Portraits of Medea in Portugal During the 20th and 21st Centuries 9004372903, 9789004372900

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Portraits of Medea in Portugal During the 20th and 21st Centuries
 9004372903, 9789004372900

Table of contents :
Contents......Page 5
Abbreviations......Page 7
Contributors......Page 8
Introduction......Page 11
Part 1 Main Sources......Page 19
1 Euripides’ Medea in Context......Page 21
2 Medea: the Bewitched Witch in Apollonius of Rhodes......Page 31
3 Versions of Medea in Classical Latin......Page 41
4 Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva: Comedy Version of a Tragic Theme (18th Century)......Page 55
5 In Search of Lost Identity: Jean Anouilh’s Medea......Page 75
6 The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries......Page 97
Part 2 Portuguese Versions of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries......Page 121
7 Medea as an Aesthetic and Ethical Space in Fiama’s Work......Page 123
8 A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio, Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes)......Page 133
9 Hélia Correia’s A de Cólquida (The Woman from Colchis)......Page 154
10 Language, Barbarism, and Civilization: Hélia Correia’s Desmesura (Excess)
......Page 168
11 Measure in Hélia Correia’s Desmesura: an Exercise in Recreating Classical Rhythm......Page 194
12 Medea in the Society of Entertainment: a Reading of Mário Cláudio’s Medeia......Page 210
13 Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake)......Page 226
14 The Art of Translating a Classic: Author’s and Translator’s Marks......Page 243
Conclusion......Page 268
Appendix: a Chronology of Recreations, Editions, and Performances......Page 273
Bibliography......Page 280
Index Locorum......Page 299
Index of Modern Authors......Page 305
Index of Subjects......Page 313

Citation preview

Portraits of Medea in Portugal during the 20th and 21st Centuries

Metaforms Studies in the Reception of Classical Antiquity

Editors-in-Chief Almut-Barbara Renger (Freie Universität Berlin) Jon Solomon (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) John T. Hamilton (Harvard University) Editorial Board Kyriakos Demetriou (University of Cyprus) Constanze Güthenke (Oxford University) Miriam Leonard (University College London) Mira Seo (Yale-nus College)

volume 14

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/srca

Portraits of Medea in Portugal during the 20th and 21st Centuries Edited by

Andrés Pociña Aurora López Carlos Morais Maria de Fátima Silva Patrick J. Finglass


Cover Illustration: Euripides, Medea – performed in Lisbon, Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, May–June 2006. Directed by Fernanda Lapa. Medea (Manuela de Freitas), Jason (João Grosso). Author of the photograph: Margarida Maria Oliveira Dias (CC-07349324). We are deeply grateful to Margarida Dias and the National Theatre D. Maria II for their generous permission to use this image. The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available online at http://catalog.loc.gov

Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/brill-typeface. ISSN 2212-9405 ISBN 978-90-04-37290-0 (hardback) ISBN 978-90-04-38339-5 (e-book) Copyright 2019 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi, Brill Sense, Hotei Publishing, mentis Verlag, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink Verlag. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

Contents Abbreviations vii Contributors viii Introduction 1

Part 1 Main Sources 1 Euripides’ Medea in Context 11 Patrick J. Finglass 2 Medea: the Bewitched Witch in Apollonius of Rhodes 21 Maria do Céu Fialho 3 Versions of Medea in Classical Latin 31 Andrés Pociña and Aurora López 4  Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva: Comedy Version of a Tragic Theme (18th Century) 45 Maria de Fátima Silva 5 In Search of Lost Identity: Jean Anouilh’s Medea 65 Maria de Fátima Silva 6 The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries 87 Rosanna Lauriola

Part 2 Portuguese Versions of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries 7 Medea as an Aesthetic and Ethical Space in Fiama’s Work 113 Ália Rodrigues 8 A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio, Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes) 123 Maria de Fátima Silva



9 Hélia Correia’s A de Cólquida (The Woman from Colchis) 144 Maria António Hörster and Maria de Fátima Silva 10 Language, Barbarism, and Civilization: Hélia Correia’s Desmesura (Excess) 158 Maria de Fátima Silva 11 Measure in Hélia Correia’s Desmesura: an Exercise in Recreating Classical Rhythm 184 Carlos Morais 12 Medea in the Society of Entertainment: a Reading of Mário Cláudio’s Medeia 200 Maria António Hörster and Maria de Fátima Silva 13 Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake) 216 Susana Hora Marques 14 The Art of Translating a Classic: Author’s and Translator’s Marks 233 Maria de Fátima Silva Conclusion 258 Appendix: a Chronology of Recreations, Editions, and Performances 263 Bibliography 270 Index Locorum 289 Index of Modern Authors 295 Index of Subjects 303

Abbreviations Breithaupt M. Breithaupt (ed.), De Parmenisco grammatico (Στοιχεῖα 4; Leipzig and Berlin 1915). EGM R. L. Fowler (ed.), Early Greek Mythography, 2 vols. (Oxford 2000–13). GEF M. L. West (ed.), Greek Epic Fragments from the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC (Loeb Classical Library 497; Cambridge, MA and London 2003).
 TrGF Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta. Vol. I Didascaliae Tragicae, Catalogi Tragicorum et Tragoediarum, Testimonia et Fragmenta Tragicorum Minorum (ed. B. Snell; Göttingen 19711, 19862). Vol. V Euripides, 2 parts (ed. R. Kannicht; 2004). Voigt E.-M. Voigt (ed.), Sappho et Alcaeus. Fragmenta (Amsterdam 1971).

Contributors Ália Rosa Rodrigues earned a PhD in reception studies with the subject “Tragédia e política: João de Castro Osório”, published in 2013. From then her research interests included history of political ideas, namely the history of the concept of lawgiver, constitution making, radical foundings and revolutionary breaks. Among her publications are the article “To be a lawgiver, a more sublimated form of tyranny: Solon and Peisistratus’ expression of power” (in Figure d’Atene nelle opera di Plutarco, Florence, 2013) and “Antigone, Daughter of the d’Annunzian Oedipus. The Oedipus Trilogy (1936) by Castro Osório” (in Portrayals of Antigone in Portugal, Leiden, Brill, 2017). Andrés Pociña Pérez (Lugo, 1947) is Full Professor of Latin Philology at the University of Granada, having been Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters and Director of the Latin Philology Department. He is currently responsible for the Junta de Andalucía HUM 318 Research Group. He teaches Latin literature (undergraduate) and Greco-Latin drama and its continuity in modern theatre (MA). His main areas of research include Latin literature (different genres): the continuity of classical drama; Galician literature; 20th century Greek poetry. Aurora López López (Sarria, Lugo, 1948) is Full Professor of Latin Philology at the University of Granada and Director of the Equality between Women and Men Research Unit. She currently teaches Latin texts (undergraduate), Roman women (MA), and Greco-Latin Drama and its continuity (MA). Her main lines of research include Latin Literature, especially comedy and tragedy; studies on women’s literature and literature on women; classical continuity and tradition, notably in the field of drama. Carlos Morais earned a PhD in Literature (area of specialization: Greek literature) from the University of Aveiro with the thesis O Trímetro Sofocliano: variações sobre um esquema (The Sophoclean Trimeter: Variations on a Scheme), published in 2010 (Lisboa, FCT/FCG). A Professor at the Universidade de Aveiro (Languages and Cultures Department), his main areas of research include Greek literature



and the reception of Classical drama; he has published Máscaras Portuguesas de Antígona (Portuguese Masks of Antigone) (Aveiro 2001), and has several chapters and articles on the Antigone myth in Portuguese and Spanish literature published in international books and journals. Maria António Hörster is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Coimbra. Her PhD thesis (1993), entitled Para uma história da recepção de Rainer Maria Rilke em Portugal (1920–1960) (Contribution to the Reception Story of Rainer Maria Rilke in Portugal (1920–1960)), was published by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian/FCT in 2001. Her main research include comparative literature and translation studies. She is the author of about a hundred publications. Maria do Céu Grácio Zambujo Fialho has been Full Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Coimbra and is coordinator of the Greek studies area of the Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies of the same university. She was scientific coordinator of the Center between 2000 and 2014. Teaching activities, research interests and publications include: classical studies, Greek theatre and its reception, poetics and ethics (Plato and Aristotle), Plutarch, Alexandrian epic, and the Greek novel. She has authored several books and papers and translated into Portuguese Sophocles’ Trachiniae, Oedipus the King, Electra, Oedipus at Colonus, and Plutarch’s Life of Theseus and Life of Alcibiades. Maria de Fátima Sousa e Silva is Full Professor in the Institute of Classical Studies at the University of Coimbra. Her PhD field of research was ancient Greek comedy (Theatre Criti­ cism in Ancient Greek Comedy). She has since been undertaking research in the same area and has published several articles. She has also published translations, with commentaries, of nine comedies by Aristophanes, and a volume with the translation of Menander’s plays and best-preserved fragments. Patrick J. Finglass is Henry Overton Wills Professor of Greek and Head of the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol. He has published editions of Sophocles’, Oedipus the King (2018), Ajax (2011) and Electra (2007), of Stesichorus (2014), and of Pindar’s Pythian Eleven (2007), and has (with Adrian Kelly) co-edited the Cambridge Companion to Sappho (2019) and Stesichorus in Context (2015), all with Cambridge University Press.



Rosanna Lauriola (Ph.D. in Greek and Latin Philology, University of Firenze – Italy), currently Adjunct Assistant Professor at Randolph-Macon College (VA), has taught as a Lecturer, Visiting Professor, and Assistant Professor of Classics in several American Institutions of Higher Education, such as the University of Texas in San Antonio, the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, Marshall University, and the University of Idaho. She has published several papers on Hesiod, Pindar, Sophocles, and Aristophanes both in Italian and in English, and more recently on Classical Reception. Her books include Aristofane serio-comico. Paideia e Geloion. Con una lettura degli Acarnesi (Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2010); Aristofane. Acarnesi (Milano: BUR, 2008); Sofocle. Edipo Re (Milano: Mondadori-Pearson, 2000). She has co-edited Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Euripides (Brill 2015), to which she has also contributed four chapters, on Hippolytus, Medea, Suppliant Women, and Trojan Women. Susana Maria Duarte da Hora Marques Pereira Adjunct Professor in the Institute of Classical Studies, Faculty of Letters, University of Coimbra, belongs to the Center of Classical and Humanistic Studies in the same University and to the project DIAITA. Her PhD thesis (2006), in Greek literature, has the title “Dreams and Visions in Greek tragedy”. She has authored several titles in the areas of Greek literature, reception studies, didactics, neolatin literature, and has translated into Portuguese Strabo’s book on Lusitania.

Introduction 1

The Plastic Quality of an Old Myth

The continuous popularity of the ‘Medea’ theme undoubtedly echoes the persistence with which it was treated, developed, and diversified throughout Antiquity. It is also clear that Euripides’ tragic version has become the stan­ dard, definitively marking the theme with its specific form and interpretation. Thanks to his play, Medea’s experience has become the story of a voluntary, planned filicide as well as the examination of the possible reasons and feelings of a mother who is prepared to kill her own children. This is certainly a deeply emotional subject, and the frequency with which her gesture has repeated it­ self in real life has awakened a fresh interest in the archetypal motif of Medea. However, the Euripidean version of Medea was part of a complex web of multiple readings, and its ancient origin was certified by the Homeric poems themselves. For the poet of Odyssey (12. 69–72), the adventurous journey of the Argonauts to Colchis was older even than the remote Trojan war. This being so, the fact that this mythical journey is depicted, more or less extensively, in the different phases of the development of Greek literature seems only natural. The myth served as a theme for the poetry of the epic cycle, as illustrated by the de­ scriptive title of an anonymous Argonautica and of the Korinthiaka attributed to an obscure Eumelus; it also piqued the interest of lyricists, like Sappho and Pindar, who made references to the story of the Argonauts. And a kind of epic revivalism in Hellenistic times – through the pen of Apollonius of Rhodes – crowned and systematized the different motifs that the story had accumulated during its long cultural journey. As far as drama is concerned, Euripides him­ self was not alone in his preference for Medea; other tragedians also dedicated plays to the myth (Neophron, the younger Euripides, Melanthius, Morsimus, Dicaeogenes, Carcinus II, Theodorides, and Diogenes of Sinope), although time eventually confirmed the particular impact of Euripides’ play. Latin authors also joined Greek antiquity in its interest in Aeetes’ daughter. Again in the forms of tragedy, epic, and elegiac poetry, Latin literature depic­ ted Medea’s extreme passions, violent actions, and dark magic. In Rome, trage­ dy was possibly again the form that produced a reference version of Medea: Seneca’s. However, also in this case, multiple plays had been written before him by great Latin tragedians like Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius, and Lucius Accius. No less famous, and certainly no less influential, was Ovid’s approach to the myth in his elegies, which included innovations that may be considered the result of a comprehensive reception of previous approaches to Medea’s

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_002



saga, both Greek and Latin; the feminine sentimentality of a passionate, be­ trayed wife is a major topic in Heroides XII, while in Metamorphoses VII the poet chooses an epic ambience for his rewriting of the Argonauts’ adventure in Colchis; here Medea is the magician who, with the potions she concocts, be­ comes Jason’s indispensable accomplice and a key element in his success. And lastly, in Rome, the Colchian adventure would inspire Gaius Valerius Flaccus’ epic poem Argonautica. In sum, in their different ways, all the Latin rewriting would add innovative elements to the Greek tradition, notably, for us, that of Euripides. However, the Roman Medea that had a definite impact on the mod­ ern reception of the myth was principally Seneca’s tragedy, both in itself and associated with the old Euripidean original. Due to the influence of both, the Corinthian episode, with all the sentimentality involving the now conflicted couple, tended to become the core of the princess of Colchis’ story. Within this heterogeneous development, the myth eventually branched out into well-defined topics, situated in different geographies, in line with one of the heroine’s facets: her ‘stateless’ condition. These topics include: the Colchian adventures, mostly associated with the epic aspect of the Argonauts’ quest for the Golden Fleece; the adventures in Corinth, where barbarian Medea is the focus of an unfortunate story of love, treason, and motherhood; and the ad­ ventures in Athens, where the Colchian princess completes her long journey of exile, which is also a long journey of violence and crime. New connotations emerge and are consolidated with each new setting and with the different motifs emphasized in each successive treatment of the story. First, civilizational motivations, aiming to affirm the worth of Greek heroes in opposition to the barbarians, and the heroes’ victory over the monsters who, in remote lands, still kept secrets which only ancestral aretē and timē could expose to the civilized world. In Corinth, civilizational issues became politi­ cal arguments, since this was the territory of which the Argonaut dreamt of becoming the acknowledged ruler and where Medea killed Creon without hesitation, taking her fearless revenge on the king for his contempt of her as a foreigner. Athens, the city that gave shelter to Medea, the supplicant criminal, also had a role within this politicized development of the myth as an image of the ‘ideal city’, a polis respectful of the value of philia. And, lastly, the elements present in all the versions of the story, though variously emphasized: the sac­ redness that naturally surrounds the Sun’s granddaughter, and the passions of the feminine and barbarian soul of Medea, the poison maker. It is worth tracing the reasons for the surprising persistence, up to the present, of the tragic features of a woman that were the object of a tragedy per­ formed in Athens in 431 BC, almost two thousand and five hundred years ago. It seems obvious that the story of our protagonist includes different elements



which have the ability to generate interest and to move people in so many dif­ ferent times and places. The reason can be found in the two original dramas, Euripides’ Greek play and Seneca’s Latin tragedy. Both plays dealt in depth with multiple feelings, all fundamental to human experience, and this gives the subject an extraordinary modernity. Medea’s behavior is determined by strong feelings of love and deception, jealousy, betrayal, injustice, hate, pride, anger, revenge, and punishment. The versions that followed elaborate on these sentiments, which can be as relevant in the present as they were in Euripides’ and in Seneca’s time. Besides the different passions that come into play in these tragedies, an ele­ment that unfailingly brings Medea to the present is the fact that she is a woman. She has a strong, vibrant soul, which endows her with exceptional grandeur when confronted with the limitations imposed by her condition as a member of the ‘second’ sex. And that is the reason why she has become a para­ digm for endless discussions on women, ‘the feminine’, and their role. Marginalized, a victim of injustice as a woman, a wife, and a mother, in Corinth Medea was also a foreigner, a barbarian. Being a foreigner was a no less problematic phenomenon than it is in today’s civilized, educated, and wealthy Europe. That is why the ancient Medea, coming to Corinth from the remoteness of Colchis, is unfortunately still an absolutely relevant and topical character. As centuries went by, the myth experienced the same proliferation it had undergone in Greek-Roman antiquity, gaining a truly universal projection. New rewritings were produced in significant numbers, varieties, and geo­ graphical locations, and Medea brought forth an inexhaustible wealth of ‘other Medeas’, to which numerous international studies have done full jus­ tice: Clauss, Johnston, Medea. Essays on Medea in Myth, Literature, Philosophy, and Art, 1997; Hall, Macintosh, Taplin, Medea in Performance 1500–2000, 2000; Rubino, Medea Contemporanea, 2000; López, Pociña, Medeas. Versiones de un mito desde Grecia hasta hoy. I–II, 2002; Pociña, López, Otras Medeas. Nuevas aportaciones al estudio literario de Medea, 2007; De Martino, Medea: teatro e comunicazione, 2006; Bartel, Unbinding Medea: Interdisciplinarity Approach to a Classical Myth from Antiquity to the 21st. Century, 2010; Foley, Reimagining Greek Tragedy on the American Stage, 2012; Lauriola, Demetriou, Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Euripides, 2015. For some years, a number of essays have also been written on the subject in Portugal; besides numerous articles focusing on the hermeneutics of an­ cient texts or on examples of the reception of Medea, the collection Actas do Colóquio Medeia no Drama Antigo e Moderno (Proceedings of the Colloquium Medea in Ancient and Modern Drama), 1991, and the book Sob o signo de



Medeia (Under the Sign of Medea), 2006, are both noteworthy. The studies in­ cluded in the present volume add to and systematize the discussion on the reception of the ancient myth of Medea in Portuguese drama. 2

Presentation of the Volume

In the 20th and the 21st centuries, the chronological space considered in this book, the theme of Medea in Portuguese literature did not include an epic component, being mostly approached in the form of drama. As a rule, the central episode in the Portuguese rewritings in the last two centuries is the one that takes place in Corinth, i.e., the break between Medea and Jason’s and Medea’s filicidal retaliation. Besides the complex play of emotions that pro­ vides this episode with an essence of humanity, the issue of gender was key in determining the interest that this story raised in a society which was itself in search of social renovation, after deep political transformations – in a some­ what abrupt transition between dictatorship and democracy, in 1974 – that generated instability and established a requirement to find alternative rules of social intercourse in the path towards a new Portugal. However, how different authors approached this episode necessarily varies according to their different sensitivities and perspectives. As a result, the rea­ sons for the return of the Medea theme are varied. First, the enthusiasm for the great classical plots on the part of some authors, particularly Hélia Correia. This is visible in her literary production, which includes plays inspired by the myths of Antigone, Helen, and the women of Troy, not to mention Medea, which illustrate the author’s persistent return to the old Greek models. The challenge to reinterpret and remodel the Classics is therefore the main motiva­ tion behind these Portuguese rewritings. However, the predominant and most visible topics in these new Medeas clearly include gender issues, the traditional subservient position of women vis-à-vis their male competitors, the increasingly stronger affirmation of fe­ male personality, the tumult of emotions involved in marriage, and the trigger­ ing of extreme vindictive reactions. This does not necessarily mean, however, that there is a contradiction between this specific approach and a more or less generalized tendency in the reception of the myth. Last, though not least, the motif of the foreign woman and the social dis­ ruptions that she caused has also influenced contemporary rewritings. On the one hand, it serves as an incentive to reflect on xenophobia and the malad­ justment and vulnerability which different territories and, especially, different social and linguistic codes generate in human behavior. But in symbolic terms,



the topic of ‘the other’ can also express the lack of understanding that different groups of people experience, generationally or culturally, within the same so­ ciety, as if the growing lack of understanding between new and young, parents and children was equivalent to a political boundary. In her rewritings, Fiama Pais Brandão (1985, 1998) and Eduarda Dionísio (1992) do not stray too far from the female portrait and the devastating con­ sequences of passion, as enhanced by Euripides (and Seneca). The major dif­ ference between these Portuguese texts and their ancient model, notably the Euripidean model, is their form. Brandão (chapter 6) returns to the myth of Medea twice, in different genres: first in dramatic form – Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw Epidaurus) – and later in her novel Sob o Olhar de Medeia (Under the Gaze of Medea). These two perspec­ tives are different not only as regards literary genre but also in their approach to the myth; in Ália Rodrigues’ words (see below), “while the play shows Medea as the Euripidean dramatic character, ‘the classical woman who killed her own children’ as well as the eternal icon of feminine otherness, the novel explores the shamanic power of Medea’s gaze from an ethical point of view”. In Eu vi o Epidauro, Medea is diachronically placed within the framework of the great theatre of the world, of which Euripides, Shakespeare, and Wagner are major voices, with Epidaurus as a model setting. That is why Medea’s interlocutors in this play are not just the characters of the old myth, but also those whom the diachronicity of the great theatre gave her: Juliet and Brünhilde, besides their male partners, Romeo and Siegfried. The novel Sob o Olhar de Medeia (Under the Gaze of Medea) presents an evaluation of Medea’s experience not by her­ self but by a woman reader who had been introduced to the myth at school and is now, years later, able to reassess the impact that her reading of the text had on her life and her self. The Medea which her memory had preserved is the sorceress, a kind of chthonic goddess whose magic gaze possessed the power to transform reality. Following the model used by Spanish author María Zambrano in the ‘Antigone’ case, Eduarda Dionísio’s (chapter 7) Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes) is structured as a series of monologues through which Medea interacts at a distance with Jason, with herself, and with the audience; the subject of that interaction is love and death. Telling the story of the two protagonists, the theme of passion – an extreme, betrayed passion – is key, overshadowing the importance of all the other traditional characters and circumstances. This volume dedicates three chapters (8–10) to the works by Hélia Correia that were inspired by Medea. The first two are a close analysis of two of her texts which, between them, present a kind of agon of opposite arguments



regarding the adoption of the myth. First, an ‘essay’ titled A de Cólquida (The Woman from Colchis) (2002), one of a set of four short texts under the gen­ eral title Apodera-te de mim (Take Possession of Me), is part of Correia’s assess­ ment of the development of the female condition since the ancient Minoan times. Within the framework of Greek history and culture, which is to say, a context that symbolizes the first steps of our civilization, the history of women and the conditions that govern their lives exhibit a well-defined development. Condemned by nature to a secondary role, throughout history women have waged a relentless war for the affirmation of their talent and intelligence. However, despite their many qualities and abilities, there seems to be a weak spot in their life: sentimentality, expressed through the fire of passion, that transforms their strength into weakness. Medea and Penthesilea are significant instances of this: both are powerful women who are able to match their male opponents but whom love causes to surrender to the weakness of their condi­ tion. Medea is the barbarian woman who relinquishes her natural vitality and the high status she enjoyed in her motherland to come to Greece and become just another forgotten wife and a mother of two weak, sickly boys, who are, like herself, stateless and maladjusted; in other words, a passive, complacent being, visited by misfortune and whom the crimes usually attributed to her do not fit. Originating from a tradition not chosen by Euripides, this is also the ver­ sion which Correia discards, in order to, some years later, portray the vibrant violence of another Medea, the aggrieved, vengeful barbarian, in a play titled Desmesura (Excess) (2006). In this version, Medea relates to other women in Corinth, Greek or foreigners like her, her royal past in Colchis and difficult present in Corinth, and through their confrontations Hélia Correia signifies different ways of living, or tolerating, exile. The important element in this text is the continuously unsuccessful search for a word, the ‘right’ word, to describe the turmoil of feelings that trouble the human soul. Contrary to what had hap­ pened in two other texts by Hélia Correia – Perdição. Exercício sobre Antígona (Perdition. An Exercise on Antigone), 1991; and Rancor. Exercício sobre Helena (Rancor. An Exercise on Helen), 2000 –, which, together with Desmesura, form a trilogy of dramatic mythographies on classical subjects, written “in the feminine”, this play is marked by specific rhythmic choices by way of which the author recreates the cadence of both the speeches and the songs of Euripides’ drama. This specific topic of literary aesthetics is discussed and analyzed by Carlos Morais in chapter 10. Carlos Jorge Pessoa (1997–1998) and Mário Cláudio (2007) follow the in­ escapable Medea models in a ‘freer’ and more ‘symbolic’ manner, adapting it to their reading of a contemporary, domestic, social and political reality. Curiously enough, in both their texts, an artistic framework – the theatre or



