In your essay you must show an awareness of the text’s complexity and the playwright’s ambivalence towards the main characters.
Remember: in English the simple is often complex and less is more. Be precise and make sure you answer the question directly in your topic sentences. Do not provide background and do not explain or describe. I review a lot of essays that only half deal with the question.
Build your paragraph around to-the-point topic sentences and include the playwright’s narrative devices because they are often a clue to his views, values and intentions. If Medea employs a “combination of passion and rationality within her decision-making” then unpack both systematically. (You will be surprised how many students leave out the obvious!) Remember: One Key idea to one paragraph – be careful about turning it into a character analysis.
You must be selective. What is the best example of her passion? What is the best example of her rational decision making? Leave out any extra material that does not the key idea of the paragraph.
Be careful about dogmatic generalised statements. It is a very ambivalent text and everything with medea has a double side. Avoid emphatic statements. You must qualify many of your statements showing that you recognise that the text is complex and many of the themes are ambiguous.
- For example, avoid saying that Euripides is a “feminist”. He may support much of Medea’s case because of the desperate and powerless plight of “we women” in 5th century Greece. He does suggest that he wishes to offer an alternative voice, “through female understanding”. However, the nurse seems to support Medea’s case because she is “obedient” and has proved an exemplary wife.
- Generalisation: Euripides characters Medea as far more perceptive than any other major character. (Remember that Creon is perceptive.)
- Show complexity: Medea screams in agony at the beginning. “Euripides indicates that these ‘heartfelt lamentations’ are expressions of emotion carefully crafted to garner the sympathy of both the Chorus and the Nurse. This is so that they willingly align with her.” (Yes, this is one aspect, but through her change in moods and tones, Euripides also does suggest that Medea has a point when she rails against the double injustice of a woman’s marital status.)
- “Medea is governed by her selfish intentions.” Yes, and no. She is also motivated by her pledge to the gods. Is this selfish?
- “Medea’s transformation from victim to perpetrator occurs due to her inherent selfishness, as she prioritises her reputation above all else.” Yes, but she anticipates her own incredible pain, but she seeks to defend the gods?
- Be careful of statements like: Euripides depicts Medea as a woman of sexual jealousy with a ‘wicked’ nature. Don’t forget it is Jason who reduces her grievances to “sexual jealousy”.
Make sure you include Euripides’ views, values, intentions etc. and narrative devices/chorus and nurse (to avoid story-telling/summarising).
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