Medea was the daughter of a king of Colchis, a land of mystery and magic. According to Symonde she “unfolded like some poisonous flower, gorgeous to look upon, with flaunting petals and intoxicating scent, but deadly”. In the play Medea, she exhibits a deep passion for revenge, but she is not considered to be a symbol of violence and fury. Euripides has studied human character and showed a human character may be monstrous and evil, but it is not without human touch. Medea kills her children to teach Jason a formidable lesson but we cannot forget that she has been wronged deeply. She has loved too well, but not wisely. The human feeling is never lost sight of in the characters of Euripides.
Aristotle has made it clear that the action of the tragedy should be solemn, grave and noble. The hero or the heroine towers above other characters as he or she possesses nobler virtues. But he or she possesses a fatal flaw which brings about his or her doom. The very purpose of the tragedy is to rouse pity and fear. Pity is roused by the misfortune of one like ourselves. It is the fatal flaw or error of judgement which paves the path of the destruction of the heroine.
There are certain traits to be considered. The heroes or heroines should be all good, that is, they should possess ethical goodness, but this goodness does not mean perfection because a perfectly blameless character does not rouse pity and fear. Let us consider the character of Medea. Though a sorceress, Medea was a symbol of maiden purity. Her love for Jason subordinated everything. Her betrayal her father’s trust, killed her own brother and butchered Pelias to death. She put Jason at the top of prosperity. Jason was grateful to his wife once upon a time. But once he came across Glauce he fell in her love deeply and married her and threw away his first love to the four winds. Jason became oblivious of the past.
Medea was infuriated and determined to take revenge for the betrayal and treachery. She was neither too good, nor too bad. Her cruelty was diabolical and she nursed the spirit of revenge. She killed the children, Glauce and Creon by some artful measures. Her only aim was to teach Jason a lesson and subject him to lifelong desolation and suffering.
The second trait of the tragic character is that it should be appropriate. A woman should behave like a woman and a man like a man. Medea was a murderer but she retained her womanliness. She was essentially a passionate woman. After Jason was gone, she was torn in a conflict between a mother’s love and the pride of an injured woman.
The third feature of the tragic hero or heroine should be that it would be lifelike. It would appear real. Everything about Medea has a touch of reality. Her jealousy, her passion, her vindictiveness are convincing out and out. When disappointed in love that loving woman can sacrifice everything. Medea killed Glauce and Creon, her own sons to avenge the betrayal of her husband and put him to lifelong desolation and suffering.
Another characteristic of the tragic hero or heroine is that it should be consistent. This type of character should develop according to certain principles. Aristotle calls this consistency probability and necessity. Medea’s cruelty is nothing new. She was violent and passionate. She killed her brother and betrayed her father. Her passion remains unbridled forever. Thus may be called her fatal flaw. All these make her a tragic character- a tragic heroine.