sake of her husband, has made herself an exile. She is far from home, without family or friends to protect her. In her overzealous advocacy of her husband's interest, she has also made their family exiles in Corinth. Because of her actions in Iolcus, Jason cannot return home. Their position is vulnerable. Jason, hero of the Golden Fleece (although Euripides emphasizes that Medea was the true agent behind the success of the quest) is now a wanderer. His marriage is shrewd and calculating: he takes a bride of Corinth's royal family. He is faithless, but he has a point when he argues to Medea that something needed to be done to provide their family with security.

Euripides links the themes of exile and the position of women. When emphasizing the circumstances women must bear after marriage (leaving home, living among strangers), Medea is reminding us of the conditions of exile. Her position, then, is doubly grave, as she is an exile in the ordinary sense and also an exile in the sense that all women are exiles. She is also a foreigner, and so to the Greeks she will always be "barbarian."