the cinema – is the filter through which the old story is reproduced and its abil­ ity to express feelings and emotions that may still have a deep impact on new audiences is tested. These are definitely the two rewrites of the Medea theme that are the most committed to portraying their contemporary Portuguese so­ ciety and its configuration. Carlos Jorge Pessoa (chapter 11) returns to the myth, including Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake) in a wider sequence of plays, which he titled Pentateuco – Manual de sobrevivência para o ano 2000 (Pentateuch – A Survival Manual for the Year 2000). This collection of texts is generally meant to reflect on the values and behaviors that underpin what might be called ‘modern western culture’. “A fé, a Europa, Portugal, a família, o futuro” (faith, Europe, Portugal, family, the future) are the topics used to por­ tray Portugal’s own identity as well as the wider bloc whose destiny it inevita­ bly shares. The title Escrita da água suggests the fluidity of time, which creates affinities and dissimilarities between human experiences in their different stages of civilization. The myth of Medea becomes a pretext for that reflection, disconnected as it is from the pattern set by Euripides to which it nevertheless alludes. Nonetheless, it remains generally opportune for a reflection on a cri­ sis of values, broken affections, family ties, power, love, and death. Within the contemporary setting of a new story – in which the father is the only survivor, as well as the living, painful memory of a shattered family, whose mother died during a surgery, and the two children drowned in the swimming pool of a hotel where they were trying to relieve the pain of losing their parent – Jason and Medea are just a distant suggestion that helps articulate the chaos of both family and society in our times. Aware of the fact that different times have their own myths, or at least their specific reading of the myths they inherit, Mário Cláudio (chapter 12) com­ poses his Medea as a dialogue between contrasting times and cultural con­ texts. The protagonist is a frustrated actress who had dreamed her whole life of performing Euripides’ Medea, Jason’s wife being the role that she had always aspired to play. However, even if her stage dream did not come true, because the government authorities responsible for culture and theatre never provided her with the means to materialize it, she had the opportunity of playing her dream role in ‘real’ life. But only in her daily life does this woman coincide with Medea, in her story as a betrayed wife, a mother who ‘castrates’ her weak, up­ rooted children who live in a world that is so distant from the sound values of a true, active and participatory polis; or also in her role as a creature that gradu­ ally becomes ‘stateless’, as a result of the lack of understanding that surrounds her, both as regards her personal wishes and expectations, and her dream of reviving the paradigmatic grandeur of classical Greek tragedy in 20th-century



Portugal. However, she lacks the extreme, violent energy that transformed tra­ ditional Medea into a revengeful murderer; that is why, despite being a victim, this ‘Medeia portuguesa’ (Portuguese Medea), who is incapable of killing, is the one who dies, while the noisy sledgehammers relentlessly demolish the theatre boards. And lastly, the closing chapter (13) focuses on the subject of ‘translation’ as a primordial element facilitating the connection between new readers or audiences and classical texts. Again, Euripides’ play – the most influential an­ cient source for Portuguese authors – is at the core of this analysis. Besides the more ‘scholarly’ version – by Maria Helena da Rocha Pereira – which has provided access to the Euripidean original for many generations of students, the Portuguese audience was given a poetic translation produced by one of the major names of contemporary Portuguese poetry, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, also a trained Classicist. If, on the one hand, this reflection asks in­ evitable questions pertaining to the translation of a classic, on the other hand it emphasizes how, without committing blatant ‘infidelities’, Andresen’s text is nonetheless able to express her own literary taste and a poetic aesthetics in which Greece is the source of memorable pages. In conclusion, in its Portuguese reception, as in the rest of the world, the story of Medea is far more than a tale about the mere misfortunes of a woman who is abandoned by her husband, condemned to exile, deprived of her chil­ dren, and who exacts her terrible revenge by murdering her sons. From its first versions, it has always been much more than a mere interesting plot, much more than a story of love and disenchantment, of betrayal, anger, and revenge. This is precisely what makes it a classic, that is, topical, contemporary, and as much alive today as it has been in the past and will no doubt continue to be in the future. After all, despite the passing of time, perhaps human beings do not change that much! Andrés Pociña Aurora López Carlos Morais Maria de Fátima Silva Patrick J. Finglass

part 1 Main Sources

chapter 1

Euripides’ Medea in Context Patrick J. Finglass A slave-woman standing alone on the stage opens the play.1 From her the audience learns the tragic situation: having helped Jason gain the Golden Fleece, Medea, together with her children, has been abandoned by him in favour of a Corinthian princess. Another slave now enters, bringing Medea’s children and further bad news: Creon, king of Corinth, is intending to send Medea and her children into exile. Such is the beginning of Euripides’ Medea. The chorus of Corinthian women arrive, having heard of Medea’s distress. Her cries are heard from inside the house; soon she comes out and addresses the chorus in more moderate tones. She laments the lot of women before focusing on her particular misery as a defenceless female in an alien society. After the chorus pledge their support, Creon enters, ordering Medea to leave Corinth immediately with her children. He expresses his fear of her; nevertheless, when she abjectly begs permission to remain just one more day, he eventually concedes, despite strong misgivings. When he is gone, she reveals her intention to kill him, his daughter, and his new son-in-law – her own former husband, Jason. The choral song that follows describes how honour is now coming to the race of women, and commiserates with Medea on how appallingly she has been treated since coming to Greece. Jason now arrives, criticising Medea for her temper, but offering to assist her and the children before they go into exile. Medea’s response is angry and passionate: Jason has abandoned her, despite everything that she has done for him, despite the children that she has given him, despite her having no remaining source of help. Jason counters by claiming that her assistance should rather be credited to Aphrodite and Eros, and by listing the benefits that Medea now enjoys, thanks to him: she lives in Greece, not among barbarians, and thus in a civilised country where she can acquire a reputation for her intelligence. He claims that his marriage to the Corinthian princess is the best way to secure 1  The standard Greek text is Diggle (1984) 93–155, reprinted with an English translation in Mossman (2011) 82–207; see also the text and translation of Kovacs (1994). Commentaries, all with helpful introductions, can be found in Page (1938), Mastronarde (2002), Mossman (2011); the first two also offer their own Greek text. But despite its popularity, Medea has not yet received a modern editio maior, unlike many other Euripidean plays.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_003



financial and political security for his family. The chorus and Medea are unconvinced, the latter noting that if Jason was speaking the truth, he would have informed her of his intentions in advance. The pair continue to argue until Jason departs, after which the chorus sing of the power of Aphrodite and the misery of losing one’s homeland. The next entrance is a surprise: Aegeus, king of Athens, on his way from consulting the oracle at Delphi to Troezen to ask for advice from his friend Pittheus of Troezen. Seeing an opportunity, Medea persuades him to swear an oath that he will give her refuge once she has gone into exile. When he has gone, Medea expresses her joy, and describes how she will send her children with gifts to Jason’s new bride – gifts that will kill her if she touches them. But in a new twist, she announces that she will also kill her own children, to wipe out Jason’s house altogether. The chorus fail to persuade her to abandon this purpose, before singing in praise of Athens, a song that turns into an impassioned address to Medea not to kill her offspring. Jason now returns in response to Medea’s request. She expresses regret for her former words, and sends her children with him to bring gifts to his new bride – though not before hugging them tearfully, as she contemplates the subsequent terrible stage of her plan. The chorus lament her decision to kill her children, before the Tutor arrives back with them, announcing that her gifts have been warmly received; he is surprised to see Medea react with deep distress to this apparently good news, and departs. Embracing the children, Medea now delivers a great monologue, expressing how inwardly torn she is over the deed which she is about to commit. After she brings them inside, the chorus sing of the woes of women with children. Medea returns on stage, encountering a Messenger who comes with news of the deaths of Jason’s new bride and of Creon as a consequence of the gifts sent by Medea, deaths narrated in excruciating detail. Once the Messenger has gone, Medea announces her continuing determination to kill her children, and departs back inside. The chorus’s song calling on the Sun to behold what is happening is succeeded by the cries of the children as they are murdered; the chorus then continue to sing, citing Ino as a mythical child-killer parallel to Medea herself. The final scene begins with the entrance of Jason, appalled at the murder of his new wife and father-in-law. With difficulty, the chorus bring themselves to announce to him a further, far more intense, grief: the death of his children. He attempts to enter the house to revenge himself on Medea, but the doors are locked; suddenly Medea appears on a winged chariot above the house. No longer grieving, but defiant, she blames Jason for her children’s deaths, and declares that she will bury them in the sanctuary of Hera Akraia near Corinth,


Euripides ’ Medea in Context

before seeking sanctuary in Athens. The despairing Jason is left alone on stage as she departs.

Today Medea is one of Euripides’ most popular plays among audiences and readers alike. When it was first performed at Athens, on the south side of the Acropolis, at the spring-time festival of the Dionysia, in 431 bc, the first play in its tetralogy (the other plays being Dictys, Philoctetes, and the satyr-play Reapers or Theristae, all of which are lost), it was less successful; Euripides finished third (that is, last), behind Euphorion, Aeschylus’ son, who came first, and Sophocles, who was second. It is tempting to ascribe this defeat to the audience’s distaste at the play’s controversial subject-matter: the deliberate murder of two children by their mother. Yet the curious way in which votes were tallied meant that a tetralogy popular with the judges might nevertheless finish last;2 and there was anyway no guarantee that the judges’ preferences would correspond to those of the audience. Moreover, if the tetralogy was genuinely unsuccessful, that might have been the fault of one or more of the other plays; and Euripides in general was not fortunate in this competition, winning only four times during his lifetime, and once posthumously.3 Frustratingly, then, we have no reliable data about the reaction of that first audience for what today is regarded as a supremely important and influential work of European drama.4 Most of the spectators who sat in the theatre in Dionysus’ sanctuary that spring day in 431 will have been familiar with Medea as a figure of myth.5 The Theogony by Hesiod, in a passage that may be later than Hesiod himself, describes Medea’s birth to Idyia, wife of Aeëtes, child of Helios;6 she may also have been mentioned by Sappho, in an unknown context.7 She will have been prominent in the epic Argonautica, probably a work of the seventh century, which described the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to the east to recover 2  Ten judges, each representing one of the tribes, cast a vote; five votes were chosen at random, and, if a dramatist had a majority, he was the winner; if no dramatist had a majority additional votes were randomly selected, one at a time, until somebody did (see Marshall and van Willigenburg [2004]). A play might have as many as five votes and still come last. 3  See Eur. test. 65a, 65b TrGF. For possible links between the plays of the tetralogy see Karamanou (2014). 4  For the popularity of Medea in the ancient world see Vahtikari (2014) 172–5; for performances of Medea since the Renaissance see Hall et al. (2000). 5  For this subject see Mastronarde (2002) 44–64, which refers to earlier discussions. 6  Hes. Th. 956–62. 7  Sappho fr. 186 Voigt.



the Golden Fleece.8 Later accounts, such as Pindar’s Pythian Four of 462 bc, Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautica of the third century, and indeed Euripides’ Medea, emphasised her vital contribution to Jason’s success in recovering the Fleece; they will all have been influenced by this lost epic. The first account known to have taken an interest in what happened to Medea after her arrival in Greece is the Korinthiaka ascribed to Eumelus, composed perhaps not long after the institution of the Isthmian games in 582.9 In this poem, after the death of their king Korinthos, the Corinthians install his grand-daughter Medea, newly-arrived in Greece from Colchis with Jason, as the new ruler.10 During her reign, whenever she gave birth to a child, she buried it in the temple of Hera, believing that this would make it immortal. Unfortunately her plan was unsuccessful, and when Jason discovered what she had been doing, he left her, despite her pleas, sailing back home to Iolcus; Medea then herself gave up the kingship in favour of Sisyphus.11 Medea’s association with Corinth, and the deaths of her children in that city, are thus attested at least as early as the 570s. Perhaps a commemoration of some children in a cult that originally had nothing to do with Medea was connected with the story of Aeëtes’ daughter by the author of the Korinthiaka in his desire to set Corinth – a city barely mentioned in earlier epic – more firmly within the world of Greek myth.12 Another version of the story which may date before the treatments found in tragedy involved Medea killing Creon, for an unspecified reason, and fleeing to Athens. Unable to bring her children with her, she laid them on the altar of Hera Akraia, thinking that Jason would respect the protection afforded by the holy place; but Creon’s οἰκεῖοι (family, servants?) took revenge by killing them. This is first attested in Creophylus of Ephesus, who dates to the fifth century at the earliest.13 A related account is recorded by the grammarian Parmeniscus, from the second or first century bc, in which the Corinthians tire of having Medea, a foreign, female, sorceress, as their ruler, and plot against her, intending to kill

8  For this poem see West (2005) = (2011–13) i 277–312. 9  For this poem see West (2002) = (2011–13) i 353–91. 10  Eumelus fr. 20 GEF. 11  Ibid. fr. 23. 12  See West (2002) 124 n. 78 = (2011–3) i 376 n. 78, Johnston (1997) 65–7. I have not seen Hudelson (2013). 13  Creoph. fr.  3 EGM. The attribution of this story to this Creophylus is much more probable than the alternative, to the poet Creophylus of Samos; see Fowler, EGM ii 232 n. 102. Fowler tentatively dates the Ephesian Creophylus to the late fifth century.

Euripides ’ Medea in Context


her (fourteen) children; they flee to the altar of Hera Akraia, and are killed by the Corinthians there.14 In both these accounts the threat to Medea’s children comes not from Medea herself, but from the Corinthians, or the Corinthian royal family. As we have seen, in the final scene of Euripides’ play Jason is afraid that Creon’s family may take revenge by killing his children;15 it may be that Euripides knew a version in which this event took place. We should be cautious in drawing this inference, however. Jason’s fear is intelligible in its own terms, and Euripides did not need to rely on such a putative earlier version to devise this motivation for his entry. The reference to Medea’s flight to Athens in Creophylus’ story may also be influenced by Euripides’ play rather than the reverse. Parmeniscus’ version, too, may or may not reflect a pre-Euripidean story. It could have been fashioned to enable the absurd charge that Parmeniscus makes against Euripides, that he was bribed by the Corinthians to attribute responsibility for the deaths to Medea herself. It is nevertheless tempting to regard it as a survival of an earlier account which Euripides did dramatically alter, prompted however by literary rather than financial motivations. Greek tragedy shows a particular interest in Medea’s story. As well as Euripides’ famous play, we have dramas attested by numerous others: Neophron, the younger Euripides, Melanthius, Morsimus, Dicaeogenes, Carcinus II, Theodorides, and Diogenes of Sinope.16 A recently-published papyrus containing a rhetorical treatise from the early empire remarkably refers to an earlier Medea by Euripides himself, in which Medea’s killing of her children took place on stage. Careful investigation of this text, however, reveals that it provides evidence not for the existence of another Euripidean Medea, but for how literary history can be reshaped and reinterpreted by subsequent generations without regard for historical truth.17 Of these other Medea plays, one of the few about which we know anything significant is by Neophron. This play, like Euripides’, portrayed Medea as a voluntary child-killer.18 It was suggested in antiquity that Euripides plagiarised this drama,19 an anachronistic accusation based on the mistaken idea that poets were not entitled to adapt the material of others without acknowledgement; 14  Parmeniscus frr. 12–13 Breithaupt. The sanctuary in question should probably be identified with that of Hera at Perachora; see Menadier (2002). 15  Eur. Med. 1301–5. Cf. 1236–41, where Medea voices the same fear to justify her decision to kill her children. 16  See Wright (forthcoming). 17  P.Oxy. 5093; see Colomo (2011). 18  For discussion see Nervegna (2013) 90–1. 19  Thus the hypothesis to Medea; see Mastronarde (2002) 57–64.



the targeting of Euripides, rather than some other dramatist, probably results from the negative biographical tradition associated with him from as early as the plays of Aristophanes. The bombastic style of Neophron’s fragments suggests a much less able poet than Euripides; it has been argued that they show the influence of a later text of Euripides’ play, after it had suffered from interpolation at the hands of subsequent producers.20 More likely than not, Euripides came first. Euripides certainly predated the only other dramatic account of Medea for which we have significant details, namely the Medea of Carcinus II in the fourth century.21 In that play Medea is falsely accused of killing her children when she had in fact concealed them, probably in the temple of Hera. Medea had, however, killed Jason’s new bride, Glauce, and her concealment of the children was probably intended to protect them from the wrath of Glauce’s family; her plan did not succeed, however, perhaps because Glauce had ordered the children to be killed before her own death. This is a quite different version from the one familiar today thanks to Euripides; it reminds us that his account did not become canonical immediately, and that just as Euripides probably innovated in his account of the myth, so too later tragedians felt no compulsion to follow his distinctive version when producing their own plays. Thus whereas Medea’s connexion with Corinth, and the deaths of her children, are certainly pre-Euripidean, Euripides’ Medea may well be the first literary work that made those deaths the result of Medea’s own conscious choice. Such a reshaping of myth was hardly rare in Greek tragedy – having recourse to a finite body of tales, the dramatists constantly innovated in their perpetual attempt to impress their audience – but this one was more striking than most, involving as it did the breach of a fundamental human taboo, the idea that mothers nurture their children. A child-killing parent of any sort is an unlikely repository for audience sympathy; one who is female, and a foreigner, might be thought to suffer from insurmountable difficulties in overcoming the prejudice of Greek spectators to emerge as a character with any tragic credibility. By making Medea a filicide, Euripides may have been innovating with respect to her myth; but in tragedy as a whole this theme was far from unfamiliar.22 As we have seen, the figure of Ino was even cited by the chorus as the only possible parallel for Medea (1282–9), but even as they mention her they indicate the fundamental difference between the two women: Ino, according to the chorus, kills her children when maddened by the gods, whereas Medea is 20  See Diggle (2004) ≈ (2008). 21  See TrGF i 70 F 1e, West (2007) 1–7 = (2011–13) ii 334–45. 22  See McHardy (2005).

Euripides ’ Medea in Context


appallingly sane both when she takes her decision and when she carries it out. The Ino of Euripides’ homonymous play is distinct from Medea, too. Four children are killed by a parent in that drama – two sons by their mother Themisto, Learchus by his father Athamas, Melicertes by his mother Ino – but in every case the parent is attempting to kill someone else’s children (Themisto) or driven mad and thus not fully responsible for his or her action (Athamas, Ino).23 Such failures of recognition, and divine-sent madness (paralleled in Euripides’ Heracles, where the title character kills his children when out of his mind), are not at issue in Medea. Closer parallels are in fact available, such as Procne, who in Sophocles’ Tereus killed her own child Itys, and served his flesh as a meal to her unwitting husband Tereus, who had raped her sister Philomela.24 Althaea in Euripides’ Meleager was probably responsible for the death of her son by deliberately burning a brand that she knew to be coeval with his life, although that version was certainly attested before tragedy.25 Astyoche in Sophocles’ Eurypylus was bribed by Priam to send her son Eurypylus to fight for the Trojans even though she knew that he would die as a result; a surviving papyrus fragment describes her intense grief over his corpse.26 Laius and Jocasta in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King have their son exposed when he was a baby, thanks to an oracle predicting that it would kill his father and marry his mother.27 But if Medea was not unique as a tragic filicide, the presentation of that act of killing is certainly unparalleled in what remains to us of Greek tragedy. The only other case involving the intentional killing of a child by the mother’s own hand is that of Procne, and in that case the man’s offence was greater (raping the woman’s sister) than Jason’s (abandoning his wife for another woman). Meleager’s mother Althaea is equally culpable for her son’s death, but as with Procne, loyalty to her natal family is the motivating force;28 moreover, she does not actually do away with her child face to face. Only Medea kills both her children with her own hand, not to avenge some other close relative (having already rejected her natal family by killing her brother and abandoning her father), but out of a sense of personal betrayal. And while these other dramas 23  Our evidence for this play comes from P.Oxy. 5131 and Hyg. Fab. 4; see Finglass (2014a), (2016a), (2017b). 24  For Sophocles’ Tereus, recently augmented by a new papyrus, see Finglass (2016b), (forthcoming 2). 25  For this and other Meleager plays by Aeschylus and Sophocles see Davies and Finglass (2014) 517. 26  For this papyrus see Finglass (2018/19) ch. 6. 27  For the exposure of children in Greek tragedy more generally see Finglass (2018) 63–70. 28  For this topic see Visser (1986).



will no doubt have contained moments of high pathos, it is hard to imagine a speech more moving than Medea’s great monologue in which her purpose sways back and forth with such emotional power, a speech probably imitated by Neophron some years after its first performance, and probably added to by actors in the fourth century, who had identified it as a high point in their repertoire.29 It has been argued that Medea’s status as a barbarian, a non-Greek, and as a woman30 will have severely compromised the capacity of the Greek audience to feel sympathy for her plight. Yet (to take Medea’s status as a barbarian first) Greek literature depicted non-Greeks sympathetically from as early as the Iliad; in that poem, although the Trojans are at fault for starting the war, their suffering is movingly depicted, especially at the climax, the ransoming and funeral of their greatest fighter, Hector. This tradition is continued in tragedy, where plays such as Euripides’ Trojan Women are far from an uncomplicated celebration of Greek success. Moreover, our earliest extant tragedy, Aeschylus’ Persians, sympathetically recognises the grief of the Persians who have lost so much in their attempt to conquer Greece; it is striking that such a production was possible only eight years after the last Persian invasion. A Greek audience (with the exception, perhaps, of its most blinkered and chauvinistic members) would not have been automatically hostile to Medea simply because she was not Greek. When Jason declares that she should be happy because he has brought her to Greece, allowing her to encounter justice and civilisation (536–44), the audience will be aware that these words are spoken by a man who has just abandoned the person who saved his life at the very moment when she most needs his help. Tragedy relies on this kind of contextualisation; an audience member who took these words as the literal truth without reflecting on who was delivering them, or for what purpose, was probably missing out on quite a bit of the tragic experience besides.31 Nor were the Greeks of this period unaware that non-Greek peoples had crafted civilisations of their own as complex as anything to be found in Greece, making a nonsense of Jason’s Hellenocentric claim that now Medea is in Greece she can acquire a famous reputation. 29  For such interventions by actors see Finglass (2015); for the popularity of Medea later in antiquity (evident from the healthy number of papyri of that play) see Finglass (forthcoming 1). 30  For these aspects of Medea’s presentation see Mastronarde (2002) 22–8, Papadodima (2013) 253–62. 31  So in Hermione’s anti-barbarian tirade in Euripides’ Andromache (147–80) ‘the viewer can easily see how this rhetoric is self-serving and that Hermione is a disreputable character’ (Vlassopoulos (2013) 193).

