Thursday 17th February-Session One.
Medea vs. Jason.
Within this first session we were given the point of discussion: “who does the text sympathise with, Jason or Medea?” This split the group in two, and I found myself siding with Jason. I felt that the text was not particularly emotionally engaging for the reader, as Euripides portrays the myth as a rather quick paced chain of events. Euripides also presents these two characters to show that they both deserve censure and perhaps a little sympathy. Medea is presented as dangerous and vengeful, and comes across as unfeeling in her murderous acts and her behaviour towards Jason. Some would view the murder of her children as a ‘mercy killing’, with the knowledge that if Medea hadn’t killed them, someone else would. I however feel that this fact does not in any way make Medea seem less evil. Jason’s crimes are not so dramatic. He is guilty of leaving his wife and children and showing ingratitude towards Medea. Alike to Medea, we can see not only how Jason is to be blamed for his actions, but also how he is to be pitied. He looses his future wife, Father-in-law, and when his children are murdered he is not even allowed access to them, even once they have been taken from him.
I found however that neither character made me directly empathise with them, it was more of an indirect sympathy, associated with the situation and events that had made me support Jason’s cause. I felt a hate for the actions of Medea, (mainly the killing of her children), but I also disliked her calculating and manipulative nature, and these factors made me think the text was sympathetic towards Jason.
Then Hugh Denard pointed out the context of the play and it seems apparent that logically the play would favour Jason, as the audience would be male only, and the society itself was patriarchal. Why would Euripides present a woman as being the subject of injustice? This got me thinking about gender issues not just in the play, but also within the society from which the play was created. I asked myself if Euripides could be considered an early feminist, a few years ahead of his time, discreetly nudging the idea that women are not a lower class of humans, and deserve to be treated with respect. However, although Euripides may have been considering the poor situation of women in his society, I don’t think it can be claimed that he was in any way a feminist, if only because the idea wasn’t really created for a few hundred years after. I did however later find an interesting point in my research, which suggested that the society viewed it perfectly reasonable for a man to leave his wife if she had not given him children, but once she had provided him with a child he was expected to support her and their children.
I still maintain my sympathy towards Jason, but I can also see a valid argument for empathising with Medea. She is subject to a patriarchal society and found her only means of a voice was to be extreme, and commit murder. However, I would not say that the text itself empathises with Medea, as she is portrayed as irrational, extreme and dangerous as opposed to Jason who seems calm controlled throughout Medea’s atrocious acts.
The Medea Project.
Having split into two groups, our group (Jason sympathisers) began by discussing which themes and issues from Medea we wanted to raise, and how we thought we could portray these in our performance. It was suggested that we could explore the oppositions of gender that are apparent in the play, perhaps drawing on the idea of Medea vs. Jason that we had discussed. An other suggestion was to show the parallel between the myth and the play, using a film screen behind the action on stage. We then separated into little research groups for a few hours to find out what we could about the play and its background. Anna and I used the internet to research what we could about the myth behind the play, which was surprisingly hard to do. We found there were many different versions of the myth, and none on the internet were particularly concise or helpful.
We then rejoined the group and shared what each of us had found, and we began to talk about how we wanted to perform. The idea of an installation was favoured, and we soon split off into sub groups depending of which part of the installation we wanted to work on.
The sections of the installation were:
- A monologue with a film behind it, showing the killing of the children, and including the Medea vs. Jason idea.
- A collage, again depicting issues of gender oppositions, but perhaps more specifically to do with mothers, and how they are viewed by contemporary society.
- A tableau, which was perhaps constantly moving and changing, but not in an overtly apparent way, perhaps incorporating some of the chorus speeches.
- Some live performances out of the text.
- Recordings of public opinion of the play.
I was interested by the collage, and within this group (Nick, Holly, Hannah and me) we decided to each go off and research whatever we liked to do with the oppositions of genders, and societies view of a mothers responsibility in comparison with a fathers.