My Beautiful Wickedness

April 16, 2007, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Our college theatre department is putting on a staging of Seneca’s Medea (not Euripedes, worse the luck…there’s a reason that the Roman version isn’t used as much). I usually take the Kid to all the drama events on campus, but calling to mind the rather nasty end that comes to the children in this one, I thought maybe not. However, in digging around through the texts, ur-texts, and palimpsests about Medea that have scratched themselves on the collective consciousness of the “western” (ha!) world, I found Medea to be a far more complex woman than I recalled.

Ok, so she’s a teenage witch. Not like Sabrina. No no. She’s not just a princess who wants to be queen and the granddaughter of the Sun, but a wellspring of hormonal adolescent chaos in a sorceress body. She is crazy in love with the ever-hot but ever-hapless Jason, who is willing to use her and her magic to fulfill all his quests. She’s blinded to the fact that she’s the one doing all the work in this relationship because she’s been enchanted into this desperate love by Hera and Aphrodite (patronesses of Jason). The plowing the field with fire-breathing bulls? The solution is hers. The dragon teeth in the field becomes an army yada yada thing? Her. Charming the sleeping dragon? Please. Medea again. Once her own daddy turns on the couple, she chops up her brother (who, incidentally, stands between her and her father’s throne) and tosses him overboard so that her father will spend time rounding up all the pieces while she and Jason escapes. She hypnotizes the bronze man, Talos, by showing him her “beauties.” He goes so wild that she can bleed him to death. She’s Sexy-Nasty.

She slits the throat of her lover’s father, then revives him with some magic potion…but I bet he never said boo to her again. It’s Medea — not big ol’ lunkhead Argonaut Jason — who engineers the killing of King Pellias when he won’t honor his agreement with Jason about the retrieval of the Golden Fleece. (She tells Pellias’s daughters to cook him up in a soup with some herbs, the boiling thereof a means to restore his health and perfume the home…bouilliabaisse anyone?) That backfires; Pellias’s daughters are understandably cheesed. The two natural-born killers — Jason and Medea — run off to Corinth, which is ruled by King Creon. There they have two kids and she supports him through her magical arts while his boat sits in dry dock and begins to rot.

Jason? Still power-hungry. Still useless. He’s offered the throne of Corinth if he’ll marry the daughter of the King of Corinth, Creusa. Jason — true to pattern — fucks his way to the top. He is the Kevin Federline of ancient Greece. Medea goes batshit insane. She gives Creusa poisoned wedding gifts, killing Creusa by burning the flesh off her body with an acid-coated robe and crown. Creon buys it when he tries to embrace his dying child. So much for the Corinthian royal family. Medea kills the kids she’s had with Jason and refuses to produce their bodies for burial (a final profaning insult to the would-be groom). And then she takes off for Athens in a chariot produced by her granddaddy, the Sun. She shacks for a while with Heracles, then heads home to reclaim her throne from a bad-seed uncle, who she promptly kills. Zeus can’t resist a woman like that, so steeped in her own badassitude; by the time he comes calling, she’s sick of men who think they are gods and gods who assume male form. Medea is the only mortal who ever called Zeus out for being a womanizing cheat and turns him down flat. Because of that, she’s made an immortal by Hera.

Wow. What a story. Isn’t there some sort of true-crime noir glam moviemaker who could do this right?


2 Comments so far
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I’d pay full price to see that one, yest I would.

Comment by imfunny2

I’ve always thought they (Hollywood, Sundance, whoever…) were missing the boat by not delving into the various women of mythology & the classics. Medea, Penelope, Antigone, etc. There are so many stories there just ripe for the telling.

Who knows…perhaps the success of 300 will steer them in this direction. Once they’re done exploring every feeble aspect of masculinity in movies like “Beerfest” and “Wild Hogs”, of course.

Comment by Katherine Coble

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