Euripides ’ Medea in Context


The form of the encounter between Jason and Medea repays scrutiny in this context. In this type of scene in which opponents are each given one long speech, followed by a section of line-by-line dialogue (the so-called ‘agōn’), it is usually the second speaker who has the advantage; he or she puts forward arguments that the earlier speaker is unable to counter. In Medea, on the other hand, not only does Jason fail to answer Medea’s charges satisfactorily, but his speech also meets with a devastating, unanswerable response from Medea herself: why, if what he says is true, did he not inform her of the plan before going through with it? No other extant agōn-speech receives such a mortal rhetorical blow.32 In this contest between Greek man and barbarian woman, it is the latter who deploys her arguments with the greater skill and, the audience may feel, sincerity. As for Jason’s further supposed advantage over his ex-wife, his status as a man, that too turns out to be more complicated than we might have thought at first. There is no good reason to think that women were banned from performances in the Athenian theatre – indeed, some passages in comedy, the only genre performed there which explicitly refers to its audience, are explicable only under the hypothesis that they were present.33 Any reading of a play which assumes that men automatically sympathised with men is not only foolish on its own terms – Greek men, like men today, were, it is fair to presume, capable of sympathising with a woman in a dispute with a man – but also chauvinistically denies these women in the audience the right to have their hypothetical views taken into consideration.34 And indeed, elsewhere in tragedy female figures differ widely in the levels of sympathy that they are likely to have awoken in an audience, just as is the case with male characters. If Medea is less sympathetic to male members of the audience because she is a woman, then the same must be said of Hecuba, of Electra, of Antigone; such an assumption turns Greek tragedy into a rather uninteresting form of literature, into a genre where words, actions, and moral choices are of little significance compared to the contingent facts of gender. We may wonder whether such an impoverished art form could have succeeded in casting its spell over so many subsequent generations, a spell so clear from the contributions to this volume. Encouraging a Greek audience to feel sympathy for a powerful female barbarian is not in itself a remarkable achievement on Euripides’ part. The achievement of his Medea is rather to create a mother who deliberately kills her children, face to face, to avenge not a natal relative, or other third party, 32  See Finglass (2007) on Soph. El. 612–33. 33  See Csapo and Slater (1994) 286–7 and the passages cited there. 34  See Finglass (2017a) 315.



but herself, and to turn her into a figure with whom the audience can imaginatively sympathise, even as they instinctively recoil from her actions. Euripides does this despite the innovative way in which he handles the myth, probably being the first to make Medea kill her own children, and with her own hand – something avoided by other tragic filicides. He achieves his end through the vivid depiction of the war within Medea’s soul between her conflicting desires to preserve her offspring and to punish her children; and through careful plot construction, not having Medea announce her decision to kill her children until the chorus, and the audience, have been won over by seeing the appallingly undeserved suffering which she has had to endure. Only when that sympathy is established does the audience learn of that decision, and although it is natural to regard it with horror, it is nevertheless difficult to abandon all sympathy for Medea’s plight at that point, especially since that very plight is driving her to perform this most dreadful act. Persuading an audience to feel sympathy for someone who knowingly and deliberately commits a terrible crime is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the tragic poet’s art. We should perhaps not be surprised, then, that few of the plays that have come down to us involve this kind of plot; Euripides’ Electra and Sophocles’ Ajax are examples, but in both these cases the killing, or attempted killing, in question has taken place before the action of the play begins, and its consequences lead to the destruction of the perpetrator. Medea is so distinctive because the killing takes place within the timeframe of the drama itself and the perpetrator is not punished by mortals or by gods, but rather almost appears as a substitute deus ex machina at the play’s end. And yet the audience is nevertheless encouraged, if not to approve the filicide, yet at least to understand what has driven Medea to the point where such a crime can, in part, seem a legitimate response. From this perspective, the play is arguably the most intensely tragic of all surviving Greek tragedies. Whether Euripides succeeded in captivating his audience at the play’s first performance is impossible to tell; but subsequent readers and audiences have rightly regarded the work as a classic of the genre. Indeed, the play has become such a classic that today ‘Medea’ is overwhelmingly Euripides’ Medea, to such an extent that people familiar with the myth are quite unaware that Medea ever did anything else apart from kill her children; and thanks to that success, it is easy to forget how startlingly innovative the play must have seemed when first performed in Athens, all those years ago.

chapter 2

Medea: the Bewitched Witch in Apollonius of Rhodes Maria do Céu Fialho Born1 and raised in the great cosmopolis of Alexandria,2 Apollonius received his intellectual education within its erudite circles, including the then recent Museum and great Library complex, which he frequented.3 The place was positively sizzling with activity thanks to the collection and critical reading of manuscripts,4 whose contents were genuine treasures of a cultural past; Alexandria and other Hellenistic centres thereby sanctioned their identity and their sense of simultaneously belonging to the chain of tradition and to the extended world that had adopted Greek as a means of communication and Greece as its heritage. It is debatable whether Apollonius was a disciple of Callimachus’ as the Suda claims, or whether they merely frequented the same circles. It is a fact, however, that he was the second head of the Library, after Zenodotus and before Eratosthenes, and that he held this post between the years 60 and 246, when Eratosthenes was appointed chief librarian by Ptolemy. According to tradition, Apollonius’ Argonautica had a less than enthusiastic reception when it was publicly read in Alexandria, and this supposedly led Apollonius to move to the island of Rhodes and dedicate himself to his work, with as much success as he had expected: thence his epithet Apollonius of Rhodes. His literary decision to write an epic poem may certainly be considered audacious. He had behind him an unrivalled tradition – that of the Homeric poems – which at the time had become the focus of a passionate 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Apollonius was probably born in the early 3rd century BC, during the reign of Ptolemy I, ‘Soter’. 3  The Museum was established in the early 3rd century by Ptolemy I, who was advised and encouraged by Demetrius of Phaleron, the former tyrant and later a disciple of Theophrastus; as for the Library, which was probably adjacent to the Museum, it must have been built some time later, under the aegis of Ptolemy I, although this is still a matter of debate. 4  Ptolemy I Soter, his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus, and Ptolemy III Euergetes invested large sums to hire agents whose task was to find valuable Greek manuscripts and buy them for the Library: Marlowe (1971) 68–9.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_004



activity of commentary and text criticism, exemplified by Zenodotus. In his time, and as regards aesthetic patterns of poetic composition, a number of celebrated poets, such as Callimachus (Epigram 28. 1–2) and Theocritus (7. 45–8), were raising their voices against the writing of cyclical poetry, of long, sonorous epics. Apollonius thus creates his own aesthetic challenge: an epic poem in four books,5 where he follows a variety of poetic traditions – not just the epic genre – while adopting a poetic-discursive register very much in tune with the times. The different invocations of the Muses are directly aligned with his topic; the pathos, so popular in the representation of Hellenistic art, is often highlighted by the emotional intervention of a narrator who, although only discretely present, is no longer a flat character, and who is capable of descending into the depths of the human soul, with its dramas and discords.6 Apollonius’ epic characters resemble some of Homer’s, evoking their traits or dealing with similar situations, but their action mobilizes new resources, such as active magic, as in the cult of Hecate, which illustrates the esoteric tendency and the attraction of witchcraft in the cosmopolis, a place where western and eastern cultures meet and melt together; or passive magic, imposed on human beings by a cruel, versatile, and arbitrary Eros.7 The inner landscape of the soul is combined with the dynamics of the ima­ ginary of travels, with its Odyssean matrix, and also with that of contemporary Hellenistic reality.8 5  The division of the Homeric poems in twenty-four books was carried out by their Alexandrian editors. 6  Morrison (2007) 271 and 271 n. 2, 3, 4, emphasises this, giving examples of first-person statements, judgements, and comments on the narrated events. Sometimes the narrator addresses the characters or the audience. 7  Brioso Sánchez (2003) 19: “Nadie duda de la importancia del tema amoroso en Apolonio de Rodas, pero, como saben muy bien los conocedores de la poesía helenística, el amor es entre otros un ingrediente essencial en la poesía de esta época, y en Las Argonáuticas es evidente su combinación con muy diversos elementos. Precisamente una de las grandes cualidades de esta obra es el admirable equilibrio con que se conjugan todos ellos” (No one doubts the importance of the love theme in Apollonius of Rhodes, but, as those who know the Greek poetry of the time are aware, love is, among others, a major theme, and its combination with a variety of other topics is evident. One of the great qualities of this work is precisely the admirable balance of their combination). 8  As Alvar (2008) 90 stresses, the continuity of fantasy and reality, which propels both the exploration of the world by the boldest Alexandrians, who seek to sail as far as the ends of the earth, and another kind of exploration, which may have fed the former: the narrative of fantastic travels. See also André-Baslez (1993) 43 sqq. This context, as the authors stress fostered the development of Geography as a science (“La cartographie a fait, durant toute l’époque hellénistique, d’immenses progrès et l’on peut dire que la géographie est née au

Medea: Apollonius of Rhodes


Apollonius chose an ancient myth, a myth which, from very early times, generated countless lost narratives, of which there were still some scarce extant fragments that might have reached our poet.9 The Odyssey includes a brief testimony to its relative antiquity, in the words of Circe, one of the characters who belong to the family constellation of the descendants of the Sun, a sorcerer, just like her niece Medea. She warns Odysseus about the perils that he must face during his travels. One of those is the Symplegades, the moving rocks that clash against each other, crushing ships and sailors:10 One seafaring ship alone has passed thereby, that Argo famed of all, on her voyage from Aeetes. The seductiveness of the journey in search of the Golden Fleece and the role of the young barbarian princess, who, with her magic powers and her passion for Jason, helped the Argonaut and was thus forced to leave her motherland as a result of betraying her family, are present in the multiplicity of post-Homeric poetic compositions.11 As regards the poems that have reached us, we can establish that they were used by Apollonius as his sources, since he pays them homage in his poem. Besides the tragedians, Pindar too is visibly present in Hellenistic epic. In his Pythian 4, written in honour of Arcesilaus of Cyrene, who won the chariot race, Pindar resorts to the myth of the Argonauts and their journey in search of the Golden Fleece, giving pride of place to Medea. The narrative begins with forebodings, by a Medea inspired by the figure of Circe, concerning the future colonization of Libya by a lineage that ultimately goes back to Zeus and Io (Pythian 4. 9–31). To go back to the beginning of the expedition, Pindar uses a typical resource of epic poetry – the rhetorical question.12 From then on, the action is set in Iolcos, with a reference to the oracle and the role of Pelias, the preparations of the expedition and the formation of the group, followed by the perils they had to face, such as the Symplegades (207 sqq.). Musée d’Alexandrie”, 47 [Cartography underwent enormous progress during the whole of the Hellenistic era, and one may say that geography was born at the Museum of Alexandria]). 9  Hunter (1989) 15–6. 10  Od. 12. 69–70. 11  Hunter (1989) 15. On the mythological tradition before Euripides, see Finglass’ chapter, above. 12  Suárez de la Torre (1988) 177 n.14: “se inicia la narración more homerico, con una interrogación (a la Musa o simplemente retórica) cuya respuesta es el próprio contenido del relato” (the narration begins more homerico, with a question [addressed to the Muse or simply rhetorical] the answer to which is the content of the narrative itself).



The first two books of Apollonius’ Argonautica address the preparations for the journey, the selection of the leader, and their maritime adventure to arrive in Colchis, where the Argonauts face terrible perils at sea and land in different parts where danger, passion, and prophecy await them. The description of those lands, their customs and aitia, and the local hydrography is based on the author’s knowledge of the Pinakes catalogue of cults, rivers, and springs, which was compiled by Callimachus and belonged to the Archives of the Library of Alexandria. Now that they have arrived in Colchis, the narrator leaves the Argonauts aside, though still prudently hidden, since they do not know how they will be received in this land, and addresses the divine spheres, where three goddesses plot on how they might assist Jason: they decide to ask Eros to cause an overpowering passion in Medea, the maiden, so that she will put her magic powers at the service of the Greek warrior. From now on, the power of Eros leads the action, and, in the prologue of Book 3 (1–5), the narrator vehemently addresses the following invocation to Erato, the Muse:13 Come now, Erato, stand beside me and relate to me how it was that Jason brought the fleece from Colchis to Iolkos through the power of Medea’s love. I invoke you because you also have been allotted a share of Kypris’ power, and young girls, not yet mated, are bewitched by the cares you bring; for this reason a lovely (eperaton) name has been attached to you. This wordplay based on the sound of the Muse’s name – Erato – and eros, her relationship with Aphrodite, which makes her a participant in the process of enchanting young maidens (ἀδμῆτας δὲ τεοῖς μεληδήμασι θέλγεις παρθενικάς, 3. 4–5), is connected, through the verb θέλγω, to a whole tradition of eros as seductive or enchanting power.14 The epic motif of the council of the gods, the great, noisy assembly in Olympus presided over by an omnipotent Zeus, is converted by Apollonius into a peculiar scene, inspired by female daily life, where the signs of New Comedy become perceptible, anticipating scenes of the future bourgeois comedy. The poet depicts Homer’s Ὀλύμπια δώματα: a complex of palatial buildings where two goddesses – Hera and Athena – whom tradition normally depicts as not seeing eye to eye, visit Aphrodite to discuss what is now their common cause, namely, Jason. The three goddesses, whom the original circumstances 13  Cf. Hunter (1989) 26. Apollonius’ translation is borrowed from Hunter (1993). 14  Albis (1996) 68 sqq.

Medea: Apollonius of Rhodes


behind the Trojan war had made enemies, are thus gathered together for a meeting. The dialogue (3.11–110) is marked by a certain daily-life triviality, in line with the situations in which it occurs. Hera and Athena find the beautiful, cold Aphrodite leisurely grooming her hair (a favourite Alexandrian theme). Hephaestus, her husband, is gone about his business and as for her unmanageable son Eros, the goddess does not know his whereabouts. Hera and Athena seek to obtain Eros’ services through Aphrodite, so that passion may be stirred up in the heart of Medea, the πολυφάρμακος (cf. 3. 27),15 overcome by love’s arrows. Just like poor Phaedra in Hippolytus, she is to be the human instrument through which the goddesses’ designs are to be fulfilled (here in the form not of punishment but rather of success for the enterprise), even at the cost of Medea’s grief. As a frivolous self-centered beauty, Aphrodite is unable to deal adequately with her maternal relationship with a spoilt boy accustomed to his mother’s feeble authority which leaves him free to pursue his whims – an unruly, disobedient, roguish, cruel boy, as spoilt, ill-bred children can be. This is how Apollonius introduces Eros, the goddess’ son. This early episode illustrates how the connections between Eros and Tychē are developed and consolidated in the Hellenistic imagination: Tyche occupies the space of autonomy that Eros, the whimsical boy, gains in the action, while amusing himself by unpredictably manipulating the bonds of affection between humans. We are now quite far from the overbearing Aphrodite found in the Homeric poems or from Hesiod’s cosmogonic Eros, who takes precedence over Aphrodite, or the Eros of the philosophers, or the cosmic Eros (cf. e.g. Euripides, Hippolytus 433 sqq.; Sophocles, Trachiniae 497 sqq.; Antigone 781–805), or even the concatenation of both, Eros and Himeros, the goddess’s companion and her right hand man – which is amply documented in archaic poetry16 and, to some extent, echoed in Antigone. Pindar (Pythian 4. 212 sqq.) designed a somewhat different version: descending from Olympus, Cypris brings a magic wheel with a bird bound to it, and teaches Jason how to use it to seduce Medea. This was a known magic practice and thus Jason bewitches the sorcerer maiden so that she was overwhelmingly stricken with love (καιομέναν, 219) for him, betrayed her parents and, with her magic powers, gave him help. Pindar does not mention Jason’s passion – he 15  This expressive epithet is the same used by Homer to designate Circe (cf. Odyssey 10. 276). 16  As an example, see Alcman fr. 59 PMG; Ibycus, frs. 285, 286 PMG. Fialho (2009) 257–9; id. ibid. 263 sqq. Calame (1992) 15 notes the points of coincidence, identified by Apollonius’ commentators, between Eros in Alcman and in Hellenistic epic: the same madness and arbitrariness with which he strikes his victims and interferes with their fate.



merely tells how, after completing his enterprise, he takes the young woman with him, with her consent, using a short prolepsis to mention the princess’ magic practices in Iolcus (Pythian 4. 250).17 Aphrodite and Eros are thus dissociated in Apollonius, with the child becoming autonomous in his insolent rebelliousness and the goddess losing control over him. She doubts that she will be able to persuade him, as she confesses to the other two goddesses who visit her (3. 91 sqq.), and resorts to the typical method of a mother who is no longer able to control her bad-mannered offspring – she bribes him with valuable toys (3. 131 sqq.) – when she eventually finds her son playing dice (a favourite Anacreontic and Anacreontea theme) with Ganymede, whom he is cheating. The die of Medea’s fate is thus cast with the young woman being unaware of it. Eros is quite pleased both with the present her mother has promised him and the challenge of the task he is planning to ruthlessly carry out. As for Jason, he manages to persuade the Argonauts, who are convening in their hidden ship, that the most convenient step to take would be to visit Aeetes palace accompanied by Phrixus’ sons, to disclose his intentions and try to reach a peaceful solution. Just as Athena in the Odyssey (7. 14 sqq.) caused a great fog to descend upon Odysseus so that her protégé might cross the city of the Phaeacians and get to Alcinous’ palace under its protection, so Hera wraps Jason in a thick mist, to ensure he arrives safely at king Aeetes’ palace. Both heroes, Odysseus and Jason, stop to marvel at the works and decorations produced by Hephaestus as a homage to Alcinous and Aeetes. Besides mentioning their architectural refinement, Apollonius also describes the four fountains, forged by Hephaestus (pouring forth wine, milk, perfumed oil, and warm and cold water, 3. 223–7), which involve the reader in an atmosphere similar to that of magic realism. Exceptionally, Medea is detained at home by the goddess – just as Nausicaa leaves at dawn, so does Medea go outside of the city daily, to the temple of Hecate, where she is one of the priestesses (3. 250–2). When she sees the foreigner, Medea cries aloud, while her maids steal off like a whirlwind (3. 253 sqq.). Her cry reaches her sister Chalciope, who is the mother of Phrixus’ sons. Aeetes and the queen are the last to appear. This scene is clearly inspired by Odyssey 6.117 sqq., albeit with some differences: in Homer it is the maids who cry aloud when the ball falls into the water, and Odysseus awakens at the noise. The maids then run away, just like in Apollonius, leaving Nausicaa and Ulysses face to face. Odysseus then addresses 17  For a comparison between Jason’s profile in Pindar and Apollonius, see Köhnken (2000) 55–68.

Medea: Apollonius of Rhodes


his ingenious discourse to Nausicaa (6. 149 sqq.). In Apollonius, however, the function of Medea’s cry is to attract Chalciope and their parents while scaring the maids away. Chalciope is the one to speak, delighted to see her sons. Soon after, Jason meets Aeetes. And what about Medea? It seems that she suddenly turns into a background character, withdrawn in her young maiden’s silence, soon to be shaken by a turmoil of new, bitter-sweet sensations. The tumultuous exchange of words that follows, the violence implicit in Aeetes’ challenges to Jason do not immediately involve Medea. The action plan for her is quite different, invisible to the eyes of those present though no less marked by agitation and violence. Eros arrives, unseen, descending from Olympus, ready for his mission. His entrance in the palace is described by the narrator as a disturbing element, like the gadfly (οἶστρος, 276) that rises against the heifers in the meadows. The educated reader cannot but be reminded of the myth of Io (in both cases the gadfly is sent by Hera, in Io for reasons of vengeance, in Medea to carry out a plan), given its connections with Egyptian soil. The god strings his bow and, using all his strength, shoots a well-aimed arrow that pierces Medea’s heart. Eros leaves, laughing cruelly, aware of the consequences of the wound that his arrow had inflicted on the poor victim (3. 285–6). Passion bursts out in Medea’s heart like a flame that consumes her inside. The simile and the description of the symptoms of her nascent passion employ motifs reminiscent of the tradition of erotic poetry in Archaic Greece: the heart of the lyrical I in Sappho’s poetry is similarly consumed by passion and desire (fr. 48 Voigt). Medea’s bitter-sweet sensation (3. 290) materialises the γλυκύπιρος eros that strikes Sappho (130 Voigt). As for Jason, no arrows were aimed at him. In point of fact, in 3. 523 sqq., Argos talks dispassionately about the existence of Medea, an expert in magic plants and potions, as a priestess of Hecate who can be instigated, through the intervention of Aphrodite, to help the Argonauts; she is therefore a mere instrument. As Jason prepares to meet Medea, Hera pours beauty and graces upon him, like Athena had done for Odysseus when he met Nausicaa after his bath. Only later, when the Argonaut notices the tears that dim Medea’s eyes when they meet by the temple of Hecate, where the princess provides him with the means to accomplish his task, withholding the passion that possesses her, is he stricken by love, “the destroyer” (οὖλος ῎Ερως, 3. 1078). This meeting of the young couple, alone, among nature, by the temple of the fearsome goddess – she swept along by passion, wordless, fainting (3. 960 sqq.), showing the same symptoms as those described in Sappho’s famous fragment (fr. 31 Voigt); he, anxious about the trials that await him and about Medea’s help, and enamoured, both of them handsome and graceful, as if rooted to the ground like oaks or tall fir-trees, as the narrator describes them through a beautiful simile



(3. 967 sqq.) – constitutes one of the highlights of the epic poem, with its additional tragic innuendoes. Does the proportional unbalance of mutual feelings represent a compromise vis-à-vis the tradition of Euripidean tragedy? In all probability, it does. And the same is true regarding the prolepsis behind the epithet ‘the destroyer’. The events in Euripides’ tragedy are also evoked by the scene where Medea nostalgically leaves her home and her dear ones behind to run towards the ship that is preparing to set sail, and asks to be taken with them, reminding Jason of his promises (which seemed to have been forgotten); he raises her into the ship, giving her his right hand as a sign of commitment. Handshaking with the right hand as a sign of sealed promises is abundantly mentioned by the protagonist in Medea to indicate commitments undertaken and broken. Jason speaks about how Theseus was saved by Ariadne, a barbarian woman. However, this example is ambiguous, even if Jason eventually pledges to make Medea his legitimate wife when they arrive in Hellas (3. 1120 sqq.). Shortly afterwards, as was mentioned above, he seems to be ready to go and leave her behind. The reader sees how Medea’s solitary inner drama grows in intensity: irresistibly attracted to Jason, fearing for her life, eager to help him accomplish the tasks imposed on him by her father, Aeetes, by using her expertise in magic, but nevertheless impotent to cure herself of this passion. On the other hand, she is fearful and disgusted at the idea of betraying her own father. All this anxiety, depicted in accordance with tradition, causes Medea to wish that she had never seen Jason set foot on the land of Colchis (3. 459–70; cf. 3. 771 sqq.). The novelty of her overwhelming feelings, uncomfortable yet pleasant, highlights the frailty and the naive character of the young maiden, fascinated by the newly-arrived foreigner, which somehow echoes Nausicaa’s much less intense fascination for Ulysses. However, this inclination of the soul will haunt Medea and become even more extreme, hindering her from sleep, and guiding her behaviour and her actions. As a priestess of Hecate, the bewitched witch nearly yields to the temptation of procuring, in her casket, some φάρμακα with which to put an end to her life (3. 802 sqq.). Morrison (2007) 285 stresses the “narratorial sympathy for the pathetic situation of his characters”, together with the expressive similarity between this passage in Apollonius and Bacchylides 16. 30, on Deianira. Torn between her desperate affliction and her wish to save Jason, she gets ready and orders her chariot to be prepared, intending to leave the city with her maids, like Nausicaa. Here Apollonius uses a simile to compare Medea to Artemis (3. 876 sqq.), as in Homer. She takes another charm with her: the herb of Prometheus, with which she intends to protect Jason’s life. Night is contras­ ted with dawn, Medea’s fresh youthfulness with her proximity to Hecate, the

Medea: Apollonius of Rhodes


terrible goddess of magic, her night dream and the despair she feels at the unbearable weight of her passion with her steady resolve and her determination, which are crucial for the success of the Argonauts’ enterprise. She then heads towards her celebrated meeting with Jason. Before that, the reader witnesses the passionate folly that made the young woman leave her room clad in her bedroom robe, seeking a confidante, hesitating and stealing back, in a beautifully drawn scene: the whole of Nature rests under Sleep’s shadow and tutelary silence; only Medea fails to fall asleep (3. 744 sqq.). The meeting between the two sisters during the night is to dictate the fate of this text in Virgil’s epic, in the dialogue between Dido and Anna. As Hunter (1989) 27–8 remarks, “the vocabulary in which A. describes Medea’s mental and physical suffering can almost all be paralleled from the fragments of Alcman, Ibycus, Anacreon, Archilochus and Sappho, as well as from Alexandrian epigram. These shorter poetic forms, however, lacked the scope that epic narrative offered for exploring the development of a passion through action, gesture, smile and speech; it was here that A. created a portrait which profoundly influenced the Greek and Roman poets who came after him”. However, the depth of a tradition of erotic lyricism developed in the action is particularly indebted to tragedy, notably Euripidean tragedy, as mentioned above. Apollonius took special care to leave room in his work and character construction for the events to come in Medea, particularly in Euripides, which are known to the reader as passion, treason, broken vows, and the foreign Colchian woman’s ability to exact her dreadful vengeance.18 The narrator addresses a bitter apostrophe to Eros (4. 445–9), the causer of suffering, of the perturbations of the soul and of the calamities of life, he who led the young woman, who had only recently parted with her home and her family in tears and in solitude, to cruelly slay her brother Apsyrtus so as to be able to indulge her passion for Jason and flee to Hellas with the Golden Fleece: Reckless Eros, great curse, greatly loathed by men, from you come deadly strifes and grieving and troubles, and countless other pains on top of these swirl up. Rear up, divine spirit, against my enemies’ children as you were when you threw hateful folly into Medea’s heart.

