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Black Medea: Adaptations for Modern Plays By Kevin J. Wetmore

Chapter :  Introduction
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Black Medea:


Medea the Outsider/
Medea as a Woman of Color

In 431 B.C.E., Euripides’s Medea, along with the rest of the tetralogy that did not survive—Philoctetes, Dictys, and the satyr play Reapers—won third prize behind plays by Sophocles and Euphorion (Aeschylus’s nephew). In other words, it came in last. Almost a century later, Aristotle, in Poetics singles out the scene in which Medea secures sanctuary in Athens in exchange for curing Aegeus’s childlessness as unsatisfactory and an example of inferior playwriting.1 It was an inauspicious beginning for a drama that has become one of the most popular Greek tragedies in the last hundred years.2

Euripides’s play is a rather straightforward example of Greek tragedy in its dramaturgy: stage time equals real time and employs a single location. Before the introduction of her character, the audience learns of Medea and her fate as handed down by Creon, king of Corinth. The play depicts the final two hours of her life in that city. Jason and Medea have been living in exile in Corinth when Creon decides to have Jason marry his daughter. In order to do so, he must divorce Medea and send her away, which he readily agrees to do. Medea, who by Greek law would