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Medea by Euripides

Dramatis Personae


NURSE: a servant of Medea

TUTOR: a servant assigned to Jason’s children

MEDEA: wife of Jason

CHORUS: a group of Corinthian women

CREON: king of Corinth

JASON: husband of Medea

AEGEUS: king of Athens

MESSENGER: a servant of Jason’s

CHILDREN: Medea’s and Jason’s two young sons

ATTENDANTS on Creon and Jason.


[Outside the home of Jason and Medea in Corinth. The Nurse, a slave

who serves Medea, is standing by herself]



O how I wish that ship the Argo

had never sailed off to the land of Colchis,

past the Symplegades, those dark dancing rocks

which smash boats sailing through the Hellespont.1

I wish they’d never chopped the pine trees down

in those mountain forests up on Pelion,

to make oars for the hands of those great men

who set off, on Pelias’ orders,

to fetch the golden fleece. Then my mistress,

Medea, never would have sailed away                                                 10

to the towers in the land of Iolcus,

her heart passionately in love with Jason.

She’d never have convinced those women,

Pelias’ daughters, to kill their father.

She’d not have come to live in Corinth here,                                                         [10]

with her husband and her children—well loved

in exile by those whose land she’d moved to.

She gave all sorts of help to Jason.

That’s when life is most secure and safe,

when woman and her husband stand as one.                                     20

But that marriage changed. Now they’re enemies.

Their fine love’s grown sick, diseased, for Jason,

leaving his own children and my mistress,

is lying on a royal wedding bed.

He’s married the daughter of king Creon,

who rules this country. As for Medea,

that poor lady, in her disgrace, cries out,                                                             [20]

repeating his oaths, recalling the great trust

in that right hand with which he pledged his love.

She calls out to the gods to witness                                                     30

how Jason is repaying her favours.

She just lies there. She won’t eat—her body

she surrenders to the pain, wasting away,

always in tears, ever since she found out

how her husband has dishonoured her.

She’s not lifted her eyes up from the ground

or raised her head. She listens to advice,

even from friends, as if she were a stone,

or the ocean swell, except now and then

she twists that white neck of hers and weeps,                                     40           [30]

crying to herself for her dear father, her home,

her own land, all those things she left behind,

to come here with the man who now discards her.

Her suffering has taught her the advantages

of not being cut off from one’s own homeland.

Now she hates her children. When she sees them,

there is no joy in her. And I’m afraid

she may be up to some new mischief.

Her mind thinks in extremes. I know her well.

She’ll not put up with being treated badly.                                         50

I worry she may pick up a sharp sword

and stab her stomach, or else she’ll go                                                                 [40]

into the house, in silence, to that bed,

and kill the king and bridegroom Jason.

Then she’ll face an even worse disaster.

She’s a dangerous woman. It won’t be easy

for any man who picks a fight with her

to think she’s beaten and he’s triumphed.

[Enter Medea’s and Jason’s children with their Tutor]


Here come her children. They’ve finished playing.

They’ve no notion of their mother’s troubles.                                  60

Young minds don’t like to dwell on pain.


Old slave from my mistress’ household,

why are you here, standing by the gate,                                                             [50]

all alone, complaining to yourself

about what’s wrong? How come Medea

is willing to stay inside without you?


Old servant of Jason’s children,

when a master’s lot falls out badly,

that’s bad for faithful servants, too—

it touches their hearts also. My sorrow                                             70

was so great, I wanted to come here,

to speak to earth and heaven, to tell them

about the wrongs inflicted on my mistress.


Unhappy lady! Has she stopped weeping yet?


Stopped crying? I envy your ignorance.                                                             [60]

Her suffering has only just begun—

she’s not even half way through it.


Poor fool—

if I can speak that way about my masters—

she knows nothing of her latest troubles.


What’s that, old man? Don’t spare me the news.                             80


Nothing. I’m sorry I said anything.


Come on, don’t hide it from a fellow slave.

I can keep quiet if I have to.


Well, I was passing by those benches

where the old men gamble by Peirene,

at the holy spring, and I heard someone say

(I was pretending I wasn’t listening)

that Creon, king of this country, intends

to ship the children away from Corinth,                                                             [70]

with their mother, too. I’ve no idea                                                       90

if the story’s true or not. I hope it’s not.


But surely Jason wouldn’t let his children

go into exile, even if he’s squabbling

with their mother?


Old devotions fade,

pushed aside by new relationships.

Jason is no friend of people in this house.


If we must add these brand-new troubles

to our old ones, before we’ve dealt with them,

then we’re finished.



Medea by Eurpides - an excerpt

1The Symplegades were two rocks in the Bosporus, the entrance to the Black Sea, which clashed together and destroyed ships.


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