Women's life in Greece

Women in a man's world

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MedeaFrom Euripides, Medea 214 - 250 :

No need to talk about me behind my back, ladies: I've come to face you. Some people are snobs, no doubt about it - some only in private, but often quite brazenly. But others are labelled stuck-up just because they keep themselves to themselves - it's so unfair. No one looks beyond the stereotype - they don't know you, but one look is enough for them to know they hate you. What did I ever do to them?

A foreigner like me tries to fit in, obviously. Even the locals must make some effort to conform - I don't object to this. But deportation? This sentence comes out of the blue - I am shattered. My life is finished, sisters, - life without joy is living death. My husband was my life - he knows he was. He's proved himself the lowest man alive.

Women would be better off as cattle, than as we are - a subspecies of the human race. First - at great expense - we buy ourselves a husband - what is a dowry unless a downpayment on marriage? - but then he owns us, especially our bodies! Thus two wrongs make a worse wrong. And secondly, the big question - will the man we get be all right, or a total write-off? We can't get rid of him, it's not respectable; we can't fight him off, it's not possible. Someone like me, not trained up in your culture, a stranger to your customs and traditions, needs magic powers to keep a husband sweet in bed. And if our husband is not violent, and endures the burden of marriage to us patiently - we are the envy of our friends! If anything else - death would be a better fate. If a man is bored by the company at home, he can go out and find a welcome elsewhere. A woman has only one source of comfort. Men say we live a life of ease at home all day, while they go off to war. They do not understand. Personally I'd rather face the battleline three times than go through childbirth once.

Medea is talking to her friends, local women of Corinth. She has just heard that her husband, Jason (for whom she'd given up everything) is (a) divorcing her and (b) going to marry the daughter of the king of Corinth to ensure that his own future is secure. Also she is to be expelled from Corinth because the king "doesn't trust her".

More on Euripides play here, including the Medea Game and a Reading Guide