Two Boys in a Room: Medea by Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks
Medea ‘is a particularly malleable character, whose nature can be changed radically depending on which portion of the story is being told and on the will of the teller’, wrote Judith Mossman in the introduction to her translation and commentary on Euripides’s Medea.1 Thus, Medea has been variably known as an exotic princess, a sorceress, a passionate woman in love, the grandchild of the Sun or a support to heroes in their quests. But since Euripides’s tragedy of 431 BC, Medea has been branded especially as the woman who kills her children – an action as horrific in Euripides’s times as it is today. The Chorus called Medea’s crime a ‘sacrilege’, a ‘terrifying cruelty’,2 asking Medea in vain to renounce her murderous plan. Cruel, terrifying and sacrilegious as it may seem, however, Medea’s behaviour is not unique. Again Mossman mentioned the ‘recognised social phenomenon’ of the ‘maternal retaliatory filicide’.3She explained that the occurrence of a mother who kills her children in...
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