The Enemy Within: The Heroine’s Downfall in Euripides’ Medea College

“Nothing in excess” is inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi. As the cornerstone of Greek philosophy, this creed was embraced through a lifestyle of moderation and self-restraint. In spite of this ideal, in his tragic masterpiece Medea, Euripides tackles the brooding inner workings of the human psyche as he explores the dangers of emotional superfluity in his titular heroine. In explicit defiance of feminine conventions, Medea portrays the havoc that unrestrained emotions play in society. Yet, is Medea’s spiral into unrestrained, murderous passions attributed to the rigid structure of her environment, or is she merely a victim of individualized instability as her vexation overwhelms any principles of temperance? At the play’s culmination, the reader is left to consider the circumstances that led to the heroine’s degradation, and whether any preventative measures might have been explored. Ultimately, Medea’s lack of confidence in her own sex eliminates any prospect for achieving emotional balance or restraint, and leads to a new “worst case scenario” of defying stringent Greek social decorum.

The constraints of ancient Greek society lauded temperance and discipline as its foundation in order to obtain a “happy” lifestyle....

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