How is it?
How is it not?
How is it?
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By examining the treatment of women, Euripides pointed out the injustices and blind spots of his society. He was also extremely savvy about the ways that art has been used to defame woman's character, and smart enough to recognize that many of the cherished myths and fables of the Greeks reinforced male-dominated order by teaching women to accept (and enjoy) subjugation. Medea points out many specifics of Greek life that are nearly universal to pre-industrial societies. A woman, when she marries, must leave her own home and join her husband's. She is therefore always an outsider. Women are not free to socialize in public space as men are; while men roam wild, indulging sexual appetites or enjoying the company of friends, women are expected to stay at home. Medea makes herself the spokeswoman for the suffering of women, and by this act she secures the loyalty and secrecy of the Chorus.
But it would be too simple to see the play as a proto-feminist diatribe against the excesses of patriarchy. One of Euripides great insight, and one of his most discomforting ones, is that the oppressed do not automatically become noble. The greatest victory a Euripidean tragic hero can claim is to learn compassion and wisdom through suffering; however, most of Euripides' characters fall far short of that mark. His plays teach us that those who suffer often become monstrous. Euripides may be deeply critical of male-dominated Greek order, and he may be deeply sympathetic to the position of women, but he does not grant Medea and the women of Corinth the moral high ground. Medea may earn our sympathies in her first speech, but she will soon be revealed as a terrifyingly self-centered and ruthless woman. Euripides shows us injustice without giving us heroes who can correct it: instead, we are given the cold reaction of revenge. We are not brought to greater order through struggle. A society's hypocrisy must be paid for, and the price is high and bloody.