Aristotle’s View of Tragedy in Medea

Aristotle laid the foundations for the critical study of drama in his time. He composed his theory of tragedy, which explained the components of a play that were most vital for it to be classified as a tragedy. Euripides’ Medea was an excellent example of Aristotle’s tragedy. Medea, in the Third Episode especially, contained mostly parts of Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. In the Third Episode, the parts of Aristotle’s theory that were used include mimesis of Jason, plot structure, dialogue, Peripeteia and also a scene of suffering.

In the Third Episode of Medea, Mimesis is observed when Medea mimicked the wrongdoings of Jason and wanted to get revenge on Jason by causing him grief and agony. Immediately, Medea composed a plan to wreak havoc on Jason. This is considered mimesis because Medea forces Jason to feel the same pain she felt when Jason broke his vows. Medea used dialogue when she spoke to Aegeus and told him to “Swear by the Earth on which you tread/Swear by the Sun, my father’s father dread/Swear by every god and godhead” to protect her. Since this is spoken in an elevated, highly poetic tone, it is considered dialogue. The plot in this scene of the story is that Medea needed to escape from Corinth after the multiple slayings. She then turned to Aegeus and was willing to give him children if he took her in Athens and protected her. The scene ended in reference to her plans to kill Jason’s new bride and her two sons. Thought, as described by Aristotle is also demonstrated by Medea when she explained to Aegeus her plan to kill Jason’s new bride and her children, and the sheer hatred for Jason by Medea showed that anything is possible for a furious wife. Since thought is the faculty of saying what is possible, and pertinent; Medea’s thought is observed.

A complete peripeteia took place when Jason, in hopes of starting a better, aristocratic lifestyle, has everything taken away from him and in turn, Medea gets a new home and palace with Aegeus. A reversal of the situation proved Jason, the tragic hero, to be much worse off than Medea, who is responsible for the multiple murders. Another reversal of the situation takes place when Medea slays her own sons although it is more difficult for her than anyone because she bore them into this life. She felt very joyous about her plan to kill Creon’s daughter, nevertheless, her tone changed when she plotted to kill her sons. The scene of suffering in this scene is when Jason views the blood of his children seeping from under the locked doors. Medea made the decision to kill her children because they are the only part of Jason that remained and she must take any part of Jason away so he will be left in immense grief and agony. This scene aroused pity and fear through Medea’s relentless murder scheme and also her compassion for her sons.

This scene in Medea is not the only scene that represented Aristotle’s theory of tragedies; however, it is the best because it incorporated almost all the qualities that a good tragedy must have according to Aristotle.

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