The Violence of Pity In Euripides' "Medea"

The Violence of Pity In Euripides' "Medea"

Volume: 41
Copyright Date: 1980
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 238
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  • Book Info
    The Violence of Pity In Euripides' "Medea"
    Book Description:

    This structural analysis of Euripidean tragedy focuses on the dramatist's literary self-awareness as revealed in his own works and particularly in the Medea. It explores the language of the Medea as a rhetorical, theatrical construct that, to paraphrase Aristotle, achieves through the display of pity and fear the purgation of these same emotions.

    "My criticism," Pietro Pucci says in his introduction, "both outlines and unravels the figures of Euripidean language and defines and questions the inflections and modulations of Euripides' discourse. . . . I limit my inquiry to some central scenes of the Medea, without losing sight of the structure of the whole play and without neglecting scenes of other plays that are pertinent to my argument."

    Interpreting the Medea in accordance with Euripides' definition of his tragic aim, Pucci emphasizes the elements of pathos and pity. He describes several key elements in Euripides' metaphysics-the remedial discourse, the monument, the garden, and the sacrifice-and assesses their significance as tragic metaphors. Because his analytical method and some of his terminology draw imaginatively on the work of Jacques Derrida and other post-structuralists, this book has at once literary, sociocultural, and philosophical dimensions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6681-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-8)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 9-12)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 13-20)

    From Aristophanes to Pseudo-Longinus and on to Nietzsche, a century ago, Euripides has suffered critical condemnation whenever he has been judged in relation to the other two great tragedians, Aeschylus and Sophocles. Aristophanes and Nietzsche viewed him as the executioner of tragedy. That they grounded their views on different interpretations of tragedy and that they did not deny Euripides’ own greatness does not mean that we are free to ignore the critical problems raised by their condemnations. Aristophanes’ critical genius was felicitous in singling out the features of Euripides’ new style: the abandonment of the solemn, majestic halo of the...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Euripides’ Writing as Remedy
    (pp. 21-60)

    Pity and Healing of Griefs

    As Medea’s Nurse begins her speech in the prologue, the audience expects her to present the antecedents of the action, the names and the main psychological and moral traits of the protagonists. Indeed the Nurse’s speech fulfills this purpose, but fifty lines later we realize that the Nurse’s utterance, from her subjective point of view, also constitutes—as is usually the case in Euripides’ prologues—a private outburst of grief, and we might already have suspected this if we had correctly appreciated the pathos of her words.

    At line 46 of her speech, the Nurse...

    (pp. 61-90)

    The Discovery of Injustice (Medea 214 ff.)

    Medea appears on stage (214 ff.), and her entrance is spectacular. Instead of producing a pathetic outburst to arouse the good feelings of the chorus, she argues with calm and intense power of reasoning.¹ Her long speech develops as an attack against the unfair conditions married women suffer in society: she persuades the chorus of the righteousness of her revenge, partially on these rational grounds, through arguments that can be termed true or false, rather than by a mere appeal to comparison. The chorus, on the other hand, does not question or argue...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Survival in the Holy Garden
    (pp. 91-130)

    Devices, Tricks, and Poisons

    Medea’s attitude toward Creon is reminiscent of her first address to the chorus. At first she tries to assuage his fear—a recurring feeling—by a sociological analysis of the conditions of the sophoi in the polis. Her statement at 293–305 recalls Aristotle on the popular reputation of the old philosophers.¹ The consonance between the two passages shows that, through Medea, Euripides is speaking of the unpopularity of the philosophers in his own time and, possibly, of himself.²

    But what succeeded with the sympathetic women of the chorus now fails: Creon is even more afraid...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR The Sacrifice
    (pp. 131-168)

    Medea’s Farewell

    With Medea’s farewell to her children and the representation of her mental conflict, the drama reaches that part which most intrigues both the romantic and the modern imagination. Indeed, as Medea forces herself to murder her children she reveals a painful split in her consciousness that appears to be a new form of conflict in Greek theater and that the romantic imagination is quick to appreciate. On the other hand, here the text comes close to questioning intentionally the mechanical inversion of the relationships between self and other, master and slave, that has split Medea’s mind in her...

  8. APPENDIX ONE Pity and Fear
    (pp. 169-174)
  9. APPENDIX TWO Survival in the Heracles
    (pp. 175-188)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 189-232)
  11. Index
    (pp. 233-238)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-239)