Medea as a symbol of rhetoric sophistry


Medea’s first appearance on stage is accompanied by her speech addressed to the Corinthian women. Her late entry on stage after having been characterised by the Nurse first makes her speech more significant as there is anticipation in the audience as to how she will react. Will she explode the way she is predicted to? However contradictory to our expectations, a more thoughtful and vocal Medea greats the audience. She initially tries to gain the sympathy of the women by addressing issues that were common to women in that given society in her speech, and then goes on to alienate herself and show that her situation was far worse than they would ever face.

Her statement that ‘an excess of wealth is required for us to buy a husband’ (232) or in other words, a ‘master’ (234) hits the mark. It shows the unfair treatment that women received and by stating this idea, she tries to identify with the women and make them feel that she too is a victim of the same treatment. The initial part of her speech thus serves as a way for Medea to reduce the distance between her and society and shadow the idea that she was merely an outsider/refugee. Furthermore, she brings out two very universal and profound stereotypes – men are fighters, while women are child bearers- and uses this comparison to show that women were in fact stronger than men. By equating 3 wars to one childbirth, she highlights the common misconception in society that wars were the most painful and dangerous, while in reality this was not true. Thus by using very standard stereotypes, Medea involves all the women to support her.

The latter part of her speech is used to show that despite being so similar to all the women, Medea was in reality still alienated. This is seen when she mentions that ‘yet what applies to me does not apply to you’ (252) to highlight the transition in her speech. Being a deserted refugee in a foreign land would leave her in a far worse situation than any other local woman whose husband had cheated her and this creates sympathy in the women of the society. Despite being so similar, she appears to be treated far differently. Her speech concludes again with a reference to the similar inferior status of women in society – ‘a woman is full of fear; defenceless’ (264) – which leaves the audience thinking once again about the status of women. The ending is profound and essential to Medea in order to gain sympathy.

338 thoughts on “Medea as a symbol of rhetoric sophistry

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