18  As concerns the infanticide theme, the reference is clearly to Euripides. Notwithstanding the possibility that Neophron’s tragedy preceded Euripides’, introducing the motif (see Finglass’s chapter above, pp. 15, 16, 18), it is Euripides’ genius that persists as being the most-performed tragedian in the 4th century (see Finglass [forthcoming 1]), which resulted in his powerful reception.



The reader is again confronted with the gloomy face of boundless passion that seizes Medea, that bewitches her and makes her use her magic to enable the free course of her passion, an ἄτης πῆμα δυσίμερον (4. 4) that leads the narrator to hesitate, in his invocation of the Muse (most probably Erato) at the beginning of the final Book, as to how to define the whirling crescendo of Medea’s deadly use of her magic, in parallel with the whirlwind that sweeps her inner self, as if bewitched by Eros. As a consequence, the narrator refuses to describe the propitiatory ritual practiced by the young woman, who already knew that Aeetes had found out about the situation, and that Apsyrtus and their countrymen were preparing to chase them, when the Argonauts call at Paphlagonia, next to a place propitious to the goddess (4. 249–50).19 As the Argonauts approach Greece, Medea’s dark side becomes more apparent, developing in parallel with the intensity of her passion for Jason. When the island of Crete is in sight – which may be read as an arrival at Hellas’ ‘portico’ – beneath the fragile countenance of the young woman who covers her face with a veil, her nature as a sorcerer, grows to frightening proportions (4. 1665 sqq.): thrice she invokes the dreadful ‘Keres, devourers of the spirit’ (Κῆρας θυμοβόρους), the bitches of Hades (this feminine suggests Hecate’s). As if possessed by an evil spirit, she cast such a sombre, powerful glance at Talos, the giant, that he died and fell, with a great noise, into the sea, leaving the way clear for the Argonauts to resume their journey. The young woman thus arrives in Hellas, passion having unrooted her from her barbarian land and made her submit to the power of enchanting Eros,20 willing to put her powers at the service of her lover – Jason. As was noted above, a certain unbalance is perceptible in their respective feelings for each other, and the reader, equipped with the knowledge of the myth’s tradition and the poetic treasures inherited from old Greece, is able to read between the lines of the sub-text, as Apollonius intended him/her to, through the narrative strategies implemented in the text. This powerful facet of Medea’s character went down in history, and, when associated with that of tragic Medea, it often becomes further accentuated as the sombre, vengeful sorcerer in the betrayed woman and mother, who nonetheless has the ability to generate an autonomous fate for herself, as can be seen in Ovid,21 who particularly underscores the demiurgic side of Medea, which is especially echoed in contemporary productions. 19  Morrison (2007) 283 notes the similarity between this attitude and that of Pindar’s narrator, which he illustrates with Nemean 5. 14–6 or Olympian 1. 52. 20  Hunter (1993) 59 sqq. 21  Metamorphoses 7. See Suárez de la Torre (2006) 117–34.

chapter 3

Versions of Medea in Classical Latin Andrés Pociña and Aurora López 1

Medea in the Fragmentary Plays of Latin Tragedians1

A little over thirty years ago, in a work that sought to define in only a few pages the fundamental aspects that can be used to characterise Latin tragedy (Pociña 1986), when discussing the most popular themes among Roman playwrights, the author mentioned as key elements their preference for the Trojan saga, their inclination for horrific subjects, and their tendency towards melodrama; as regards the frequency of their choice of plots that could be described as horrific, or cruel, if you prefer, we should note the repeated presence, from the beginnings of Latin tragedy, of developments on such themes as Tereus, Atreus, Thyestes, and, alongside these, also the Medea theme, on which the au­ thor wrote: “el tema de Medea se repite en Enio, Acio, Ovidio, Lucano, Séneca y Curiacio Materno […], y el Medus de Pacuvio, único caso conocido en la trage­ dia tanto griega como latina de dramatización de la leyenda del hijo de Medea y Egeo”2 (“the theme of Medea is repeated in Ennius, Accius, Ovid, Lucan, Seneca and Curiatius Maternus […], and in Pacuvius’ Medus, the only known case of a dramatisation of the legend of Medea and Aegeus’ son in both Greek and Latin tragedy”). The legend of Medea, about which there is no data that might led us to suppose that it was approached by either the first Latin playwright, Livius Andronicus, or his next and closest follower, Gnaeus Naevius, was the subject of at least one drama by each of the members of the great triad of writers who, from the late 3rd century till the beginning of the 1st century AD, fathered trag­ edy in Rome: Quintus Ennius, Marcus Pacuvius, and Lucius Accius. There is a huge bibliography on their drama versions of the subject in hand, i.e., the different fundamental moments in Medea’s existence, which means that only 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Pociña (1986) 34. The existence of general studies on the presence of Medea in archaic Latin tragedians is therefore not surprising; two examples are Dondoni (1958) and Arcellaschi (1990), a comprehensive study which has become a classic.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_005


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a limited number of specific aspects that might be significant for the general purpose of this book can be discussed here; that is, we shall be approaching our theme from the point of view of the ancient hypotexts for the Medea re­ writings in Portuguese. According to the theory supported by most researchers, albeit not all, each of the Latin tragedians took up a different aspect of the Medea legend: in his Medea, or Medea exul, Quintus Ennius (239–169 BC) deals with the same sub­ ject as the Greek tragedy that served as his model, Euripides’ Medea: the vicis­ situdes of the protagonist’s life in her relationship with Jason, during her life in Corinth, culminating in the Argonaut’s plans to leave Medea, which ulti­ mately leads to her murdering their two children. In his play Medus, Marcus Pacuvius (c. 220–c. 139 BC), Ennius’ successor in the cultivation of tragedy and a nephew of his in real life, presented a lesser known event in the life of our heroine: many years after fleeing from Corinth, having returned to Colchis, where she had spent her childhood, Medea meets Medus, the son she had had by Aegeus, king of Athens; not knowing who he was, for the young man had hid his identity, our heroine nearly killed him. And last, Lucius Accius (170–c. 86 BC), the third of the three major tragedians, also dealt with the le­ gend of Medea, although he focused on the initial stage of the saga, i.e., the episode recounted principally in Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica (4. 303– 81): Jason and Medea’s flight from Colchis, taking the Golden Fleece with them. But let us look at some specific aspects of interest in the versions of each of the three playwrights. In the case of Quintus Ennius, an issue that has per­ sisted for a long time, and has not yet been unanimously resolved, has to do with the possibility that this author may have written two tragedies on our heroine, a Medea and a Medea exul. This possibility is based on Otto Ribbeck’s classic Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta (Ribbeck 1897: 49–57), in which sixteen fragments of a tragedy that may have been based on Euripides’ Medea are presented under the title Medea exul, followed by a single fragment of the version simply titled Medea; the belief in the existence of these two trag­ edies, explained in detail by Ribbeck himself in his monumental work Die römische Tragödie (Ribbeck 1897: 157) and supported almost one century later by H. D. Jocelyn in his edition of Ennius’ tragedies (Jocelyn 1967: 113–23), is based on the fact that Hyginus (Fabulae 25, 26) mentions both a Medea exul (the mis­ adventures of the heroine in Corinth) and a Medea (Medea’s life in Athens up to her flight to Colchis). However, Ettore Paratore (1957: 143; 2005: 152) and William Beare (1964: 59–60) believe that Ennius wrote only one tragedy about the Colchian heroine, titled Medea exul. In 1990, André Arcellaschi wrote per­ tinently about this long-debated issue:

Versions of Medea in Classical Latin


Sans prétendre avoir résolu toutes les énigmes que pose encore la Médée d’Ennius, il semble plus satisfaisant de nous arrêter définitivemente à l’hypothèse d’une oeuvre unique, d’une Médée à Corinthe, que les gram­ mairiens tardifs ont appelée Medea Exul, pour la différencier surtout de celle d’Accius, Medea siue Argonautae Arcellaschi 1990: 58; 2002: 368

(Without claiming to have solved all the enigmas still posed by Ennius’ Medea, it seems more satisfactory to consider definitively the hypo­ thesis of a single work, a Medea in Corinth, which the late grammarians called Medea Exul to differentiate it especially from Accius’ Medea siue Argonautae). Believing that there is in fact but one Medea by Quintus Ennius, for a variety of reasons and following the guidelines laid by Paratore, Beare, Arcellaschi, and others, despite the different opinions that still exist on the subject,3 our first Roman Medea, of which about forty verses, some incomplete, can now be read, and most of them compared with the corresponding passages in Euripides’ Medea, provided its Roman audience, in the early days of the historical de­ velopment of tragedy in Rome, with a play quite similar to the one that had been performed in Athens some two centuries earlier. The Euripidean influ­ ence on Quintus Ennius’ Medea is indisputable, although this should not be in­ terpreted, as it sometimes is, as a criticism for a supposed lack of originality, a somewhat misunderstood concept. Therefore, after the tragedies about Medea authored by Euripides, Quintus Ennius, and Seneca, we have three dramatisa­ tions of events of which our heroine is the protagonist, and which are undeni­ ably interconnected. As for Marcus Pacuvius’ strange tragedy, Medus,4 about which we lack in­ formation regarding its possible Greek or Roman antecedents, Antonino De Rosalia’s opinion is useful: “Pacuvio conosceva molto bene, inoltre, la produzi­ one tragica alessandrina, e questo spiega l’impossibilità di trovare un modello certo per tanti suoi drammi e in particolare per il Medus, in cui i critici, con largo accordo, hanno visto l’opera sua più originale” (De Rosalia 1989: 126) (“Pacuvio was also quite familiar with Alexandrian tragedy production, and this explains why it is impossible to establish a correct model for many of his plays, especially for Medus, which critics generally agree to describe as his most 3  See, for example, Dumont and François-Garelli (1998) 108. 4  Cf., besides other general studies on Latin tragedy, more specific works by Della Casa (1974); Nosarti (1995); Pociña (2004), etc.


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original work”). Only a limited number of ancient sources5 deal with Medea’s son, Medus, although the most complete and the closest text to Pacuvius’ trag­ edy is certainly Hyginus’ Fabula 27; the hypothesis that our playwright could have been the primary source for the mythographer’s text is indeed enter­ tained, although the possibility of both of them having drunk from the same source, that is, from a Greek tragedy whose title is unknown, cannot be ruled out. According to Hyginus, this is the subject matter of Medus: Medus, son of Medea and Aegeus king of Athens, was stranded in the coast of Colchis by a storm while seeking his mother, and pretended to be Hippotes, son of Creon. Perses, son of the sun-god and brother of Aeetes, fearing an oracle which warned him to dread the vengeance of Aeetes’ descendants, imprisoned Medus. The land was seized by famine; Medea came and pretended to be a priestess of Diana able to expiate the dearth. Hearing that Perses was holding Hippotes, Creon’s son, she thought that he had come to avenge the wrong done to Creon by her, and told Perses it was Medus (without knowing this was true) sent by Medea to kill Perses. Could she therefore kill him? Medus, when led out to the tender mercies of Medea, was recognised by her; she asked to converse with him, gave him a sword, and told him to avenge his grandfather. Medus kills Perses, obtains the kingdom, and names it Media. Fewer than forty lines from Pacuvius’ Medus remain; scattered across twentyfive fragments, they are not all complete.6 It is impossible to find rewritings of what may have been one of the most curious and original Latin tragedies writ­ ten in the 2nd century BC. As mentioned above, when we come to the third great Latin tragedian, Lucius Accius, we find the Medea theme, again, as the subject of one of his works. However, he addresses a section of the myth that his predecessors, Ennius and Pacuvius, had not touched upon, and which chronologically pre­ cedes the part of the story treated by the two playwrights, who describe the adversities faced by Medea and Jason upon their flight from Colchis by sea, taking the Golden Fleece with them; at the request of king Aeetes, Medea’s father, some Colchians, sent by the heroine’s brother, Apsyrtus, follow in their pursuit. When the fugitives are sieged at the mouth of the Istro, Medea advises the Argonauts to entrust the Golden Fleece to Diana, until the Scythian or the Thracian kings decide what should happen to them. Jason does not agree, in 5  Studied in detail by Della Casa (1974) passim, and also by D’Anna (1967) 23–4. 6  Ribbeck (1897) 118–23; D’Anna (1967) 119–25; Artigas (2009) 157–61.

Versions of Medea in Classical Latin


view of which Medea suggests that she could bring her brother Apsyrtus to them, so that Jason might kill him, thus leaving the Colchians without a leader. So, with the promise that she will help him retrieve the fleece, Medea tricks her brother into meeting her in the temple of Diana, where Jason kills him and then purifies himself. The extant lines and fragments from Accius’ eventful and adventurous trag­ edy are few.7 The beginning is strongly reminiscent of a passage from Cicero’s De natura deorum (2. 89), especially the account of the arrival of the Argo in Colchis, observed from the shore by a shepherd who had never seen a ship before. Curiously, this fragment inspired a similar passage in El vellocino de oro (The Golden Fleece) by the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega (1562–1635), whose source will have been the passage of Cicero, which Vega must have read (Pociña [2002] 406–10). By contrast, only a small number of authors have passed on fragments of Accius’ Medea, which, apart for Cicero’s random at­ tention, has aroused the interest only of grammarians and was never given attention by authors like Varro, Quintilian, or Gellius, who recall other trag­ edies by the same author (Pociña [1984] 49). Accius’ Medea, therefore, seem to be a work that was neither widely disseminated nor widely read or stud­ ied. Obviously, this does not mean that, after Cicero, it was only used by some grammarians: Antonino De Rosalia, for example, has identified echoes of this Medea in Seneca’s tragedies (De Rosalia [1981] 338–40). Thus a good part of Medea’s diversified and astounding experiences is the subject of three tragedies, with different plots, by the three great Latin authors, Ennius, Pacuvius, and Accius. To these, new dramatic treatments of the theme, not always completed, by such authors as Ovid, Lucan, Seneca, and Curiatius Maternus, continued to be added in the following ages, showing how Medea was as popular in Roman drama as she had been in the Greek world, where it had inspired an important number of tragedies and, also, of parodic comedies.8 Naturally, considering that these Republican tragedies had already ceased to exist as complete works before the fall of the Roman Empire, it need not be explained why it is not possible to find echoes of them, at least directly, in modern drama.

7  Ribbeck (1897) 216–20; Pociña (1984) 155–60, (2002) 397–410; Dangel (1996) 202–6. 8  See Finglass, above, pp. 14–20; Melero (1996) 57–68, (2002) 328; Wright (forthcoming).

36 2

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A Special Passion for Medea: Ovid the Poet

In his seminal book Médée dans le théâtre latin d’Ennius à Sénèque (Arcellaschi 1990), André Arcellaschi carries out an extensive analysis of the subject of Medea’s presence in the works of Ovid, since no Latin poet before or after him, evinces the same wide and continued interest in the character of our heroine. Ovid covered all the episodes of the Medea legend, especially in three of his works.9 Consequently, the topic of Medea in Ovid has been the subject of countless studies, and we must limit ourselves to mentioning some details that mainly concern the possible influence of the Ovidian texts on the literary re­ writes, especially in drama, of the modern and contemporary period. The first work by Ovid that focused mainly on our protagonist was his tragedy Medea, written when the author was young10 and of which, unfortu­ nately, only two lines are now known; preserved by Quintilian and Seneca the Rhetorician (Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, p. 20), they were no doubt spoken by the protagonist. The consequences of such scarce information are summed up by Arcellaschi (1990) 253: Le plus souvent, en effet, on se contente, respectueusement, de rappeler qu’ Ovide a écrit une tragédie; suit un renvoi à une note où l’on précise qu’il s’agissait d’une Médée et qu’elle est perdue. Plus rarement, on en cite un vers; exceptionnellement deux. Le commentaire qui les accom­ pagne alors tend surtout à souligner l’influence écrasante d’Euripide; l’oeuvre d’Ovide ne serait qu’un remodelage grossier de sa Médée. Aussi on s’ingénie à minimiser la chose et l’on tente de trouver des motifs qui excusent Ovide: il ne s’agit que “d’un essai scolaire”, “d’une oeuvre de bon helléniste, de brillant écolier”! (Most often, in fact, people are respectfully happy to recall that Ovid wrote a tragedy; then they add a reference to a note specifying that it was a Medea and that it is now lost. More rarely, a line is quoted; or, ex­ ceptionally, two. The commentary that accompanies these tends to em­ phasize most especially the overwhelming influence of Euripides; Ovid’s work would, in their opinion, be nothing but a gross remodeling of his Medea. They do their best to minimise this and try to find reasons to ex­ cuse Ovid: it is just a “school essay”, “the work of a good Hellenist, of a brilliant scholar”!)

9  Arcellaschi (1990) 235, 231–312; Hinds (1993). 10  Paratore (1957) 225; Nikolaidis (1985) 383–7; Pociña (1999) 41–51; Pociña (2014) 195–201, etc.

Versions of Medea in Classical Latin


While we do agree with Arcellaschi’s criticism of the scarce attention dedi­ cated by researchers to Ovid’s Medea, we must acknowledge that the compo­ sition of this tragedy was an absolute exception, and seems to have been the poet’s response to some sort of juvenile challenge, a desire to write a higherflying work than the ones he used to produce at the beginning of his writing career, i.e., his leuis elegiac poetry: we must recall his illustrative reflections in that beautiful poem in which he faces the personifications of Tragedy and Elegy, in Amores 3. 1,11 and especially his reply to the tragic goddess, asking her to grant him a little more time to continue to dedicate himself to love poetry: Exiguum uati concede, Tragoedia, tempus: / tu labor aeternus, quod petit illa, breve est (3. 1. 67–8). However, young Ovid’s Medea should not have become an insignificant tragedy: before criticizing it simply for being the work of a young writer (a negative judgement that affected also Amores and Heroides) or be­ cause they consider it to be a clumsy rewrite of Euripides’ Medea (an extremely shallow judgment based on a comparison that concerns the only two extant lines), our scholars should pay more attention to the good judgment of two re­ liable Romans, who could judge Ovid’s play directly and who praised it, in the same places and in connection with the other great tragedy of Augustus’ times, L. Varius Rufus’ Thyestes: that is, Quintilian (10. 1. 98) and Tacitus (Dial. 12).12 Just as little can be known about Ovid’s Medea, it is also hard to speculate about its possible role in future rewritings of the Medea theme for the stage, namely as regards the protagonist’s life in Corinth. The work was surely lost early on, but considering that a serious study of the classical tradition and its survival in modern and contemporary times cannot exclude the unknown, un­ documented history of many lost works, one should ask, for example, what, if any, might the impact of Ovid’s play have been on Seneca’s Medea, particularly 11  Cf. Mazzoli (1999) 137–51; López (2004) 125–37. 12  Cf. Arcellaschi (1999) 253: “C’est ainsi que Quintilien ne dissimule pas son admiration: ‘Quant à la Médée d’Ovide, nous dit-il, elle me semble montrer tout ce dont cet homme aurait été capable s’il avait mieux aimé maîtriser son talent plutôt que de s’abandonner nonchalamment à lui’” (And thus Quintilian does not conceal his admiration: “As for Ovid’s Medea, he writes, it seems to me that it displays everything this man would have been capable of doing had he chosen to master his talent rather than just nonchalantly surrender to it”); Pociña (2014) 199: “Recordaré que la tragedia de Ovidio aparece elo­ giosamente recordada, en los mismos lugares y en relación con el Thyestes de Vario, en Quintiliano (10. 1. 98) y en Tácito (Dial. 12); por eso, a pesar de ser obra de juventud y de resultar marginal en la producción de su autor, probablemente no fuera una tragedia tan defectuosa como algunas veces se afirma sin mucho fundamento” (Note that Ovid’s tragedy is mentioned in quite flattering terms, in the same places and in connection with Vario’s Thyestes, in Quintilian (10. 1. 98) and in Tacitus (Dial. 12); That is why, despite being a work written during the author’s youth and a somewhat marginal one within his pro­ duction, it probably was not as defective a tragedy as it is sometimes said to be, without foundation).


