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Medea is centered on a wife’s calculated desire for revenge against her unfaithful husband. The play is set in Corinth some time after Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece, where he met Medea. The play begins with Medea raging at Jason for arranging to marry Glauce, the daughter of Creon (king of Corinth). The nurse, overhearing Medea’s grief, fears what she might do to herself or her children.
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Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2015
Copyright © 2015 Sovereign Classic
NURSE OF MEDEAATTENDANT ON HER CHILDRENMEDEACHORUS OF CORINTHIAN WOMENCREON, King of CorinthJASONAEGEUS, King of AthensMESSENGER
Before MEDEA›s house in Corinth, near the palace Of CREON. The NURSE enters from the house.
Ah! Would to Heaven the good ship Argo ne’er had sped its course to the Colchian land through the misty blue Symplegades, nor ever in the glens of Pelion the pine been felled to furnish with oars the chieftain’s hands, who went to fetch the golden fleece for Pelias; for then would my own mistress Medea never have sailed to the turrets of Iolcos, her soul with love for Jason smitten, nor would she have beguiled the daughters of Pelias to slay their father and come to live here in the land of Corinth with her husband and children, where her exile found favour with the citizens to whose land she had come, and in all things of her own accord was she at one with Jason, the greatest safeguard this when wife and husband do agree; but now their love is all turned to hate, and tenderest ties are weak. For Jason hath betrayed his own children and my mistress dear for the love of a royal bride, for he hath wedded the daughter of Creon, lord of this land. While Medea, his hapless wife, thus scorned, appeals to the oaths he swore, recalls the strong pledge his right hand gave, and bids heaven be witness what requital she is finding from Jason. And here shelies fasting, yielding her body to her grief, wasting away in tears ever since she learnt that she was wronged by her husband, never lifting her eye nor raising her face from off the ground; and she lends as deaf an ear to her friend’s warning as if she were a rock or ocean billow, save when she turns her snow-white neck aside and softly to herself bemoans her father dear, her country and her home, which she gave up to come hither with the man who now holds her in dishonour. She, poor lady, hath by sad experience learnt how good a thing it is never to quit one’s native land. And she hates her children now and feels no joy at seeing them; I fearshe may contrive some untoward scheme; for her mood is dangerous nor will she brook her cruel treatment; full well I know her, and I much do dread that she will plunge the keen sword through their hearts, stealing without a word into the chamber where their marriage couch is spread, or else that she will slay the prince and bridegroom too, and so find some calamity still more grievous than the present; for dreadful is her wrath; verily the man that doth incur her hate will have no easy task to raise o’er hera song of triumph. Lo! where her sons come hither from their childish sports; little they reck of their mother’s woes, for the soul of the young is no friend to sorrow.
The ATTENDANT leads in MEDEA’S children.
Why dost thou, so long my lady’s own handmaid, stand here at the gate alone, loudly lamenting to thyself the piteous tale? how comes it that Medea will have thee leave her to herself?
Old man, attendant on the sons of Jason, our masters’ fortunes when they go awry make good slaves grieve and touch their hearts. Oh! have come to such a pitch of grief that there stole a yearning wish upon me to come forth hither and proclaim to heaven and earth my mistress’s hard fate.
What! has not the poor lady ceased yet from her lamentation?
Would I were as thou art! the mischief is but now beginning; it has not reached its climax yet.
O foolish one, if I may call my mistress such a name; how little she recks of evils yet more recent!
What mean’st, old man? grudge not to tell me.
‘Tis naught; I do repent me even of the words I have spoken.
Nay, by thy beard I conjure thee, hide it not from thy fellow-slave; will be silent, if need be, on that text.
I heard one say, pretending not to listen as I approached the place where our greybeards sit playing draughts near Pirene’s sacred spring, that Creon, the ruler of this land, is bent on driving these children and their mother from the boundaries of Corinth; but I know not whether the news is to be relied upon, and would fain it were not.
What! will Jason brook such treatment of his sons, even though he be at variance with their mother?
Old ties give way to new; he bears no longer any love to this family.
Undone, it seems, are we, if to old woes fresh ones we add, ere we have drained the former to the dregs.
Hold thou thy peace, say not a word of this; ‘tis no time for our mistress to learn hereof.
O children, do ye hear how your father feels towards you? Perdition catch him, but no he is my master still; yet is he proved a very traitor to his nearest and dearest.
And who ‘mongst men is not? Art learning only now, that every single man cares for himself more than for his neighbour, some from honest motives, others for mere gain’s sake? seeing that to indulge his passion their father has ceased to love these children.
Go, children, within the house; all will be well. Do thou keep them as far away as may be, and bring them not near their mother in her evil hour. For ere this have I seen her eyeing them savagely, as though she were minded to do them some hurt, and well I know she will not cease from her fury till she have pounced on some victim. At least may she turn her hand against her foes, and not against her friends.
MEDEA chanting within
Ah, me! a wretched suffering woman I! O would that I could die!
‘Tis as I said, my dear children; wild fancies stir your mother’s heart, wild fury goads her on. Into the house without delay, come not near her eye, approach her not, beware her savage mood, the fell tempest of her reckless heart. In, in with what speed ye may. For ‘tis plain she will soon redouble her fury; that cry is but the herald of the gathering storm-cloud whose lightning soon will flash; what will her proud restless soul, in the anguish of despair, be guilty of?
The ATTENDANT takes the children into the house. MEDEA (chanting within
Ah, me! the agony I have suffered, deep enough to call for these laments! Curse you and your father too, ye children damned, sons of a doomed mother! Ruin seize the whole family!
Ah me! ah me! the pity of it! Why, pray, do thy children share their father’s crime? Why hatest thou them? Woe is you, poor children, how do I grieve for you lest ye suffer some outrage! Strange are the tempers of princes, and maybe because they seldom have to obey, and mostly lord it over others, change they their moods with difficulty. ‘Tis better then to have been trained to live on equal terms. Be it mine to reach old age, not in proud pomp, but in security! Moderation wins the day first as a better word formen to use, and likewise it is far the best course for them to pursue; but greatness that doth o’erreach itself, brings no blessing to mortal men; but pays a penalty of greater ruin whenever fortune is wroth with a family.
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