Medea and Traditional Roles of Women in Ancient Greece

             The Greek tragedy, "Medea," by Euripides, is the tale of a woman scorned and her tactful revenge. During the era in which Medea takes place, society often placed women into submissive roles. However, the play Medea challenges the conventional customs of Greece. Euripides displays the nonconformity and rebelliousness of Medea as a means of criticizing the treatment of women in ancient Greece.
             Upon reading Euripides' Medea, one finds that Medea has many untraditional characteristics for a woman. Medea's headstrong and opinionated nature is one aspect of her nonconformity to traditional Greek standards. Traditionally, women could only be incorporated into two roles: mothers and wives, nothing more- nothing less. Medea defies perceptions of gender by exhibiting both male and female characteristics. Her ability to separate herself from her "womanly" emotions at times and perform acts that society does not see women capable of doing, further prove her ability to adapt to different situations. Upon marriage, women no longer had any control over their property. Therefore, any property those women possessed immediately had to be turned over to their husbands. She had no rights to wander about the town, without a just cause. Any respectable woman would not be seen in public. Greek women had virtually no political rights of any kind. Greek women had to be subject to control by Greek men at all stages of their lives. Since men spent most of their time away from their homes, women dominated Greek home life. The duties of a wife included raising the children and making the families clothes. She supervised the daily running of the household. In a totally slave based economy, plentiful numbers of female slaves did menial tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Only in the poorest homes did the wife do these duties by herself. Visiting with a female neighbor was really the only appropriate time for the woman to leave her indoor duties.

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