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regarding those aspects in which this tragedy is quite distinct from Euripides’ own Medea.13 If, as seems quite probable, Ovid’s lost Medea featured the protagonist’s tri­ als and tribulations both in Corinth, an aspect in which it would coincide with Euripides’ tragedy, and in Rome, where it would coincide with the part of the heroine’s life addressed by Quintus Ennius, it becomes obvious that the great interest, or, we might say, the great passion, that the Princess of Colchis arose in Ovid led him to develop a complete and detailed view of the whole Medea legend in two other works of his, written in very different literary forms and at very different times: Heroides, poem XII, and Metamorphoses 7. 1–424. The letter that Medea sends to Jason in Heroides XII is composed accord­ ing to the literary genre to which it belongs, the elegy (Barchiesi [2001] 33), although, as is usual, the text combines different genres (elegy, epic, tragedy), also a key mark found in the section of Metamorphoses VII that deals with Medea (Álvarez Morán – Iglesias Montiel 2002). At an unspecified time upon being abandoned by Jason, Medea, who had not yet murdered Creusa and her father Creon, recalls her passion for her husband, which was why she was compelled to help him overcome all the risks he had had to face to retrieve the Golden Fleece. With the terrible events in the conclusion of this part (the murder of Creusa and Creon, and especially of her own children) having not yet occurred, Medea, whose love for Jason remains constant, becomes a sup­ pliant and proposes an agreement (191–4), demanding most of all that Jason be faithful to her, for the sake of the gods, for her merits, for their children, for all that he owes her. This passage emphasises the profoundly human side of her feminine sensitivity, which Seneca, like Ovid, also portrays in his Medea 478– 82 (Martina [2002] 607). But in her heart, she knows that this will be nothing more than a supplication, a desire, and she is set on consummating her own revenge immediately, led by anger (quo feret ira, sequar, 211), and even knowing that she may repent it, she is aware of the enormity of her intent: nescio quid certe mens mea magis agit (213). The image of this elegiac, passionate Medea, a woman who is in love and who defends her love and the marital fidelity she be­ lieves she deserves, evokes a fundamental aspect of the protagonist of Seneca’s Medea (Martina 2002). Years later, Ovid, again, not yet satisfied with his tragic and elegiac ap­ proach to this woman who moves him so much, seeks a rather flimsy pretext to dedicate practically the whole first half of Book VII of the Metamorphoses to her, making Medea the central character of an epic composition; here the poet from Sulmo recounts, with precise details, Jason’s conquest of the Golden 13  See Charlier (1954); Jacobi (1988); Martina (2002).

Versions of Medea in Classical Latin


Fleece, which would have indeed been impossible without Medea’s collabora­ tion (1–158); her performance as a magician to rejuvenate Jason’s father, old king Aeson (159–296); her opposite performance in the case of old Pelias (297– 349); her flight to Corinth (350–97); and finally her escape to Athens, where she marries King Aegeus (398–424). Here, in the last of Ovid’s versions, we find a different Medea, the terrible, almost omnipotent magician, endowed with “la personalidad de heroína de epopeya y de protagonista de tragedia” (“the per­ sonality of both an epic heroine and the protagonist of a tragedy”), as Álvarez Morán and Iglesias Montiel (2002) 445 wrote. The three perspectives, the elegiac, the epic, and the tragic, found in Ovid’s vision of Medea in Heroides XII and Metamorphoses 7. 1–424, had a major influ­ ence on subsequent dramatic rewritings. This influence is fortunately still per­ ceptible and verifiable today in its nearest heiress, Seneca’s Medea, although we will never know the extent of the influence of Ovid’s lost Medea on this tragedy. However, we must not think that the survival of that comprehensive image of Medea, with its many rich existential details and complex psychologi­ cal treatment, ended with Seneca’s tragedy. We must indeed take into consid­ eration the enormous dissemination of Ovid’s Heroides from medieval times and the early days of the Renaissance, with versions produced in the vulgar languages of the Iberian Peninsula as well as in some territories of Romania. The title of this Latin text was in fact very similar to the titles of later works by king Alfonso X the Wise and Juan Rodríguez del Padrón in Spain, or Garcia de Resende in Portugal;14 the wide dissemination of the Metamorphoses was no doubt a fundamental element for the completion of the wide spectrum of an­ cient Roman influences on the production of new, literary or generally artistic, visions of Medea. 3 Seneca’s Medea The Medea rewritings for the stage that have emerged abundantly in the last centuries, and especially during the 20th century,15 were based on the two great ancient tragedies that have reached us in their complete versions, and which served as their fundamental hypotexts: Euripides’ Greek Medea and Seneca’s Latin Medea. These texts were differently activated by the new play­ wrights: in some cases, writers resorted to one of them, in other cases there was 14  Cf. Impey (1980); Saquero Suárez-Somonte and González Rolán (1984); Garrido (1992); Guimarães Neves (2013); etc. 15  Mimoso-Ruiz (1983) 209–18; Rubino (2000) 227–32.


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an articulation of both, and in others still the contributions of each of these two classical tragedies were combined with those of other texts, of different origins, from the classical literature of Greece and Rome to previous modern rewrites of the Medea theme. This requires from current research on the sur­ vival of the old hypotexts that it analyses and problematises the new versions with rigour, from a comparatist perspective, so as to identify their sources of inspiration and thus arrive at reliable conclusions on what, in each specific case, is a product of that survival or, on the contrary, is a result of innovation (cf. López-Pociña 2002). No comparative analysis has yet been carried out on the influence of Euripides and Seneca’s tragedies upon the plays about Medea written in recent decades; this research would certainly afford us a deeper knowledge of the meaning that they still hold for the theater and audiences of our time. This is il­ lustrated by the opinion of today’s greatest Spanish actress, Nuria Espert (born in Hospitalet, 1935), who performed numerous different versions of Medea throughout her career, from the age of 19 to the age of 67, when I had inter­ viewed her on the occasion of the staging of Euripides’ Medea in a translation by Ramón Irigoyen and under the direction of Michael Cacoyannis (LópezPociña [2002 bis] 1229–47). Asked about whether she preferred the Euripidean or the Senecan text, she recalled a version of Medea by playwright and director Juan German Schroeder (1918–1997), a rewrite based on the two tragic classics, and offered the following answer: La versión de Schroeder tenía los mejores momentos de ambos drama­ turgos. Tenía mucho más Eurípides que Séneca, pero tenía de Séneca el momento de los conjuros, que era extraordinariamente brillante, y tenía la primera aparición de Medea, que daba la primera información, como en Séneca, y eso era muy bonito para el personaje. Yo creo que todo el final (hace mucho que no he leído la Medea de Séneca) de nuestra Medea, que era más humana, era de Séneca también. […] Así que esta versión de Schroeder, que era en hendecasílabos bellos que fluían perfectamente, resultaba muy emotiva y muy muy teatral. Yo la he representado, excepto esta vez con Cacoyannis, a lo largo de mis cinco o seis montajes anteri­ ores de Medea. Sin embargo, ya cuando dirigí a Irene Papas, cuando los Juegos Olímpicos de Barcelona, me parecía que esta mezcla de Eurípides y de Séneca en la boca de una actriz griega, de una trágica griega, no iba bien, y que era mejor volver a los inicios, y creo que ella lo agradeció también. Y ahora con Cacoyannis le hablé de la versión de Schroeder, pero me dijo: yo me sentiré más cómodo con la versión que conozco desde toda mi

Versions of Medea in Classical Latin


vida y que prácticamente me la sé de memoria, aunque jamás la haya di­ rigido. Y estoy muy contenta, porque si no, finalmente hubiera sido una más, y esta es diferente también porque tengo un texto muy distinto entre las manos, que tiene una belleza extraordinaria, y una fuerza, un poder, y una inmensa actualidad. (Schroeder’s version included the best moments of both playwrights. Much more Euripides than Seneca, but it had Seneca’s spells, which was extraordinarily brilliant, and it had Medea’s first appearance, conveying the first information, as in Seneca, and that was so nice for the character. I believe that the whole final part [I have not read Seneca’s Medea for quite some time] of our Medea, who was more human, was also Seneca. […] So this version by Schroeder, which was written in beautiful, perfectly flow­ ing hendecasyllables, was very emotional and laden with theatricality. I have performed it, except for this time with Cacoyannis, during my five or six previous Medea stagings. However, when I directed Irene Papas on the occasion of the Barcelona Olympics, I thought that this mixture of Euripides and Seneca in the mouth of a Greek actress, of a Greek tragedy performer, did not work, and that it was better to return to the beginnings, and I think she was thankful for it as well. And now with Cacoyannis I talked to him about Schroeder’s version, but he said: I will feel more comfortable with the version I have known my whole life and which I almost know by heart, even though I have never directed it. And I am very happy, because if it had been other­ wise, the play would have been just another play, and this one is different also because I have a very different text in my hands, a text of extraordi­ nary beauty, a strong, powerful, text that clearly speaks to the present.) Although a comparative analysis would have no place here, it may be useful to acknowledge again that, in spite of dealing basically with the same ­subject – Medea’s vicissitudes in Corinth, when Jason decides to abandon her and marry king Creon’s daughter – the Greek and the Latin versions are profoundly dif­ ferent. With the help of Martina (2002) 589–92, we shall mention only the most striking differences: 1. Euripides begins his tragedy with a soliloquy by the Nurse, followed by a dialogue between her and the Tutor; in Seneca, Medea is immediately on stage, followed by the Chorus. 2. The dialogue between Medea and Jason, Eur. 446–626, is different from Sen. 578. 3. Medea’s meeting with Aegeus is only in Eur. 663–758. 4. The whole scene devoted to Medea’s magic preparation is exclusively Senecan 670–842. 5. In the Euripidean epi­ logue Medea appears in a winged chariot with her dead children; in Seneca


Pociña and López

she kills her children on the stage; 6. In Euripides the chorus of Corinthian women condemns Medea’s actions, although sympathetic towards the plight of the abandoned heroine; in Seneca, a male chorus is totally hostile to Medea; 7. None of the lyric passages of Seneca’s Medea echoes a significant motif of the Euripidean choruses; 8. The impressive mythological material and the ex­ tensive geographical knowledge that feed Seneca’s choruses are not based on Euripides’ tragedy; 9. Specific, smaller differences, such as the different names of Creon’s daughter in the two tragedies, Glauce in Euripides, and Creusa in Seneca, speak of the different traditions behind both authors. 10. There are dif­ ferent general approaches of a cultural, social, and political nature. In short, multiple aspects, some remarkably important, make these trage­ dies very different. However, the most crucial element when it comes to choos­ ing one of the two for a rewrite is their fundamental difference as regards the psychological construction of the protagonist, Medea, though also of Jason and the choruses. Differently from her Euripidean counterpart, Seneca’s Medea is psychologically portrayed, with much impact on us readers/spectators, as hav­ ing reached a climatic stage of anger, as Giuseppe Gilberto Biondi (1984) em­ phasises. He describes the absence of Medea’s development throughout the tragedy, since from the very beginning of the play she is dominated by anger and by a thirst for revenge, subject to an excess of constant passion that lasts to the end of the play: L’aver iniziato la tragedia con la protagonista già al colmo dell’ira e già psicologicamente compiuta (anche se a livello si diceva solo potenzia­ le: la Medea sarà l’evoluzione di questo carattere dalla potenza all’atto) significa non solo aver congestionato al massimo l’azione tragica in fun­ zione del pathos […] significa soprattutto aver strutturato la tragedia su specifiche basi formali che a loro volta tradiscono specifiche forme cul­ turali (25). (The fact that the tragedy begins with a protagonist that is psychologi­ cally resolved and has already reached a climax of anger [although at a level that may be described as merely potential: Medea will be about the character’s development from potentiality to actuality] means not only that the tragic action was maximally congested in terms of the pathos […] but especially that the tragedy was structured on specific formal bases that, in turn, betray the presence of culturally specific forms). Medea’s threat, made during a dialogue with the Nurse, in line 171 Medea / Fiam, that signals that it has already been fulfilled in line 910 (Medea nunc sum)

Versions of Medea in Classical Latin


after the murder of Creusa and her father Creon, thus identifying the curse be­ hind her name with all her tragic actions, completely fills her life.16 Medea’s ira determines her behaviour from the beginning to the end: it is duplicated in her own personality, and becomes the logical sustenance for her furor, leading to the abominable double crime, nefas, with which the play comes to its climax.17 She is, in short, a figure driven by passion, or more precisely, by particularly intense passions: dolor, ira, ultio combined, in Seneca’s Medea though not in Euripides’, with an intense unrequited amor.18 In his tragedy, Seneca conveys an innovative image of Medea and of Jason too; as Antonio Martina says: “También el Jasón de Séneca se diferencia del Jasón de Eurípides. En Eurípides Jasón es un hombre mezquino. Solo sabe ser ambicioso y egoísta, oportunista e hipócrita. Él suscita nuestro desprecio cu­ ando hipócritamente afirma que ama a sus propios hijos. En Séneca Jasón es más humano y más sincero en su debilidad: justifica su comportamiento en la voluntad de resistirse a la venganza de Acasto y de evitar la ira de Creonte” (Martina [2002] 593, cf. Maurach 1966) (“Seneca’s Jason is also different from Euripides’ Jason. In Euripides, Jason is a mean man. He can only be ambitious and selfish, opportunistic and hypocritical. He causes our contempt when he hypocritically claims that he loves his own children. In Seneca, Jason is more human and sincerer in his weakness: he justifies his behaviour with the will to resist Acasto’s revenge and to avoid Creon’s anger”). As for the choruses, the difference between Euripides’ female chorus, whose elements are ready to understand Medea in the face of the injustices of which she is a victim, although not prepared to excuse her revenge, and Seneca’s male chorus, always opposing her positions and her actions, has been the object of very detailed works, and we will not be dealing with it in this chapter.19 Seneca’s tragedy Medea was disseminated and survived in European drama in general,20 in Renaissance drama, in the English Elizabethan drama, espe­ cially in the works of Shakespeare, and in French theater.21 All of this has been thoroughly studied. However, there are many aspects yet to be investigated, and this book addresses some of those aspects in what concerns drama in Portuguese.

16  Traina (1979); Segal (1982); Petrone (1988); Galimberti Biffino (2002), etc. 17  Mazzoli (2002); Dupont (1995) 55–90. 18  Pociña (2001, 2002). 19  López (2002). 20  Lefèvre (1978); López-Pociña (2011) 299–300. 21  Paratore (1973).

44 4

Pociña and López

Medea in Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica

This chapter could not be brought to a conclusion without at least a refer­ ence to an imperial Latin work of the last decades of the first century AD, the Argonautica, by Gaius Valerius Flaccus, an epic poem about the journey of Jason and his companions in search of the Golden Fleece. Its interest for us lies in the fact that its second half presents a curious image of Medea, an image that, despite coming after the multiple and varied Medeas that classical Latin literature had known in its extensive development up to the time, is indeed truly original.22 The figure of Medea created by Valerius Flaccus has not really attracted the attention of philological researchers,23 with only a few detailed studies having been produced, and of these, a good part dealing with topics like her eternal comparison either to Virgil’s Dido, an omnipresent model in late epic produc­ tion, or to the Medea of Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica, a character ap­ proached very differently from the Latin poet’s. Studies on Valerius Flaccus have acquired a new impetus and raised re­ newed interest; however, a detailed analysis of this last vital contribution to Medea’s profile in Latin literature is still lacking. Yet given the generally scarce dissemination of this epic poem,24 this Latin Argonautica has failed to occupy an influential position in the Portuguese and Spanish rewritings of Medea’s story.

22  See Ehlers (1971); Scaffai (1986); River Torres-Murciano (2011) 8–89. 23  López (2002). 24  Zissos (2006); Torres-Murciano (2011) 42–7.

chapter 4

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva: Comedy Version of a Tragic Theme (18th Century) Maria de Fátima Silva Os Encantos de Medeia (Medea’s Charms) is an acclaimed example from the Portuguese theatrical production of the 18th century.1 This is a time when, under the influence of the French and Spanish theatres, the Portuguese theatrical scene had reformed and gained an enormous vitality, and in which António José da Silva, dubbed ‘the Jew’, appears as a reference name.2 Epic, tragic, comedy and Romanesque elements influence the innovative character of this rewriting, and establish it as a divergent production of the tradition on which it stands – Greco-Latin and neoclassical literature3 – and as a source for future treatments of the theme. 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  António José da Silva (Rio de Janeiro 1705- Lisbon 1739), coming from a Jewish family persecuted by the Inquisition – of which he himself was a victim – was a lawyer in Lisbon. Dubbed “The Jew”, he developed a dramatic career of great success; he was the author of ‘operas’, a set of eight comedy pieces with a strong musical element, at Italian taste and with great popularity at the time. In some of them, social criticism is noticeable, in addition to the objective of amusing. He was not indifferent to the courtyards of Lisbon, where his productions, destined for puppet theatre and characterized by a great scenic apparatus, received tremendous applause. In several predominate mythological subjects, of Greco-Latin inspiration (Esopaida ou Vida de Esopo (Aesopaida or Life of Aesopus) – 1734, Anfitrião ou Júpiter e Alcmena (Amphitruo or Juppiter and Alcmena) – 1736, Precipício de Faetonte (Phaeton’s Precipice) – 1738. This is also the case with Os Encantos de Medeia (Medea’s Charms), presented at the Teatro do Bairro Alto in Lisbon in the spring of 1735. On his dramatic production see Stegagno Picchio (1969) 185–95; Rebello (1991) 47–50. The 20th and 21st centuries in Portugal still had an impact on the representation of Os Encantos de Medeia; see below. 3  It is mainly in the versions of the Spanish 17th century, of Félix Lope de Vega (1562–1635), Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681) and Francisco de Rojas (1607–1660), which are based on the comedy elements that mark the style of Antonio José da Silva’s version. Barata (1991) 112 refers to the great popularity in Portugal of Rojas’s play, although he limits to some aspects the correspondence between the two authors: the falseness of Jason, the love and the magic arts of Medea, the fury of the king and Creusa’s romantic enthusiasm. By contrast (Barata (1991) 114–8) it is in the comedies of Calderón (Los Tres Mayores Prodigios / The Three Biggest Prodigies) and Lope de Vega (Vellocino de Oro / Golden Fleece) that he observes greater confluences with António José da Silva.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_006



It is important to read the play’s argument to see the contextualization given to the traditional theme and to perceive a first mixture of classical elements, conventional in different genres, that intervene in its construction.4 Some of the myth’s essential features are preserved such as the hero’s identity: Jason, prince of Thessaly, takes command of the Argos ship on the way to Colchis, to recover the golden fleece. Among those accompanying him is Theseus, prince of Athens, whom the ancient tradition already associated with Medea. And soon António José da Silva puts us before the adventurers’ landing at Colchis, in what is the first phase of the myth. Thus Jason takes the role of the traveling hero, who sails with his companions towards unknown worlds, subject to hazards in which his valor will be tested; this process obeys an epic pattern. But now a second stage is announced in the adventure, “the king is deceived”; that is, the ruler of Colchis, in the barbarian’s role, is subject to the wiles of the Greek, a well-known motif of epic, but also of tragedy.5 Included in the context of the adventure in distant lands lies, within an ancient tradition, the theme of love. The development of this episode varies, from the knowledge of a local princess who, in love with the hero, betrays her close ones to facilitate his success (as in the case of Ariadne in relation to Theseus travelling to Crete, or Medea to Jason); or the favorable intervention of a princess with the local authority to ensure the hero’s reception, as happens with Nausicaa, bringing Odysseus, as a castaway, to the kingdom of Phaeacians (Odyssey 5); or even the reencounter of a passionate couple separated by destiny long ago, such as Menelaus and Helen exiled in Egypt (according to Euripides in his Helen). The emotional relationship between the hero and this feminine element helps the traveler’s success and salvation, and promotes a rich and diverse web of adventure. In the Portuguese text,6 this motive becomes particularly sensitive as it is doubled: “Princess Medea, the King’s daughter and Creusa, his niece, fell in love with Jason.” Therefore Jason experiences, as in the traditional version of the myth of Medea, two loves, but now in the same environment of Colchis. In this context of the adventure, Medea does not come to Greece;7 it is Creusa – coinciding in the name with the Princess of 4  Quotations are made by Obras completas (1958) edition. 5  Previous references are of course the epic Odysseus, protagonist of the Odyssey, and hero polyméchanos, and, in tragedy, Theoclymenus, the pharaoh in Euripides’ Helen, and Thoas, the barbarian sovereign of Iphigenia in Tauris, by the same tragedian. 6  Barata (1991) 121 highlights that love, as central theme, remains a strong convention in Baroque comedy. 7  In the ancient Greek tragedy, only Sophocles seems to have been interested in this first period of Medea’s life still in Colchis, in two lost plays: Women of Colchis, which described the capture of the golden fleece; and Women of Scythia, in which Medea killed her own brother, Apsyrtus, to delay the pursuit of the Colchians. On the various details of the myth of Medea and its use in Greek tragedy in general, see Aélion I (1983) 289–92 and Wright (forthcoming).

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


Corinth in the versions of Euripides and Seneca – who becomes a young girl of Colchis, to dispute there with the king’s daughter the hand and the love of the hero. Medea, on her part, does not experience the foreigner’s grievances living in a xenophobic Greece; soon her drama stops being social and becomes exclusively personal and romantic. Instead of the rejected wife and mother, she becomes the maiden who quarrels with a rival, on equal terms, the seduction of a lover. But if it is she, by virtue of the incantations in which she is expert, who is the decisive collaborator in the adventure’s success, the power of her magic is not strong enough to avoid the hero’s passion towards Creusa. It is the jealousy caused by this amorous confrontation, in addition to the ingratitude of which she feels a victim, that triggers the vengeful fury of Medea. She commits herself, using magic, to avoid the infatuated couple’s departure and the fulfillment of their love, but without success. She is, at last, pursued by the angry king of Colchis her father whom she had betrayed without remorse. At the end, which in this version will be a happy one, the barbarian king allows the marriage of Jason and Creusa to be realized in happiness and harmony. From the prison to which she is condemned, by treason, Medea escapes in the air, thanks to her incantations. 1

The Argonaut and His Companions

Let’s begin by the characters, giving priority to the hero, his personal mark and relationships: first and foremost with his companions, who follow him under his command, then with the barbarian enemy, and, finally, with the ladies who stimulate his love-yearnings. The paradigmatic travelers of the Greek tradition are well known – Odysseus, Heracles, Jason, Bellerophon, Perseus – as also are the endless journeys they took. The hero who leads the adventure is ingenious, insightful, determined and resilient in the face of the dangers that threaten him at every moment. Endowed with courage, commitment, physical strength, or shielded by divine inspiration, the hero faces, with superhuman superiority, the most risky and extraordinary situations. He is responsible for the conduct and survival of his companions; it is incumbent upon him to find for each ordeal an exit, so he possesses an inexhaustible inventive capacity. That is why salvation is guaranteed to him, despite the endless adversities that he must first overcome. These are the conventional contours of an extensive journey, in time and space, full of risks, inhabited by ghosts, and often utopian in its objectives.8 From genre to genre, throughout the centuries, Greek literature maintained an interest for this type of adventure: from epic poetry, where the Odyssey 8  On the conventional episodes in this type of adventures account, see Crane (1987) 11–37.



established to it a first narrative pattern; then in lyric poetry, especially the Sicilian poet Stesichorus,9 then in theater, where the travelers lent themselves to serve as protagonists of tragedy and comedy; later in the novel, which resumed the traditional adventure narrative and persisted in surrounding the hero with companions, who help him, and with enemies who create him difficulties. But by gradually changing the traces of the young man as a hero and reinforcing his emotion and sentimentality, this process has transferred to the friends who accompany him and to the lovers who welcome him the function of protecting him and protect their survival or return. In Os encantos de Medeia, the opening focuses on the hero and his companions; from the Argo, in Colchis, Jason, Theseus, and Sacatrapo disembark, as well as other anonymous soldiers. Jason is given the word to exhort the men he leads. Like any epic hero or commander in a tragic combat scene,10 Jason values the determination of his fleet and announces the arrival at Colchis, his adventure’s destination (7–8). In addition to the objectives, the tonality is clearly epic: the epithets (“happy brave argonauts”) indicate it, as do the mention of the adverse forces that the gods move (“breaking the crystal of the false clay, despite the violence of Neptune, outraged and haughty”) and the appeal’s auspicious tone (“and if he had wished the fortune which with happy progress would conquer this rich spoil to the immortal glory of the Greek offspring!”). More expressive still is the reason for the aria that the hero chants, transferring from the specific moment to the plane of the superior principles that must lead to the hero’s intrepid adventure (8): Do not move us in this adventure Nor the Golden Fleece Nor from Colchis the wealth; Be only your destiny The greed of value, In a chest that ignites For gaining eternal fame Winning is the greatest good.

