In her famous monologue that leads up to the decision to destroy her own children the rational Medea contends with the irrational, hate-driven, Medea and it is the latter that has the victory. She feels maternal love for her children and this makes her wish to spare them.
But she also sees them as a possible instrument of revenge on Jason, “Can I consent to let those foes escape from punishment, and incur their mockery?
She is used to imposing her ego on the world through the destructive exercise of power.
Those who know her know this aspect of her personality and fear it.
Harsh states, “The theme of Medea seems to be that passion may so overwhelm reason as to lead one to a course of action inhumanly cruel and disastrous.” Medea has given all of her love to Jason.
She has placed all of her ego on the line in doing so and, because she is proud and arrogant (DSM IV, the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association, would probably lead a professional to classify her as, among other things, suffering from a narcissistic personality), that rejection lays waste to her ego and is intolerable.In the Odyssey, when Calypso is ordered by Zeus to release Odysseus, she acquiesces and provides him with a boat.In Virgil’s Aeneid Dido is angry at Aeneas desertion of her, but she turns her aggression inwards and kills herself.Medea’s love for Jason swamps her cognitive, reasonable faculties and the result is chaos.Medea, as a literary figure, is in a class by herself and it is no wonder that, in the words of Harsh, “In later writers Medea’s wrath and jealousy become proverbial.” In her egoism she resembles the Furies, the pitiless avenging spirits of Greek mythology.Dido, a queen, the builder of Carthage, has her world destroyed by Aeneas departure, but she is not possessed by the dark forces that possess Medea and the damage to her ego is turned inwards and culminates in suicide. Throughout the years, the audience vividly observes various social views as expressed by the playwrights. Similar to other playwrights, Euripides uses the theater as a channel to express his social views to other Greeks.She “is a barbarian princess and magician; she is descended from Helios, and she is in possession of certain mysterious powers, or more strictly poisons, which ordinary women know nothing about.” She is, in other words, a barbarian witch.In Greek culture such a character, and the forces and powers that that character makes use of, are associated with things perceived to be antithetical both to reason and to culture itself.Her response is to lash out and attempt to destroy all of his world.The chorus defines mortal man’s “crowning woe” as being the loss of the loss of his children and that is what she brings about for Jason.