- 西洋古典學研究 (ISSN:04479114)
- vol.59, pp.96-106, 2011-03-23
While Medea, the eponymous protagonist of Seneca's tragedy, has been interpreted in various ways, as a furious woman, as a symbol of the nature, as a witch, etc., not enough attention has been paid to her important position as the wife of Iason. The purpose of this paper is to explore, through an analysis of the construction of the play, the ways in which Seneca treats Medea as Iason's wife, and thereby to clarify the side of her character that signifies her as a proud heroine. The paper first focuses on the parallelism that we find between the prologue and the final scene. The words at 53-56 are intended to notify the audience/reader of the correspondence between her past kin-killings and those to come. It will suggest one more parallelism: her abandonment of her homeland and later the abandonment of her husband, too. The paper then considers the ambiguity of Medea's identity as Iason's wife. Since we hear an account of Iason's wedding with Creusa as taking place during the drama, we wonder whether she still retains her status as a wife. And since the author links those crimes to their marital relationship, we ask, in addition, who is responsible for the past crimes - only Medea or her husband as well? I shall argue that she keeps hold of her status throughout the play. We next consider Medea's change from 170 to 910. She was at the start a weak woman with no inherited property and nowhere to go, but her newly acquired supernatural power gives her the strength that enables her to overcome Creon and Creusa and, so, to leave her husband. Finally, the paper examines the different motives for Medea's two son-killings. Seneca divides the murder scene into two parts. The first killing means the atonement for her murder of her brother and her own punishment for past crimes; but it also involves her 'return of the dowry' at 982-984, an act that marks the end of her marriage. In this way, she abandons her position of Iason's wife volountarily, and takes the lead in the divorce from her husband. The second killing occurs right in front of Iason's eyes: this not only signifies her revenge on him but also her resolution to cut herself off from him completely. She asks him 'coniugem agnoscis tuam?' While several past studies have translated these words as "This is your wife", I shall argue that it is in fact a rhetorical question meaning "Do you recognize your wife in me? I am not your wife any longer". While, in the prologue, Medea was surrounded by enemies on all sides, in the final scene Iason is left alone and has nowhere to go. Their positions are now reversed entirely and Medea accomplishes the purpose that she had hinted at in the prologue. She would not allow herself to be a passive figure in the divorce. Seneca molded her as above all a proud-hearted wife.