9  For travelling heroes in Stesichorus see S. Carvalho (2018). 10  In the case of the monarchs who lead their men against Troy in the Iliad; or, in tragedy, that of Eteocles and the speech he gives to his men at the opening of Seven against Thebes by Aeschylus. In any case the aim is to encourage discipline and determination in the subordinates.

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


Aretē, timē and nikē, fundamental values of the heroes of choice, are evident in Jason’s words in this opening, at the level of Achilles, Odysseus or the brave Eteocles. The seduction of gold is repudiated as ambition and serves as an incentive to courage, fame and victory. Regarding the hero, he is put to the test by the first barrier that he must face in unknown terrain. It is Telemon, the general of Colchis, who asks him his identity and intentions. In this first encounter, Jason shows the responsibility of a chief; it is he who answers and who finds the most appropriate version for the circumstance; because he could not confess the true purposes which he had just proclaimed as he set his feet on the ground, he must hide himself in the lie (9): “Tell your King that my coming to this port was casual, by the impulse of a great tempest and storm”. The lie is, for the time being, a sign of merit, as Theseus notes (9): “Sir, you have done well to cover up the reason for our coming.” With this observation, the public is called to notice the companions who follow him: first Theseus, the prince of Athens, solidary in his purposes, discreet and sober in words. The comrade-in-arms is incarnated in him, the true philos, who shares with the hero affinities of character and principles, and who performs with scruple his decisions. Patroclus’ relationship with Achilles, or Pylades with Orestes, would serve as inspiring examples of this Theseus. That is why the contrast with the second companion, the servant Sacatrapo, blabbermouth and nosy, in the showy role of the anti-hero is striking (see below). With the following scene, which takes place in the throne room, the hero’s second determining facet is discovered: in a first encounter with Medea, present in the foreigner’s official reception, Jason takes on the role of the passionate gentleman, who displays great gallantry and easily infatuates the girl (12). A scene inspired by the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes is taken up, where the hero’s reception in the Colchian court also unleashes the role of the passionate conqueror. To António José this scene opens a gap in the soldier’s soul, which is where one looks for the romantic weakness of a Don Juan. From gallant, Jason changes to corny, because of the simultaneous effect of several passions. Creusa is also in the throne’s room, sharing the hero’s warm welcome. And it is not with a slight hint that Jason greets her, and then confesses to himself (13): “Lady, in the sight of so much sun, it was strength that the rays would blind me. You even excell Medea’s beauty”. But despite giving him these weaknesses, the playwright does not remove the heroic prerogatives of his Jason. When asked again about his intentions, now by the monarch himself, the adventurer insists on the previous version; but certainly excited by the success of his lies, as by the magnificence of the scenario in which the question is placed this time – at the feet of the King – the invention comes to him in a



more detailed fashion; before reassuring the occasional character of the expedition and the storm that had brought them to Colchis, Jason added: “As you do not ignore, Sir, the wars between the kings of Crete and Corinth, to gain fame and to exercise in arms, I went with this army to rescue the King of Corinth, both because of the obligation of kinship, and because fortune is showing itself to be adverse to him.” It is not surprising, therefore, that instead of a sobering comment of approval, as before that of Theseus, it is now the exuberance of Sacatrapo to greet him with boldness: “See, as he lies so gracefully, at the face of a King!” The dismantling of the superiority of the hero is begun, which will be accentuated in the successive situations that he will experience. Subsequently he comes to boldly tread the sacred ground of the female chambers in search of Medea. He comes to declare his love to her bluntly. The oscillation in which we had seen him among the charms of princess Medea and Creusa leaves us no illusions about the sincerity of his intentions. As a true seducer, Jason advances and backs off in the declaration of his affections; first he is bold, ordering the nurse (19): “Madam, I would like you to let princess Medea know that Jason comes to surrender at her feet and kiss her hands”; and again courageous facing Medea’s own adherence to his love, all the more so as to the feeling the princess adds the power of incantations and decisive support for the conquest of the golden fleece (21): “If you promise to reciprocate with the same love, I am sure that you will be happy, for you will see that for your respect I can change mountains’ places (…) and I can even make you lord of the famous Fleece, for whose conquest in vain so much military strife has been contested”. With the enthusiastic collaboration of Medea, the hero’s strength suffers a setback: first, because the credential that justifies Medea’s generosity – the Argonaut’s passion – is false; then because his arete is worthless, where only the sorceress’s magic can give them victory. Like his tragic ancestor (see Euripides, Medea 476–98), the Portuguese Jason is a weak one who only wins thanks to Medea. Sacatrapo, with the rawness of his comments, does not leave us any illusions (21): “As you speak to him about Fleeces, there he is as gentle as a lamb.” The Euripidean Jason is, in a way, a hypocrite, who shows the face of devotion amid a commitment to hide his true intentions; he affirms loyalty to the interests of Medea and their children, having in mind a connection with Creusa, from which he expects well-being, promotion and social prestige (Euripides, Medea 455–64, 544–67). Love does not, however, enter into the motives with which he justifies the new link. Although less sophisticated, the Jason of our ‘opera’ is also false and cynical. Therefore, after the declarations of love and fidelity to Medea, he does not hesitate to open the game: if any feeling is felt for Medea, it is fear of her determination and threats. From her he only wants

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


access to the golden fleece, to throw himself in the arms of Creusa (22). More than his confessions, the servant’s conclusions are explicit when he translates the situation (24): “Sir, in two words: to love Medea by ceremony, until you win the Fleece, and to conquer in any case Creusa’s Fleece”. It is time for the feat. Jason, suitably fitted with the magic ring, Medea’s gift, advances to the forest where the fleece is hidden, guarded by a tremendous dragon. The classic inspiration for this episode is made clear in the blocking (35): “Jason will leave the room on Pegasus, which will have wings and then will enter the garden”.11 It is in the famous winged horse rider, the Perseus of the myth, by which the Portuguese Jason is inspired: both have a female ally, the goddess Athena in the case of Perseus, Medea in Jason’s case, and both use a magic element to counteract the superiority of a mythical enemy. With the shield, Perseus could petrify the terrible Gorgon Medusa, just as Jason subjects the enemy to his sword, “first blinding him with the lights of the ring’s chrysolite”. With a decisive and brief strike, our Jason annihilates his adversary, to receive afterwards the applause of the protective lady and, through her, of all nature in celebration; plants, trees, and flowers do not spare him ovations, improvising a scene of triumph. Having thus reached the climax of heroic action, Jason will now have to wage another equally risky fight: one that divides him between the extreme and threatening love of Medea and his burning passion for Creusa. And this is the struggle where there will be neither ally nor protective magic. Only the lie will lead the hero’s footsteps. And for now, before a Medea who is herself triumphant, nothing remains for Jason but to make insistent promises of love and to engage in solemn commitments (41): “Live rested, Medea, for I will not miss my word”. But in dialogue with Theseus, the truth of his feelings comes out. This dramatic process, which gives the Argonaut an opportunity to confess and comment on his innermost emotions, does not belong to the epic hero; it became characteristic of the dramatic character and, through it, of the late novel protagonist. This is the tone we perceive in the dialogue of supportive comrades in arms who comment on the extraordinary victory that, without more violence or bloodshed, came to them. The generous ‘goddess’ who performed the miracle is called Medea, and if she did it, it was for love,12

11  This moment of dramatic audacity – so conformable to the spectacular tastes of the author – does not fail to suggest equivalent attempts rehearsed by Euripides. They became famous his flying heroes, like Perseus or Bellerophon. On the caricature made by Aristophanes of this type of Euripidian scenes, see Silva (1997) 156–68. 12  In Euripides it is Medea herself who strikes the dragon (476–82).



as both of them acknowledge. But Jason goes even further, confessing: not even the magic was enough to calm his cowardly heart. If, in the struggle, Jason’s success depended entirely on the woman who loved him, escape and salvation depended on his companion and ally. Jason is unable to see the opportunity of a good decision, which recommends a quick and prudent departure; he lets himself be ensnared in delays of gratitude and love, justified before Theseus with false sentiments, when within himself he recognizes (44): “Thus I intend to cover up that through Creusa I hold myself.” Passion and common sense, incompatible by nature, never fitted in the same heart. If, for military issues, good advice comes from Theseus, for love cases the authority belongs to the faithful servant. The intervention of the nosy servant, who skillfully sponsors the master’s loves, is a well-known motif of ancient comedy. The wisdom that Theseus recommended to his friend is replaced, in the case of this other counselor, by the stimulus to excesses: Creusa, who represents love and risk at the same time, is already informed by him of his master’s passion. To this the servant is singing the dazzling beauty of the maid, and adding the spark of love that was denounced by a treacherous tear shed by the beauty. With this testimony, the author restored some breath to Jason and made him dream of his own paradox: the fleece, already secure in his possession by the gift of Medea, and Creusa for his wife, the one he would want to place on the throne of Thessaly. Jason was approaching the beach, and escaping with Creusa, when Medea follows and spies them. The revenge of the traitor is settled. What weapons does the vengeful Medea have? Enchantments, which she does not spare in the pursuit of the man she loved and at this point hates. Medea uses all kinds of expedients, moving mountains and valleys, and resorting to an old trump card, the seductive siren song (85). The allusion to the well-known danger of the sea brings the explicit fusion of the new hero with old Odysseus, expressed by Theseus’ insight: “You will be another Ulysses.” The persecution is joined to Medea’s opposition, this time with King Aetas’ weapons (72). The fight is fierce, the resistance determined. If Jason can do nothing against Medea’s magic, he is also powerless against Colchis’ army. In a final shout, the poor hero recognizes defeat (75): “Our army is broken and ruined! What shall we do, Theseus?” Whereas in Euripides the intervention of a deus ex machina, the only authority capable of ending the impasse with success, would now follow, the Portuguese author, with irony, gives the barbarian the supreme discretion of adventure. It is through the work of Aetas that everything ends in happiness and justice. To the couple in love, Jason and Creusa, the king of Colchis grants the consummation of their love. What Jason cannot obtain by the strength of

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his arm, is given to him by the king he has just betrayed: the woman he loves first and the object of his exploits, the gold fleece, are passed to him as a wedding present. The annihilation of its heroic side still results in the annulment of the return; Jason will stay in Colchis, as submissive lover of Creusa and subject of the King. Composed of a mixture of epic hero, of comedy’s young man in love, and novel’s protagonist, António José’s Jason suggests his Argonaut ancestor, but descends from the pedestal of the model hero to bring to the set of the play some humor. 2

The Barbarian

2.1 The King of Colchis The main opposition to the hero comes from the ‘barbarian’, which is divided between the figures of authority – the sovereign and General Telemon – and the story’s feminine element, the princesses Medea and Creusa. First, let us consider the character of the barbarian king, whom Euripides brought to the scene as the enemy of the traveling hero, whose territory promises extreme danger to all those that arrive there. The first trace of the dramatic barbarian is therefore ferocity, brutal and bloody action, which opposes the civility and values that the Greek represents. By fate, the barbarian has something that the hero will have to conquer or rescue: the desired object of a superior adventure, or the person of an exile whose salvation is the core of the warrior mission. To achieve his objectives, the hero needs to use all his resources; more than strength or courage, it is above all imagination and deceit that decide the success of the campaign. With the help of his companions and the loyalty or love of some heroine, a plot is set that brings him victory over the barbarian. When, in the face of the fugitives, he makes use of force and almost achieves his attempts, it is generally the superior will of some god to bring an interruption to the imminent confrontation. It is within this framework that the two paradigmatic barbarians of Euripides’ dramas are portrayed, Theoclymenus, the Egyptian king of Helen, and Thoas, the king of the Taurians, in Iphigenia in Tauris.13 King Aetas, in Os encantos de Medeia, takes from these models some suggestions. Even if he is careful watching over the entrance of strangers into his country, he is, unlike his predecessors in tragedy, a hospitable king. Through his representative, General Telemon, the welcome given to the newcomers is inquiring but friendly. The justifications invented by the Argonaut are 13  On this model of ‘romanesque plays’ by Euripides, see Wright (2005).



accepted without suspicion and the first meeting is sealed with a friendly hug (9). The tone is therefore of naive credulity before the wiles of the Greek. In the throne room, the principles of hospitality gain even a greater visibility, under a type of official welcome protocol. A note of the barbarian’s traditional psychology adds now to this picture: mistrust, which nevertheless does not overcome natural credulity. Aetas even asks Medea for help; is she not an expert on spells and magic arts, besides being his daughter? (11): “Medea, see if you can find this foreigner’s intentions, for my heart is troubled with some confusion”. The King’s trust was badly applied, as time will show. The justifications for the journey – some military exercises which a storm interrupted, resulting in an unexpected expedition to Colchis – do not deserve any doubt. Therefore, instead of the risks of death, this barbarian gives the strangers the benefits of philia. And yet something makes his heart restless, which is reasonable. Because a simple investigation of his guest’s justifications would be enough to legitimize his suspicions. After all, if no storm has occurred, what hidden purposes would justify such an unexpected coming? Aetas’ reasoning goes on: who is lord of so great a treasure as the golden fleece, what better justification can he find for such a mystery? It is not, however, by the loyalty of his own people, especially his daughter, that he can gain security. Contrary to the usual context, the Portuguese ‘opera’s’ barbarian does not let himself be deceived by the cleverness of the enemy. He is himself the author of a skillful strategy that will give him victory. Aware of the power of the eternal rule ‘divide to conquer’, as well as the no less sacred ambition of a servant for tips and promises of freedom, Aetas bets on Sacatrapo to reveal to him the enemy’s treason (49): “Tell me if you are a soldier; I might let you stay in my kingdom”; (49) “Now, my Sacatrapo, your fortune is in your mouth today, for if you tell me what I want to ask you, I will give you an income with which you can live joyfully.” And his strategy is good, because the servant’s ambition confesses everything to him. The truth is now clear in his eyes. Although right and dignity of suffering belong to him, when the moment of inevitable wrath arrives, it is not marked by the brutality of an uncivilized barbarian, but rather the legitimate reaction of an offended authority. This same superiority prevails before those who think they have deceived him. When in the presence of Jason and Medea once more, the king of Colchis can quietly fake naiveté with the result that others deem him a victim, yet even then he goes on being the commander of their wills. From Jason, Aetas demands that he disarm the men he commands, because – according to him – they cause “robberies and disturbances” (57). Therefore, how ridiculous is it of

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


Jason, when, after agreeing, he comments to himself (57): “Here, it is necessary to dissimulate”. The reversal of a conventional pattern, which leaves the barbarian as the author of the deception, and the Greek, convinced of his insight, assures the scene of a subtle grace. Not even Medea, by virtue of incantations, unveils her deceitful intention of her father, who asks her about the foreigner’s aim. The passionate sorceress hardly knows that for her the charms were mute; that they did not warn her about her father’s knowledge of the enemy’s intentions and his daughter’s complicity. Thus, when the hour of victory comes, Aetas demands that the princess’s betrayal receive exemplary punishment (90): “Since Medea, unworthy daughter, treacherous infidel, conspired against me, delivering to Jason the Fleece, she will die locked in a tower, for she offended me more than Jason”. Also the punishment of imprisonment follows the mythical model inspired by other punishments with which monarchs have condemned their betraying daughters or reprehensible passions’ protagonists. Although justice is done, everything harmonizes in the sense of the invariable happy end. From Jason, Aetas takes submission and gratitude; and Medea, if she escapes from the prison by her magic, does not escape punishment, for she sees lost love and solidarity around her (91): “I will wander desperately in the region of the air, since on earth I do not have any help.” With these words of exile, Medea throws the last crown of victory at the feet of the King. 2.2 Medea and Her Feminine Circle Medea, the main heroine in the tragedies that tell her drama as a woman and a mother, plays here the role of the Princess of Colchis and Jason’s passionate lover. Converting tragedy into comedy when Medea is the subject requires profound changes in the portrayal of the heroine. But if filicide, important in the myth’s version that Euripides established for posterity, would be incompatible with humor, it is no less evident that the Medea of the comic opera has a common identity with her prototype. The context around the princess is different from the one that surrounded the betrayed woman, about to be exiled from Corinth. Medea is now a maiden, safe in her father’s palace, present at court ceremonies, and in love with a slender young man, heir to the court of Thessaly, gallant and conquering. Everything points to the theme of love: not the infuriated passion of an abandoned woman, but the first fires of an enthusiasm. At his side are two women, whose cross paths, within the traditional scheme, go with the fate of the heroine. One is Creusa, the young rival for Medea’s love for Jason; the other is Arpia, the old nurse. As soon as the Argonaut greeted her, Medea already surrendered to him (12): “I cannot take my eyes off him!”. This confession would be promising of a



passionate romance, if there was not already a threat in the air: because if to Medea Jason directs greetings of circumstance, to Creusa he gives the prize of a greater beauty and seduction. Because Medea’s soul does not lack the traditional explosive force, priority is given to her in the confession of the love that dominates her. “Madness and rapture” are the appropriate terms for describing her feeling. From Jason, she demands a full retribution; if she cannot have it she prefers death. Even if death here means the youthful exaggeration of one who experiences a first love, it is undeniable that the maiden tends to extreme commitments. The presence of the Nurse, who always guarantees solidarity and understanding, sharply contrasts with Medea’s personality. In the face of the passionate idealism of the princess, the Nurse urges an immediate intervention by the sorceress. Why wait for the possibility of a failure, if Medea has the magic arts? Medea can control or get what she wants because she has mastered magic,14 even if, for the time being, she sighs with love and keeps a discreet attitude, waiting to see the direction of her destiny. Nurses, who with their experience and old age, accompany the passions of the ladies, when confronted with their enigmatic silence, fear the devastating consequences. Therefore, they often assume the risks of revelation before the beloved, with the laudable, if often disastrous, intention of satisfying the most secret desires of the young ladies. From this old pattern, Arpia also reproduces the attitudes and behaviors. It is the Nurse who first hears the Argonaut’s statement, which praises the plan for a promising marriage between the two, which anticipates her joining the proposal. Then Medea, who is listening hidden, appears to confess to the pretender. Under the Nurse’s watchful protection, the meeting progresses with the exchange of promises: all favours that she can carry on Medea’s behalf and a fidelity made of interests on Jason’s. Bold in favors, Medea is also extreme in threats; with the barbarous spirit that characterizes the people to which she belongs, the princess shares the natural distrust of foreigners, which, according to her, applies not to the political doubts of a sovereign but to the suspicions of a passionate heart. In the exalted accents of an aria, which like the old monody gives voice to emotion, Medea can shout in a simulation of amorous ‘fury’ (21): “Do not deceive me, nor my ardor, sacrilegious, profane, that whoever gives you so many riches, will give you death, if 14  The power of magic, which Euripides does not value much in his version of Medea, is strong in the Hellenistic and Roman poets (see Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3. 528–33, 744–1145, 4. 50–65, 109–82; Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 1–452). In these poems, Medea forces the nature and the monsters at her will, and she truly becomes a sorceress. It is therefore in these later sources that António José da Silva draws inspiration for this trait of his heroine.

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


you break faith”. In addition to identifying an eternal Medea, the threatening force of this chant also serves to diminish the hero’s masculine power, based on lies and inner weakness. Medea’s extremes on which she commits herself to support her beloved are also her own, even if that implies betraying her close ones. The father, and monarch, is the first victim of the princess’s passionate obsession; if she shows love for Jason, it is also to give him the possession of the golden fleece, which means to harm the king of Colchis, in that treasure which is a symbol of his power and of the kingdom he rules. But Jason is not alone in the fear that feeds Medea’s fury. Everyone who crosses her recognizes them. So Sacatrapo, with that crude frankness that characterizes him, when he transmits the loves and fears of the master to Creusa (26): “I know that he wishes to be your husband, and does not declare himself as he is afraid of Medea, because she says that she will kill him if he is inconstant to her; that the woman is a devil in the flesh, for even when she caresses, she has such a bad face that she scratches rather than caresses”. Such fears are contagious to the Argonaut’s young lady, since she knows her cousin’s power, feelings and ways. These become the strings that condition Medea’s action in the play. In the support that she gives to the conquest of the fleece, the princess plays with love, because it is proof of this feeling that she invests everything in this campaign. But she also intervenes with her arts, in the form of a magic ring, which has multiple abilities: that of allowing entrance into an enclosure, that of neutralizing a supernatural enemy, and of saving the victorious hero from any danger (32). Because the exploration of the fantasy, transposed to this spectacular scene, is in character with the dramatic tastes of António José da Silva and the theater of his time, its effects provide, at the climactic moment of the heroic act, wonders of magic and theater. Medea mobilizes nature in the applause of the beloved, the conqueror of the gold fleece. Plants, trees, and flowers, like the mountain nymphs, unite in greeting the warrior. In unison with those in love, the echoes repeat their glory, in a sonorous and praiseworthy aria (38–9).15 15  The solidarity of the echo with the suffering of the protagonists of tragic stories produced unforgettable pictures in the Greek myth and scene, in particular the one that resonated in the famous Euripidean Andromeda. Besides applauding “the most beautiful of the tragedies of Euripides” (see Aristophanes, Frogs 53 and the respective scholium), this play captivated the attention of contemporary critics, especially Aristophanes, who parodied it in Thesmophoriazusae 1056–97; see Silva (1997) 142–53. Abandoned to loneliness and threatened with death, the princess of Ethiopia received a single sign of sympathy for her laments: the distant voice of the nymph Echo, who by far repeated them. There is certainly a confluence between Euripides and António José, which may not mean the direct reuse of a model, but only the recognition of the effect of a particular theatrical process.



