Response and Critique: Euripides Medea – ENG 2030 Critical Essay

Out of all renowned Greek classics, Euripides’s Medea (431BC) remains one of the most controversial plays in history. Much of this controversy stems from the playwright’s rhetoric and use of realism to put certain points across in a manner that still shocks contemporaries. A rough assessment of the text reveals that Euripides rarely used euphemism to hide societal blemishes that were rife at the time. He embraced this precise epoch for what it was and openly expressed his point of view from a correct angle. In particular, the play focuses on the reasonable expectations that women grappled with in Greek society. During this period, status was valued more than everything, with the women having to derive it from the kinship that they forged with the male members of the society(Stuttard and Euripides 78). They played second fiddle to their male counterparts with their primary purpose being to produce an heir for the household where they were married. In this respect, their role was reduced to that of childbearing and mothering, which now served as the only thing that brought purpose to their seemingly wretched lives. Even with this reality, Euripides manages to craft a play that inadvertently explores the elicitations of women’s rights painted through Medea’s decision to perform infanticide. One side of the divide often opines that her actions were wholly blameless while distractors view them as erroneous and utterly immoral. Overwhelmed by anger, frustration, and devastation caused by Jason’s act of deciding to marry another woman, she took revenge on her erstwhile lover using a drastic measure. She intended to cause him extreme pain and sorrow to the degree that surpassed her own. Without compromise, killing her unborn child became her weapon of choice since she was also aware of Creon and the princess’s death(Seneca, et al.). The purpose of this essay is, therefore, to critically evaluate P.E Easterling’s assessment of the play in her article dubbed “The Infanticide in Euripides’ Medea” and to provide the appropriate response to the main arguments made.


In “The Infanticide in Euripides’ Medea” Easterling explores the so-called “problematic” themes that litter this literary landscape. The overarching leitmotif in the article is Medea’s choice to use infanticide to punish Jason since she felt aggrieved. Easterling firmly believes that the play represents a direct presentation of events in a logical sequence that is easily understood by the reader regardless of their cadre. Nevertheless, she does not forget to point out the shocking honesty with the playwright provides the account. The integrity that permeates the text is the primary reason why she does not believe that it is problematic but preferably one with a somewhat unique flare. She understands the enormity of the subject matter which is why the general expectation was that Euripides would express it in a manner fitting a critical catastrophe. In her overall evaluation, Easterling believes that the language used is not vast enough to reveal all that there was in the tale(Clauss and Johnston). It is, however, important to note that she acknowledges the richness found in the text and its ability to pierce through the reader’s soul. The play is predicated on the fact that Medea consciously decided to perform infanticide even while being fully aware of the enormity of this singular act. In Easterling’s opinion, such a brazen act ought to have been vividly described though powerful linguistic devices that would define the painful situation that Jason and Medea were in. A major point that permeates her appraisal of the text is the manner in which Medea was demonized for her actions. Though scorned, it was clear that she also feared for her unborn child’s safety and only wanted to what was right at the time. In light of this illustration, Easterling sees it as the next best option available. After Creon and the princess’s death, she was well aware of the danger that her spawn was in and thus saw it fit to end its life by her hand rather than that of another. The author, therefore, offers a critical analysis of the play’s faults, its frame of reference and obdurate features that place the murder of infants at the play’s epicenter.

Response and Critique 

Easterling’s thought-provoking arguments enhanced my understanding of the text and all other illustrations that were previously unclear. Her assessment elucidated the subject matter of the play while also introducing new angles that I was previously unaware of during initial readings. For instance, it was through the author that I finally realized that a celestial frame of reference had been missing all along throughout the play. The entire play was lacking in nous of divine motivation that would provide a sense of control as the plot progressed. This blatant omission was present although Medea was ostensibly the Sun’s grand-daughter. In this respect, the play had failed to provide the theological significance needed to portray its subject, therefore, presenting a literary inadequacy. Euripides failed to file Medea’s heroic identity, which would eventually deal a blow to the narrative that was being presented. By so doing, she exposed to the play to contemporary critics such as Easterling who now questions the tales literary credibility. In essence, it is now possible to regard it as just another case of a guileless melodrama without much credibility. Each argument presented by Easterling was quite convincing because she always backed his claims with substantial evidence. At one point, she even compared the text’s insufficiencies to Bacchaeor Hippolytus which expressed the literary expansiveness which she expected initially. Chief among her expectations were that Medea would be presented prominently to enable the reader to develop recurring mental images of the theme, which was sadly not the case. However, Easterling seems to have a clear idea of his target audience. Irrefutable indications suggest that, in writing this article, her main intention was to reach out to contemporary readers of Greek classics in a bid to challenge them to question the works of other playwrights. By so doing, they would develop a critical mind capable of making accurate assessments of the shortcomings that need to be addressed.

In general, the article was easy to read since the author expressed a firm understanding and usage of language. Short and straightforward sentences ended up communicating more of what the author intended to illustrate. Truncated sentences were a common feature throughout the article which meant that her sense of urgency in conveying the message was always apparent. In addition to this, connections were ever made between the sentences, which further improved the whole reading experience. Nevertheless, Easterling’s explanation of Medea so-called “sense of helplessness” argument was confusing and did not strike a chord with me. From the text, it is clear that she was experiencing a series of emotions, but this was not enough for her to act on her conflicting emotions. In this sense, the author suggests that Medea had no other option that carrying out her act of revenge especially against Creusa. In my opinion, these were spontaneous knee-jerk reactions that provided a tempting illusion. On the other hand; it was impressive how the author avoided mundane psychological explanations since she was fully aware that the emotional confusion was as a result of inconsistencies. Her opinion regarding this whole debacle was that Medea was caught up in the whirlwind which was the tide of events that offered her little to no choice (Clauss and Johnston). The author uses an unbiased tone to provide a socio-psychological analysis of why Medea murdered her children and the sense of urgency involved. All quotations provided were accurate and pointed to the author’s thorough research when seeking to present her perspective. Reading beyond the play has proven fundamental since new aspects of Medea’s characters were cross-examined which added to the existing body of language.


In finality, Euripides’s Medea has always elicited controversy owing to the critical themes that it presents.  P.E Easterling provides a contemporary critique in her 1977 article christened “The Infanticide in Euripides’ Medea” to explore the missing links visible to expert scholars. The material thus allows the readers to make sense of this modern take and the implications that such an assessment would have on the future of classic literature.

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