We love Medea.
Three minutes left in Socratic seminar discussion with a class of seniors to wrap up our reading of Euripides’ Greek tragedy Medea.
We love Medea. The translation we use is very modern. At one point Medea refers to Jason’s new bride as a blonde playmate and suggests that she’s probably waiting for him in bed. Jason calls her a bitch; it’s awesome. With student readers who are willing to give voice to the angry couple, it’s tragic, hilarious and highly entertaining. I also hand the unhappy couple foam swords to wave at each other; it helps.
Additionally, this play is extremely easy to link to discussions of themes in pop culture. The first 20- 28 minutes of Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman (which students are familiar with and adore) borrow heavily from the back story of Jason and Medea. Helen the trophy wife has given up everything- her family, her dreams- to be with Charles and function as the model wife. In the play, Medea betrays her family, kills her brother and commits a few other atrocities along the way just to protect Jason and travel with him back to Corinth to be his perfect wife. In both cases, the wives who have built their identities around their husbands’ positions and reputations are thrown over for younger models of themselves. In the movie, Perry’s grandmother character Madea drives Helen to an over the top revenge. In the play, Medea doesn’t need anybody’s grandma to get her going.
During the discussion I’ve accused them of being lazy for categorizing actions that they don’t understand as simply “crazy.” It’s a cop out. She’s crazy, end of story. Fortunately, one senior established that someone who is crazy does not know the difference between right and wrong, but Medea clearly struggles with her decisions. She knows that what she is going to do is horrible. She’s not crazy when she kills four people, she’s just highly motivated by revenge and has made a poor decision. You can’t be crazy every time you make a bad choice. Duh.
So we’ve got three minutes left and I’ve already chastised them once about using their “feelings” instead of the text. Sweet baby Jesus bless the student who kept pulling out the play and referring to specific quotes to correct her classmates who kept “feeling” stuff and saying, “Back in those days.” Three minutes and we’re back to feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellliiinnnngggsss and whether Jason really wanted Medea to stay in town while he cavorted with Wife #2.
Me:(standing up and slapping down my notes) “As long as we’re talking about feelings, I feel that Jason would have married the blonde bimbo then sent a Greek messenger to bootycall Medea at least once a week because she was probably a freak!”
They’re seniors, they deserve these moments.