Medea sings accompanied by the repetition of her voice (38): “Say the voracious – voracious fire, which burns in my heart love – love, when it is inflamed by Jason – flame, in pure and gentle burn – burn”. After this supreme moment of passion and success follows in Medea the disenchantment and unleashing of all her anger. This other melancholic Medea, pierced by suspicion, finds, as always, in the Nurse a never denied fidelity. As in Euripides, the old servant pays attention to her concerns and worries about her. She speaks with the voice of experience, trying to silence Medea’s anguish with a universally weighty argument (52): “There will be mistrust, because love when young is trusted and suspicious when it is old.” She is prudent, and establishes a counterpoint with Medea’s agitation, because Aetes’ daughter is young and excessive by nature in her passions. In the Portuguese case, Arpia is still a backlight for Creusa, who listens with secret euphoria to Medea’s fearful confessions about Jason’s infidelity. The heroine is accompanied, therefore, by two confidants this time, one in the position of loyal counselor and another in the dubious position of listener and rival. In the opera, the contradictions stir the feminine world around Medea, because it is a competition for the heart of a young man. This is the ultimate cause of so much agitation of feelings, the insecurity of the masculine dispositions, in particular of soldiers, eternal seducers of ladies and destroyers of hearts. If any cooling in Jason’s courtship had already shaken Medea’s security, what to say of his feelings when the betrayal becomes evident? By a simple confusion of Sacatrapo – who, in the darkness of the night, thinks he sees Creusa when it is Medea that he faces –, so, the daughter of Aetas mistakenly receives the message of love that was destined for her cousin. As with the king, now also with the princess Sacatrapo denounces the master’s lies with a cloudless limpidity. Medea knows the whole truth and breaks in fury, first against the servant, until she reaches the main target of her wrath, Jason himself. A major suffering awaits Medea. After the suspicions of Jason’s coldness and involuntary denunciation of the servant, it was necessary for her to witness the romantic encounter of the traitors and, hidden, to listen from the Argonaut’s own mouth all his false intentions. The time for revenge has come, which now has the traitor as direct target. Medea does not spare him accusations, threats, and censures, and also spells. Medea’s hesitations are well known when it comes to executing revenge (Euripides, Medea 1021–80). Euripides makes her the afflicted mother, who oscillates between killing her children as a supreme blow against a traitorous father, or conforming to the loss of everything that is the reason of her life. This famous moment of insecurity is also found in the Portuguese Medea. It is not as extreme as the Greek heroine, because it is not about filicide, but that does

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


not make it less powerful. The young Medea in love hesitates in the revenge, because saving the lover is a thought that also crosses her mind, even given her eagerness for vengeance. But her retreat is short, because the voice of reprisal speaks louder (88): “But why do I tire myself in doing good for an ungrateful one, if that increases trophies to his triumph? Waves, winds, furies and seas, revenge for once the insults of Medea and the tyrannies of Jason”. Although faithful to the traits of her ancestor, the new Medea does not disturb the graceful tone of the Portuguese opera; especially because of her charms one can take scenic effects and respite, and because her rages have no other reach than a lost lover. 3

Sacatrapo, the Servant

But converting the tragic theme of Medea into a graceful opera finds in the servant Sacatrapo a decisive collaborator. The playwright himself announces it through Jason (14): “This servant is gracious and I bring him to my amusement and to spend good humour”. This is also a figure that, like the hero, Jason, constitutes a puzzle of traditional elements and effects. According to references of the epic, Sacatrapo is a companion of the adventurous hero, participant in a difficult campaign, who contrasts, in the context of the Portuguese play, with Theseus, Jason’s right arm. What is aristocratic and sensible in the prince of Athens, contrasts with Sacatrapo’s exuberant and burlesque personality. In this contrast there is also a justification for the different alignment given to each of the two philoi: Theseus is supportive and loyal to the hero, agreeing with his projects and attitudes, sensible adviser in difficulties and dangers, a kind of shadow of him; Sacatrapo is above all the antithesis, the voice of the humorist, the commentator of the ridiculous or the painless interpreter of each situation, the whistleblower of his master’s weaknesses, or even the antihero, the counterpoint of the heroic experiences of the paradigmatic adventurers. If we think, on the other hand, of his status as servant, we find in Greco-Latin comedy endless models for that skillful and ironic servant, permanent companion of the young man in love, master of a living imagination in solving all problems and a sure winner of all plots. This is the king of Plautus’ theatre, after successive rehearsals of the character from a phase that ascends to the comedy’s pre-literary times. Finally, Sacatrapo also receives comedy traits from the theatre of his time, from Italian, French and Spanish comedy, especially as a hero’s negative replica. With all these recognizable processes in its identity and behaviour, Sacatrapo is a happy and decisive creation in the final tone of Os Encantos de Medeia.



Sacatrapo’s presentation is caused by himself, in a stroke of intrusive boldness that sets the tone for the model. At the moment of treading on unknown land and facing the barbarians who inhabit it, at the hour of difficult decisions for the head of an adventurous expedition, Sacatrapo gives advice that no one asked, opposing to Theseus’ laconism the blatant verbiage of the comic slave. For this reason, he incites a comment from Jason, which is the first mark of his personality (9): “I would be surprised, Sacatrapo, if you were silent for a long time”.16 Because the game of words is part of the same chatter, the questioned advances with the first of many puns to which the events inspire him,17 which involves the relation between the name he uses and the ready language that characterizes him (9): “At least, Sir, I do not need ‘sacatrapo’ to take my speech off the hook”.18 Using the traditional resource of the ‘speaking name’, the servant comments on the fairness and opportunity of his name, characteristic of a bellicose adventurer and an uncontrolled chatterbox. And by feeling this assonance between the name and the reality of existence, he even proposes himself to change his name when the experience invites him to it; of Sacatrapo in rod, to carry well to the bottom the blessings of abundance (15): “Once we have lodging at the palace, I wish no longer to be Sacatrapo, but rather a rod, so that I could properly carry the belly’s gibbet”. Sacatrapo repeats, in the traveling slave’s role, a well-known function of an ancient slave pattern.19 Because he finds himself involved in an adventure which objectives he does not know, this type of slave martyrs the boss with questions; this process, functions as part of an informative prologue, in addition to being highly dramatic. In accordance with the cliché of the chatterbox, Sacatrapo “pulls out of the box” of Theseus the answer to all the questions 16  Jason repeats identical comments about the apparent chatter of the servant; see 37: “Do not push him much, otherwise he will never shut up.” 17  The servant highlights everything he witnesses with puns; some examples are suggestive: the use of a proverb to comment on the adventure of the golden fleece in which he participates (10): “God help us that we do not come to get wool and we get sheared”; or to Latin to justify the name and personality of the barbarian king, Aetas (13): “This king Aetas is already quite old: he is the Aetas, Aetatis”; or to a double meaning (37): “My master is that it does not fit his skin; (…) that the ram, getting caught out of here, does not change the skin”; and finally the onomatopoeia, which allows a ram to speak Latin (45): “I asked him (by chance) of ego, mei, mihi the accusative of the singular. Behold that he answers straight: me”! On the jocular effect of the servant’s language, see Barata (1991) 124. 18  In the Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa by Cândido de Figueiredo, s.v., you can see “Sacatrapo – instrument with which the wad is removed from the firearms, chicanery to achieve something”. 19  This conventional episode of the ‘traveling slave’ is well represented by Xanthias in Frogs, and Carion in Pluto by Aristophanes. See Silva (2007) 192–5.

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


necessary to the understanding of an old story (10–1): “What the devil is this of the Golden Fleece?”; “Lord, Theseus, a ram with golden skin?!”; “This must be Devil’s skin! For this is it necessary to come with so many weapons?”; “And how big is this ram?”; “And when the ram is caught, is the campaign finished?” Thus, without breaking psychological rigor, it provides the technical information that requires a moment of openness. In addition to his big mouth, our servant is also light-handed, which does not detract from the ancestral ‘virtues’ of his predecessors. Immediately in the presentation and reception ceremony, in the throne room of Colchis, Sacatrapo has his opportunity to present credentials. Like his master, he too bows in reverence before the sovereign. But if Jason conceals the true intentions of carrying away the greater treasure of Colchis, the golden fleece, the servant is direct in parallel objectives; more modest in intentions, he feels satisfied with the regal ring, which he praises and covets; then, he steals it and dares to comment (14): “I only accept it because it’s a gift from you. Famous stone! Ah, Sir, is this diamond fine or false?” Like Jason, Sacatrapo will also face powerful enemies, at his level: in the palace there is an Arpia, the old servant, whose name is as talkative as that of her rival. As soon as the servant’s curriculum was exposed, the opportunities arose to confirm his merits. After attacking the royal ring in the throne room, a starving Sacatrapo vents against the pantry’s treasures. But a treasure is not found without suffering, as the whole adventure makes evident. Not knowing the ways that lead to the kitchen, Sacatrapo falls on the ground where a vigilant monster named Arpia watches over the lady chamber’s privacy. Whoever sacrilegiously treads the sacred floor of the female chambers loses their toes, unless they have arguments to appease the beast, like a ring, for example, to silence an Arpia.20 With lucidity more practical than heroic, Sacatrapo easily recognizes this (17): “For the rings are gone, and the toes remain”; to which the competitor responds with consummate cunning and profound irony: “Know that I’ll take it for compassion, as I don’t like blood shedding.” If Sacatrapo anticipates the hero in the quest for the treasure, he also advances him in the experience of the magic power. A maid also assists his pretentions; she has no youth or beauty to offer because she is old and Arpia,21 but she is master of spells. It was her, like a Chiron, who passed on to Medea the 20  Barata (1991) 130 emphasizes the rings play as a way of articulating Jason, the hero, with his negative, Sacatrapo: “To the ring Medea gives to Jason, which he uses to enchant the mermaids, such as Ulysses, oppose the long lazzi around the rings that Sacatrapo loses, recovers, to lose again in favour of the interested and self-interested Arpia”. 21  On the nature of an Arpia, the text leaves no doubts (18): “I know well that the name of Arpia is in style nowadays, because some are arpias in the face and others in the nails”.



recipe of magic (32)! She only lacks the passion to encourage her to put her arts at the service of the hero Sacatrapo; to her, the servant is a competitor whom she does not let prosper because she wants him submissive to her interests and sources. To the kindly request of Sacatrapo – “do some little magic, gallant thing” (33) –, Arpia does not surrender and generously responds: “To please you, there goes a magic, an exquisite one. For the art of charms and trinkets, that with this slap your head jumps out of your body”. From Arpia’s general character stands out the certainty that she functions as the caricature of the cooperating maiden, who, out of love, commits herself to the young adventurer’s wishes. Being the hero’s negative, the servant does not fail to fulfill the duties that the traditional solidarity with the passionate master imposed on him: those of a mediator in his love affairs. Sacatrapo performs this mission with efficiency and grace. It is he who takes to Creusa Jason’s love confessions (25) and clarifies the meaning of the attentions falsely rendered to Medea. And so that the contrast with the hero may also be striking in this respect, Sacatrapo does not spare the comparison by making sure of Creusa’s retribution (27): “What the devil has this Jason, that everyone wants him? (…) I’m the only one who doesn’t find anyone who really wants me! Because, of course, the devil is not as ugly as they see it, because I, thank God, I am quite a smart, handsome guy, blubber-lipped, with male nails. I walk with short steps, and finally as a whole I’m composed by a lot of parts, and yet there is not a lost soul that falls in love with me”. He comes later, in addition to the embassy, to bring the good news to his master. He insists on the readiness with which he has disengaged himself from the task (45); he spares no details in the beauty of the maiden, who, with brilliance, almost liquidated him with the usual heroine glow of the love romance: “Every eye was a firefly, each face a carbuncle that walked in the hands of the anatomist of beauty. Each hair was a thunderbolt, each eyelash a comet, and a cornet each nose”;22 he confirms that he transmitted, without omissions, the love message; he notes, in the maiden’s reaction, the signs of correspondence (46). But concerning the desired conclusion – Creusa’s explicit confession –, the servant takes refuge in reticence, in delays, in uncertainties, because after all in what he has gathered there is neither clarity nor security.

22  This description of Creusa, insistent on elements of fire and light, is nevertheless suggestive of the traditional fate of the young princess of Corinth, victim of Medea’s sources: the flaming up, as a human torch, surrounded by flames of hatred and jealousy (Euripides, Medea 1156–77, Seneca, Medea, 836–9).

Os encantos de Medeia by António José da Silva


To consummate the complexity of this comic character, António José grants him space for his own odyssey. Alongside the prince of Thessaly, conqueror of the fleece of Colchis, the pursuing slave of the shitting-gold-donkey emerges. As before the hero, now also the anti-hero can present to the barbarian monarch a series of exploits that design his personality of exception (49): “I have served, Sir, in the campaign since the age of five. I was in all the positions, I was standing, I was on my knees, I was prone, I was on the back, I was crawling and, if the need was big, I crouched”. The time to test such a brilliant experience comes from the hand of the conniving maid, Arpia, who is also the antidote to the generous Medea; because the proposal she offers to the hero follows these terms (65): “You know that if you pay, I will give you a better campaign than that of the Golden Fleece!”. In exchange for a recent gift from the king, the royal ring, the old woman reveals an anti-heroic campaign as a caricature of Jason: a hidden subterranean stable where the shitting-gold-donkey is hiding. This treasure is also guarded by a watchful monster, an ant, though it is more harmless than a dragon. But to prevent the foreseeable risks in heroic campaigns, the anti-hero receives from the ally a cover, which has the gift of making him invisible and protecting him against all the unforeseen circumstances. Dumber than the donkey with which he dreams, Sacatrapo, so skillful and realistic when it comes to his master’s interests, is, in his own case, an easy prey to the abilities of an Arpia, who has already shown herself to be an weighty opponent. Evaded by greed, and once again by competition with a true hero, Sacatrapo confesses, at the moment of departure (67): “Oh, donkey of my heart, if you shit gold, you will not be a donkey, you will be the true father of the Fleece. This time I’ll have a better luck than Jason”. The parody of the hero, and also of the myth, has the promised outcome. In seeking the target of his valor, Sacatrapo finds nothing but the wreckage of Jason’s forces, in turn decimated by the fury of the barbarian king. And because the magical cape is nothing but an old cloak, inherited from some distant grandmother, the miracle of invisibility does not work. Like Jason, Sacatrapo also falls into the clutches of the barbarian, hero and anti-hero together in a common destiny. For the parallel to continue to the end, if Jason still has to face Medea’s revenge, whom he eluded in love, Sacatrapo must also face the wrath of Arpia, when he seeks to betray her in the affections of his heart, the treasure arks. All that Sacatrapo misses is a king of justice who will save him and reward him, in spite of everything; as from Arpia, the slave receives only crowns instead of rings, submission to the weight of an ark instead of the ceremonies of victory, surrendering to a harsh female authority, instead of the gentle caress of a maiden’s hand.



With all this set of elements, stemming from the various traditions to which time was imprinting new traits, António José da Silva made his version of Medea. Without abandoning the wealth of the models, he did not deceive the public expectation of his time – by a miracle of perennial classical tones, but no less by merit of a genuine theatre man.

chapter 5

In Search of Lost Identity: Jean Anouilh’s Medea Maria de Fátima Silva 1

Medea in the Context of Jean Anouilh’s Work1

Médée, one of Jean Anouilh’s Nouvelles Pièces Noires, was written in 1946. Published in the following year, it premièred in Hamburg in 1948, under the direction of Robert Michel. In France, its production only took place a few years later, in 1953, at the Théâtre de l’Atelier, under the direction of André Barsacq, with set design and wardrobe by André Baskt.2 Notwithstanding its singularity, Anouilh’s version of the Medea myth was significantly less successful than his Antigone. Several aspects have been pointed to an attempt to explain why the play about the Colchian princess failed to attract as much interest as Antigone; amongst these, the question of timing may provide the best explanation, as the connection with contemporary events is less perceptible in Medea. 2

The Human Trajectory of a Personality

The list of characters preceding the text is a clear indicator of the author’s preference for classically inspired minimalism. There are three main characters – Medea, Jason, and Creon – and three other characters that can be placed on a secondary plane – the Nurse, the Boy, and the Guards. This is followed by a few simple stage directions meant to enlighten the audience on the author’s innovative choices in terms of setting. Being familiar with his better-known play in the classical tradition, Antigone, Anouilh’s readers and spectators will undoubtedly notice his change of approach in the opening of the text 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Lasso de la Vega (2002) 900-1 has undertaken the study of a vast number of versions of Medea, both preceding and coeval with Anouilh’s play, representing a tradition of rewriting, to examine their possible interactions. He concludes that Euripides, Seneca, and Corneille are the most distinctive influences on the French author’s version. The main focus of this essay lies on the aspects connecting Anouilh’s play with the two above-mentioned classical authors.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_007



on the Theban heroine. In the case of Medea, the author makes no intervention in the Prologue, nor is there an individual identification of the characters, apparently because the playwright believes that his audience does not need detailed information on the myth and its agents. This silence could be interpreted in more than one way. There may have been a tacit understanding that the audience was by then more familiar with this kind of theme, or perhaps the Medea theme was thought to be so familiar that it dispenses with any kind of additional information.3 The initial blocking instructions are the following: En scène, au lever du rideau, Médée et la Nourrice accroupies par terre devant une roulotte. Des musiques, des chants vagues au loin. (On the stage, when the curtain rises, Medea and the Nurse squatting on the ground in front of a wagon. In the distance, music and vague songs). The restrained wording of the details of setting and posture symbolically expresses the fundamental framework for the action. The two women on stage, Medea and the Nurse, share close emotional and cultural ties. Their posture, “squatting”, represents the humiliating circumstances in which they find themselves as strangers in the city of Corinth, where they have just arrived. But mostly the wagon is meant to be understood as a neutral shelter – neither the palace of their past, nor the house that Greco-Latin tradition affords them in Greece; it is rather a modest shelter, precarious and wandering, the sign of their statelessness.4 Thus, the stage directions and description convey those aspects that Anouilh, acknowledging tradition, intends to highlight as the starting point for his rewriting of Medea: her barbarian origins, and, as expected, her violent personality. And yet the author does not portray this aggressiveness as a constant or as something inherent in her non-Greek nature, because this opening scene also shows that violence is most of all a “latent” 3  Nine years had passed since the première of Anouilh’s Antigone, and new productions in the same Greco-Latin tradition had meanwhile sprung up throughout France. See Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 51–4. 4  To Lasso de la Vega (2002) 902, this choice of mise-en-scène is indicative of Anouilh’s portrayal of errant Medea as a gipsy, and he remarks that José Bergamín (a famous Spanish poet, prose writer, and playwright) had been inspired by the same idea in his own adaptation, Medea, la encantadora (Medea, the Enchantress). Hélia Correia is equally aware of this kind of detail, and makes (see below, pp. 164–7, 177) a similar choice, even if in different terms: in Medea’s house, in Corinth, an hierarchy is established between the bedroom, a space of conjugal intimacy, and the kitchen, a kind of domestic agora.

In Search of Lost Identity


feature of Medea’s character – she who, besides a barbarian, is also a woman, and thus fragile; circumstances will determine the relative weight of these two contradictory traits in her mind. Another life goes on, off-stage, in distant sounds of song and music: presumably a local festivity, which provides yet another source of displacement5 for the women, who are outside the confines of the city,6 excluded and estranged from that collective experience. Saying that “There may be a festival among them” (9) is yet another way to emphasize their alien condition, their uncertainty about what is going on, making it obvious that they do not share the happiness and the sense of belonging conveyed through the music. It is no coincidence that Medea repeatedly voices her “hate” for the music that she hears coming from Corinth (“je hais leurs fêtes. Je hais leur joie” / I hate their festivities. I hate their joy, 10). Her natural incompatibility with the Greek soil she now stands on is understandable, but the way she expresses that tension is compelling – the note of hate in her voice, typical of a soul which has always been traditionally viewed as excessive. Two worlds in opposition, on and off-stage, provide the starting point for the experience of the creatures that inhabit those worlds. Adopting the traditional view of the relationship between the Nurse and Medea,7 Anouilh, like Seneca, opens the play with a dialogue between the two women, in the prologue, with two distinct moments, separated by the Boy’s intervention: the first part of the dialogue centers on a past believed to be under threat, and is charged with the foreboding that something strange and painful is about to happen; in the second part they talk about the imminent future, after the certainty of rupture has been confirmed by this messenger. Besides the two dichotomies previously pointed out – of settings, first, and of dramatic structure, in the dialogue that follows – a third one splits Medea’s state of mind. In her first dialogue with the Nurse, focused on past memories, she frequently exclaims “shut up” (10, 11, 12), in an attempt to avoid woes that would incite feelings of hate and vengeance. Medea listens more than she speaks, and the little she says consists of appeals to silence and restraint. To recall the joys and sorrows of the past is indeed useless, because the 5  The theme of the festive sounds reaching Medea’s ears comes from Seneca (Medea 116–7), but what in the Latin drama was interpreted by Medea as a sign of emotional rupture is more deeply felt as cultural estrangement in Anouilh’s play. 6  The local inhabitants’ motives for the confinement of the two women and their wagon to a trailer-park outside the town are mean or downright insulting: “they were afraid we would steal their chickens during the night”, says Medea (13). Later (28) this collective hostility is reinforced in the decadent portrayal of the two foreign women, with their rocky wagon and old mare, at whom the children throw stones, showing their rejection. 7  See below, pp. 68, 74.



Nurse already knows them, as do we all who know the history of Medea’s past. Nevertheless, convention dictates this revision of the stages of the myth. The Nurse, an old woman from Colchis, like her mistress, whom she has cared for since her childhood,8 is a voice from the past; as such, she supports Jason’s wife with her affection, making her feel less lonely. Reinforcing the presence of Colchis on stage, the Nurse highlights the contrast between Greek and barbarian; the barbarian world is represented not by one, but by two voices, the voices of two women of different age and status, each with her own personal perspective on that world – which is thereby more clearly perceived and thus more complete. The terms of endearment with which the Nurse addresses her lady show her long-term affection (“petite” (little one), 10, “ma chatte” (my kitten), 12). Responding to the “chez eux” (at their home) that referred to the festivities they overhear, she speaks of “chez nous” (at home) (9–10, 13), recollecting Colchian social life and Medea’s origins. Anouilh provides more details about the festivities in the kingdom of Aeëtes, which on stage are a mere remembrance – but which had been intensely enjoyed by the two women – than about the celebrations that are made real by the distant sounds. The description includes precise details of that past life in barbarian lands. While in Corinth the feast may consist of music and chants, in Colchis violence lies at the heart of the festivities (10): Les filles se mettent des fleurs dans les cheveux et les garçons se peignent la figure en rouge avec leur sang et, au petit matin, après les premiers sa­ crifices, on commence les combats. Qu’ils sont beaux les gars de Colchide quand ils se battent! (…) 8  Some of the ancient Nurses have become famous, such as, for example, Orestes’ Nurse in Aeschylus’ Choephoroe as well as those which Euripides gave his Medea and Phaedra (Medea and Hippolytus). Despite adjustments made according to each poet’s preferences or their different contexts, the tragic Nurse incorporates a set of traditional traits. She tends to be an elderly woman, long employed by the family. That is the reason why she is knowledgeable about her masters and mistresses’ lives, with details connecting the past and the future. Her voice on stage comments, firmly and assuredly, on more things than would be expected from a mere servant. Within the family, she is closest to her mistress, albeit their relationship may be not exempt from conflict; since they are both women, they understand each other; however, there is also a degree of latent animosity and competition, as creatures whom life has treated with diverse levels of generosity. On the characterization of this theatrical type, see Silva (2005a) 167–93; Silva (2005b) 123–5. In Anouilh’s plays Antigone and Medea, the Nurses follow a similar pattern, each one showing loving care towards “her little girl”. In the present play, however, the Nurse’s Colchian origin, like Medea’s, is underlined, which is relevant for the closeness of the two women and for the function assigned to the old woman as “the voice of memory”.

In Search of Lost Identity


(The girls put flowers in their hair and the boys paint their faces in red with their blood and in the early morning, after the first sacrifices, the fights begin. How handsome Colchian lads are when they fight!) Après, ils domptent les bêtes sauvages tout le jour. Et le soir on allumait des grands feux devant le palais de ton père, de grands feux jaunes avec des herbes qui sentaient fort. Tu l’as oublié, toi, petite, l’odeur des herbes de chez nous? (And then they tamed the wild beasts all day. And in the evening great fires were lit before your father’s palace, great yellow fires with herbs with their strong smell. Have you forgotten it, little one, the smell of the herbs back home?) The barbarian world featured fierce rituals and strong smells, and the celebrations reflected the ways of its participants, with bloody displays. Reminded of what they had left behind, the old woman is led to ask the questions that will eventually trigger the revelation of the other side of Medea’s personality (11): Why had they left? Why had they travelled such a long way? Unable to keep silent, Medea shouts out her answer. The same Medea who, moments earlier, had repressed her natural instincts now lets them loose upon being reminded of Jason. With him comes the memory of the list of crimes she had committed, a short list that seems rather like a nod to tradition (11): “On est parties parce que j’aimais Jason, parce que j’avais volé pour lui mon père, parce que j’avais tué mon frère pour lui!” (We left because I loved Jason, because I had stolen from my own father for him, because I had killed my own brother for him!). Her violent, unbridled passion had brought about the loss of social status; long gone was her old palace, with its walls of gold, the palace that identified her as the princess of Colchis (11), surrounded by luxurious parks and ample grounds, where as a young princess she had once ridden her horse. Long gone is her rich wardrobe full of dresses that her maids would bring for her to pick and choose according to her whim9 (13–4) – “tu étais la maîtresse et la fille du roi et rien n’était trop beau pour toi” (You were the mistress and the king’s daughter, and nothing was too beautiful for you, 14). Now that all that splendor is gone, all that is left is two women squatting on the floor like two beggars (11) – a heavy price to pay for an irrational passion that had destroyed family ties, status, 9  The capriciousness of the Colchian princess and her taste for fancy clothes inevitably recalls Euripides’ description of the daily life of Creusa, Creon’s daughter (Euripides, Medea 946–50, 959–68, 1156–62), which emphasizes the similarity between both of Jason’s lovers.



and the comfort and luxury that they provided. A string of qualifiers draws an impressionistic picture of the stateless condition (14): “Chassées, battues, méprisées, sans pays, sans maison”;10 (Hunted, beaten, despised, stateless, homeless); to which Medea adds a touch of hope, a flimsy and soon to be shattered hope (14), “… mais pas seule” (but not alone). The suspicions of the two women, whether voiced or simply felt, are the signs of what, though unexpected, is not truly surprising news: the realization that Medea’s lingering hope in Jason is unfounded. At first, when hearing the music, the Nurse suggests that Jason will probably be at the party, dancing with the local girls, a member of the community, and hence, estranged from the foreign woman (12). Then, feeling her advanced years, the old servant becomes aware of the fact that her death will leave her young mistress alone, since she cannot count on Jason’s support (15). Finally, Medea herself has a sense of foreboding, feeling the approaching day as a sort of menace. In full contrast with the excitement of the people enjoying the celebrations – maybe Jason too – her heart is torn and an odd sensation takes complete hold of her. Considering her later filicidal actions, her choice of imminent birth as the metaphor for her pain and anguish is particularly significant (16). The Nurse, whose experienced hands had helped Medea overcome her labor pains, cannot help her now, and the messenger arrives with the most terrible confirmation of her fears. Medea feels “weak”, like she felt then, showing how her naturally virile character clashes with the typically female pains of motherhood. Underlying this speech is Medea’s famous statement on the condition of women, in Euripides’ play, according to which she would rather stand three times in battle than give birth once (250–1). 3

The Treason

Rather than causing a first direct confrontation between Medea and Jason, as in Euripides, Anouilh prefers to interpose a messenger between them – a Boy sent by Jason to deliver the news of the Argonaut’s imminent engagement to the king’s daughter. While the tension between the couple is temporarily abated, Medea’s anger increases. She receives the Boy with shouts, her sense of foreboding exacerbated by his telling presence. Her previous feelings of weakness, which the memory of childbirth had rekindled – there was, after all, something feminine, something fragile and subdued, in her passionate nature – are replaced with rage. She tries to find multiple explanations for the presence of the messenger – maybe the Argonaut had suffered an accident, 10  Cf. Seneca, Medea 20–1.

In Search of Lost Identity


leaving him hurt, possibly on the verge of death? Could he have been taken prisoner for infringing the local laws?, 1711 – until, finally, she voices what, deep down, she knows to be the real motive for his absence: the celebration overheard in the town “is in his honour”. Besides cultural estrangement, there is now an explicit emotional break with Jason. And thus the feared news is confirmed. Medea sticks to the laconic expressions she resorts to when she wants to hide her feelings, or her fears, and her “tais-toi” (shut up) previously addressed to the Nurse is now replaced by a “dis vite” (say it quickly) meant to encourage the herald of her doom (18–9).12 She even manages a smile, encouraging the Boy to utter his difficult message, which he does with truly aggressive simplicity: Il épouse Créuse, la fille de Créon. C’est demain matin la noce. (He is going to marry Creusa, Creon’s daughter. The wedding is tomorrow morning.)

11  This possibility is hinted at in the information conveyed by the Boy, according to whom Jason is “in Creon’s palace” (17). Expressed by Medea through a single word – “Emprisonné?” (Imprisoned?), 18 –, the doubt becomes paradoxical. The Argonaut is in fact “imprisoned” in the palace, though not because he has infringed any rules, but rather a prisoner of hypothetical affections and interests. 12  Dramatically, Medea treats the Boy as a seruus currens (18–9), whose conventional traits are known. The urgency of his task justifies the hasty entrance of the character (a slave or a parasite), fleeing from danger, which in comedy is merely imaginary. His nimbleness, which explains the term currens, is quite spectacular on stage, being also quite emphasized in the text. Besides danger, the seruus currens is impelled to hurry by the nature of his mission; his arrival generally represents the outcome of an embassy which was committed to him, or a testimony of a fact that has occurred far away and is important for the development of the action; for a number of possible reasons, he shares the identity of a Messenger. And, lastly, there must be a recipient to whom the seruus currens delivers the news and whom he warns of the coming danger.  Anouilh’s Medea gives the Boy some of these conventional elements: he is red in the face from running; he takes some time before he conveys the news, which makes Medea insist that he must do it quickly; she promises him that he will be able to go and join the festivities once he has accomplished his mission. Duckworth (1971) 106–7, 225, identifies 13 seruus currens scenes in Latin comedy, which attests to the common nature of the episode. Incidentally, Duckworth analyzes the different outcomes of the same process as used by the two Latin comediographers; Plautus explores the surprise effect, since, as a rule, the audience does not know the content of the information that is going to be disclosed; Terence plays with irony, because the clarification provided by the slave is known to the spectators. In this respect, Anouilh is closer to Terence. His dramatically inspired play employs a resource that is, in general, more typical of comedy. However, in Orestes, Euripides gives the Phrygian a similar characterization.



4 Vengeance 4.1 The Plan After all Medea’s fears and forebodings are confirmed by the messenger, the dialogue between her and the Nurse continues, now with a threatening tone as the mistress dismisses the Boy with these premonitory words (19): “Et quand tu seras vieux, rappelle-toi que c’est toi qui es venu dire à Médée” (And when you are old, remember that it was you who broke the news to Medea). A first sign of change is patent in the way the Nurse now addresses the one she begins to perceive as a different Medea: “Mon aigle fière, mon petit vautour” (My proud eagle, my little vulture) (20, 27), “ma louve” (my she-wolf) (22, 27) describe “her little girl” as a potential wild beast whom she has known for ever.13 Other signs speak of the deep change in both the now abandoned woman and her surrounding context. Medea refuses the Nurse’s shows of affection, her old emotional dependence now gone. Recollecting her childbirth experience establishes, by way of contrast, a link with the ‘weak’ side of her personality. The product that Medea has just delivered does not require the skillful intervention of a midwife; it was born by itself, spontaneously. It did not burst forth from her body but rather from her soul: it is called “Hate” and has come to mobilize all of her energies and affections (20–1). Her own attitude on stage changes accordingly. The woman who has been “squatting” now stands up prompted by that genuine energy that characterizes traditional barbarian Medea; she now listens to a different Melody, not the party’s, to which she is alien, but that of Hate, of which she is now the protagonist (25): “Haine! Haine ! (…) Tu me laves et je rennais !” (Hate! Hate! […] You wash me and I am reborn). Having been abandoned gives her back her old personality (26): “Je suis Médée, toute seule, abandonnée devant cette roulotte; au bord de cette mer étrangère, chassée, bannie, haie, mais rien n’est trop pour moi!” (I am Medea, all alone, abandoned in front of this wagon; by this foreign sea, hunted, banished, hated, but nothing is too much for me!). This metamorphosis caused by the emotional shock of a message that served to confirm Medea’s worst suspicions enables Anouilh to add modulations to Medea’s characterization. It is as if one would not be able to recognize her at first, debilitated as she was under the guise of morbid submissiveness, and then saw her awaken and embrace her traditional fierceness, which had been dormant. This is the time Medea is granted to give vent to her feelings; as happens in Euripides, before Jason, her, and our, attention is focused on the whole course 13  Medea herself recognizes how she keeps no secrets from her Nurse. This closeness can even represent a danger (30): “Tu en sais trop, tu en dis trop” (You know too much, you say too much).

In Search of Lost Identity


of her love story. Treason, which is also a point of arrival, stimulates her reflection on the path that led up to it. We are now back in Colchis not to revisit a young princess surrounded by honors and luxury but rather in search of a woman who gave herself up unconditionally to the fire of passion. In the French version, this confession expresses a different understanding of the relationship between the barbarian woman and the Greek hero as experienced by Medea. The admiration she felt for an adventurer whom she was eager to help accomplish his mission – the conquest of the Golden Fleece – or the curiosity and excitement about a whole world that opens up beyond the Colchian borders, or simply a taste for adventure feeding the imagination of a young girl, all these plausible explanations for Medea’s surrender give way to a single argument: Medea’s sexual obsession for the Argonaut. Theirs had been a very physical relationship, translated in Medea’s fascination for the touch of his strong hands and the smells that bespoke his male presence; and it had been too instinctive to cause any shame or humiliation in the woman who now analyzes it as a thing of the past. It had been but an act of female yielding to and subservience before the appealing presence of a male. The way how this passion meddled with the behavior of the one her Nurse calls “aigle, vautour, louve” (eagle, vulture, she-wolf) is quite evident. The wild animal had yielded with submissive passivity, forever waiting for her lover from the morning hours when he left till he came back in the evening (21–2), ready to satisfy all his desires, even if it meant betraying her family circle. There is absolutely no sign of rationality in this chain of behavior; she had merely bought Jason’s presence by means of utter self-annulment. Affection was probably absent from their relationship, which was fed by passion alone. In Medea’s recollection, the Argonaut had imprinted a very masculine mark upon the woman who threw herself at his feet; he had used her, and no emotion at all remained from their interaction. Both genders confronted each other in their deepest natures: female weakness, which the body itself exhibits, and the muscular vitality of the male. Medea gave everything, Jason seized it, giving nothing in exchange. What is left of this obliging complicity, which only those who love can understand, is shame and the sensation of a disease; the very excesses that characterize the descendant of the Sun did not exempt her from the humiliation to which her female nature exposed her; on the contrary, they contributed to an extreme experience of subjection, she being “more woman than any other”. Having been abandoned, she now feels more liberated, as if redeemed of all her weaknesses, and this makes her glad. It is as if she had been bewitched for a long time and is now finally free from it. This release from her subjection finally brings back the genuine, violent Medea announced by the Nurse’s vocatives. Anouilh substitutes this return to the past for a dialogue between Medea and Jason. Medea is still alone, as she



has always been in this relationship, the only difference being that Jason used to come and go, with the same indifference, attracted by nothing but sexual routine. Now he will not be coming back. Medea does not shout anymore, she claims to be calm, her composure more dreadful than her former anger. It is the cold rationality of one who has recovered her identity. This return to her inmost self provides her also with control over events; the initiative is no longer theirs, it is hers now. Jason had been efficient in putting down genuine Medea, who is back now that he is gone. The threat of imminent exile emphasizes the meaning of Medea’s wagon and her marginality. But Medea will never leave on her own; the “nous” (we) (“où irons-nous”, “il y aura toujours un pays pour nous” (where shall we go; there will always be a country for us, 25)) includes the Nurse, whose role in this play seems to include that of a shadow.14 The grandeur of Euripides’ solitary heroine is thus readjusted. In the same laconic style of the whole play – where single, isolated words are repeated and gain the readers’ or the audience’s attention – by means of a single word (25), “Après” (Afterwards), Anouilh suggests that a plan is being devised in Medea’s mind. Between the crime and the enforcement of the sentence of exile there is only a limited time, that ‘single day’, to return to the Euripidean version. In this case, the meaning of the word remains an enigma for all, even for the Nurse who, in the French play, lacks the astuteness of her Greek counterpart, with all the Euripidean Nurse’s fears concerning the worst consequences of her lady’s anger, including its impact on her children. Past and present are connected; Medea claims to be prepared to commit new crimes, setting herself as a priority: if her past murders were committed for Jason’s benefit, her future ones will benefit herself; or, in a different proportion, if blood had to be shed for her to follow Jason, their divorce will be accomplished through the same means, i.e. bloodshed.15 But who her targets will be remains an open question. The fact that the abandoned woman wishes her rival’s wedding to take place as soon as possible (the word “vite” [quickly] is again repeated, 27) hints at the possibility that Creusa may be the target of Medea’s next crime, which will also shake the Corinthian king’s palace. The Nurse tries to exert a pacifying influence, like Ismene vis-à-vis Antigone, with their affective closeness, even 14   This identification between the Nurse and her mistress, with the former as a daimon of the latter, is used quite exuberantly in Hélia Correia’s Perdição (Perdition); see Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 273–4. In Anouilh, however, Medea’s Nurse is able to release herself from this alliance and survives the catastrophe that befalls the other characters. Her final words reinstate the mediocre return to common daily life, signaling the coexistence of those two radically different worlds. 15  Cf. Seneca, Medea 53–5.

In Search of Lost Identity


if they are not relatives. When Medea insists that it is urgent to take measures, the Nurse responds by delaying the action, stressing their situation of fragility and forlornness as women and foreigners confronted with the city’s male authority; she fears the anger of Creon, the tyrant, on whose tolerance their chances of survival solely depend;16 she mentions the charming things in life, the taste of simple things, a ray of sunlight; a warm plate of soup, a few coins earned, a comforting hot drink at bedtime (29). Like Oedipus’ daughters before them, the two women are also separated by the contradiction of these two life concepts – one woman committed to violent revenge, the other praising the simple beauty of a peaceful daily life. This is an adequate context to define a hero’s nature as opposed to the averageness of a common creature. Not that Medea is a hero by nature, but, faced with the circumstances, she has to become one (29): “Moi aussi, hier, j’aurais voulu vivre, mais ce n’est plus de vivre ou de mourir maintenant qu’il s’agit”17 (Yesterday, I too would have wished to live, but now the question is not one of living or dying anymore). A resolute “moi” (cf. 28) is what is left from a whole life project; having lost her motherland and her family, with the relationship that had brought her to Corinth now over, her only reason for living is encapsulated into a word and a tiny universe: “Moi”. Prompted by the rupture, the passive, Medea’s torpid generosity towards Jason is replaced with her retraction into a purely selfish individualism; from now on she lives exclusively for herself and inside herself, with only one thought in her mind: revenge. One necessarily wonders about Medea’s motives for deciding that she must carry on committing crimes. Hélia Correia tries to answer this question by seeking the right word to name Medea’s conflicting sentiments. As for Anouilh, 16  The notion of collective hatred towards them in Corinth – they would have been lynched by the populace were it not for the protection of Creon’s authority (28) – is echoed, in a similar tone, in Hélia Correia’s Desmesura. In the Portuguese text, the words “Todos em Corinto” (All in Corinth, see below, p. 177) expresses an animosity, mainly created by Jason as an excuse to portray himself as a victim of the foreign woman, who has become an obstacle to his plans. 17  In an attempt to belittle the happiness that, for common creatures, seems to stem from the simplicity of the small pleasures of life, Medea confronts the Nurse – confronting her own self, i.e., the Medea of the past; the new-born heroine addresses her companion of exile, describing the other face of existence, the inescapable alternative to all things good fortune may provide humanity with (30): “Tu m’en as trop dit avec ta carcasse, et ta goutte, et ton soleil sur ta viande pourrie … À ta vaisselle, vieille, à ton balai, à tes épluchures, avec les autres de ta race. Le jeu que nous jouons n’est pas pour vous” (You have said too much to me with your carcass, and your gout, and your sun on your rotten meat … Mind your dishes, old woman, your broom, your peelings, with the others of your race. The game we play is not for you).



he is not exactly concerned with the orthoépeia, or “the correctness of words”, that defines impulses or gestures, but he nonetheless does explore the reasons behind them. The Nurse who “knows all and tells all” is able to explain that ‘Love’ is not the issue since Medea has long fallen out of love with Jason. Not even sexual instinct has survived in their now cold relationship (30): “On tue pour un homme qui vous prend encore, pas pour un homme qu’on laisse sortir la nuit de son lit” (We kill for a man who still captivates you, not for a man whom we let go from our bed in the night). We might justly ask with Hélia Correia:18 What name should be given to the feeling that stirs Medea: Is it jealousy? Or is it madness? As a whole, this Prologue responds adequately to what is required from it: it sums up the critical aspects of a past that can elucidate not only the present moment but also the future; it sketches a portrait of the protagonist, with her conflicts and her excesses; and it anticipates new motives the author will provide for the crimes that all who know the Euripidean version of Medea are expecting. 4.2 Medea’s Agon Before Her Eternal Antagonists: Creon and Jason After her will, her motives, and her targets have been defined, Anouilh places Medea before her two enemies in two long agones inspired by classical tradition. The first is Corinth, the enemy’s culture, represented by Creon; his goal – to expel Medea – and his reasons – his fear of Medea’s magic skills and violence – are the conventional ones. Then comes Jason, to explain and clarify the much-feared break before its traditional consequences come to happen. These two confrontations correspond to the most substantial part of Anouilh’s rewrite.19 In general, Anouilh’s Creon does not differ much from his traditional Euripidean model. His goal is to get rid of Medea for fear of what a woman who has committed murder in the past may be prepared to do to harm the city and, especially, his daughter, who is soon to be married to Jason (34; cf. Euripides, Medea 282–3). His intervention is possibly more innovative; he addresses Medea using moderate words, finding protection behind peremptory commands – Medea is given one hour to pack her belongings and leave (34; cf. Euripides, Medea 271–6) – and then the king becomes visibly more laconic 18  See below, p. 181. 19  On the importance of these agones, Lasso de la Vega (2002) 903 writes: “It is not by chance, but rather on purpose, voluntarily, that the characters, more than acting, discuss the inevitable misfortunes of their respective lives. There is only dialogue strictu sensu in the whole play, no ‘triangular scenes’”.

In Search of Lost Identity


after he has listened to Medea’s arguments; but when it comes to defending Jason and the rights of the man and the Greek, his speech becomes more lively and his attitude more combative. On the other hand, the goals of both antagonists are wider and include overtones that originate in conventional traits but certainly go beyond them. When Medea asks the king to be allowed to attend the wedding and to be given an opportunity to converse with Jason’s future wife so as to acquaint her with the best way to deal with her husband (34),20 Creon is horrified, and says that exposing his daughter to such a dangerous company is exactly one of his worst fears. Medea does not use this sort of female argument, despite the fact that it is indeed compatible with the way how, in Euripides, the barbarian princess sees her ‘female condition’. As can be expected, the real reason behind Creon’s refusal is in his quality as man and father, his duty to protect his home and his daughter from her rival’s singular concern. Anouilh brings new personal elements to Medea; the idea of returning to Colchis, with Jason (cf. Seneca, Medea 197), emphasizes her exile, of which her lover was also a part. Her story includes the fact that her errant life, which seems on the verge of being reenacted by order of the Corinthian king, must be shared with her eternal partner, as if ‘Medea-Jason’s story’ could not do without any of its protagonists. They would not be parted even if Jason were to stay and be king of Corinth while Medea again wandered aimlessly, with one or two seas interposed between them. Medea may be exiled, but never crushed (38– 9). Actually, the Argonaut is her accomplice and if exile penalizes her for the crimes she has committed, it surely must include him as well (39; cf. Seneca, Medea 273–6). Jason’s will seems to be irrelevant in Medea’s appeal to the king. His return to his old-time lover does not necessarily involve his decision, but can be determined by the king’s command; from this point of view, Medea’s connection with the Argonaut becomes rather like a ‘habit’ she cannot get out of than a genuine affective link that she wishes to restore. However, the predominant tone in this agon as Anouilh designed it is mostly political. Medea confronts the king as an equal; she does not adopt the same supplicant stance of her Greek and Latin models.21 Now it is the princess of

20   Medea’s strange proposal seems to reflect the weakness which Euripides’ heroine identified with the female position within marriage. Women’s duty to immerse themselves into an alien world, trying to divine their husbands’ wishes for the sake of marital harmony is mirrored in the willingness of Anouilh’s protagonist to inform her unexperienced rival of those requirements (Euripides, Medea 238–40). 21  39; cf. Euripides, Medea 324–6; Seneca, Medea 246–8.



Colchis who challenges the Corinthian sovereign22 regarding the exercise of power when the fate of a guest or an enemy is at issue. She asks the king of Corinth and father of the bride in the eve of the nuptials to give her Jason back; Creon’s reasons for refusing to do it are political (33): “Jason est mon hôte, fils d’un roi qui fut mon ami et il est libre de ses actes” (Jason is my guest, the son of a king who was a friend of mine and he is free to act as he chooses). This answer, which defines the dialogue plan, is what probably leads Medea to respond with similar arguments. First, having been condemned to exile, Medea challenges the king’s authority by disobeying his orders. In the face of this, the king might easily have given Medea over to Pelias’ children, who claim for legitimate retribution for Medea’s crime (34). But he does not do it, for a number of different reasons: first and foremost because he had given his word to Jason, his guest, who had made a plea for Medea (35–6, 38; cf. Seneca, Medea 184–5); second, because with the end of his reign drawing near, after years of much violence, he does not wish to shed any more blood; remorse for the atrocities he had committed advises him to redeem himself by showing some generosity towards new victims. Medea disagrees with the king’s attitude, which is quite the opposite of what, in comparison with the exercise of power among the barbarians, she believes a king’s authority should be (35): “Tu fais bien légèrement ton métier de roi, Créon! J’ai eu le temps d’apprendre au palais de mon père que ce n’est pas ainsi qu’on gouverne. Fais-moi tuer tout de suite” (You do your kingly job rather lightly, Creon! In my father’s palace, I have had the opportunity of learning that that is not the way one should govern. Have me killed right now). Barbarian power is free from humaneness and hesitation, coexisting comfortably with violence. Thus, her life, because it brings danger to those around her, should certainly not be spared. Medea’s death would indeed be in everyone’s interest – her own, the king’s, Jason’s – but it would take an extremely firm will to carry it out. With this idea of annihilation, a different ending from Euripides’ now begins to take form. Instead of flight and separation, which the descendant of the Sun is allowed, riding her godly grandfather’s chariot,23 the French protagonist demands to be killed. In her view, this would be the most adequate ending, which the king’s authority should duly ensure. Medea does not fear to 22   The challenging concept that, because she is herself the daughter of a king, Medea has the power to confront another king is present in Seneca, in a dialogue between the Nurse and the protagonist (Medea 168). 23   Pulquério (1995) 11 analyses Anouilh’s approach to the divine element present in Euripides. In her dialogue with the Nurse (22), Medea does indeed mention her traditional divine ancestry. The reason is that her role in the French play mostly makes sense on the basis of her identity as a ‘woman’.

In Search of Lost Identity


submit herself to her enemies, and exposes their weakness and their inability to take action against her. Medea shows some similarities to Antigone, notably in her bold, self-assured challenge of power (36). She does not affirm her strong opinion, which is radically different from the king’s, in the name of any specific values, but she does position herself as an equal, and therefore, as a worthy adversary (36): “Créon, tu es vieux. Tu es roi depuis longtemps. (…) Je suis Médée. (…) Je suis de ta race. De la race de ceux qui jugent et qui décident, sans revenir après et sans remords. Tu n’agis pas en roi, Créon” (Creon, you are old. You have been king for a long time. […] I am Medea. I belong to the same race as you. The race of those who judge and who decide, without later going back and with no remorse. You don’t act like a king, Creon). Despite the similarity of their standing, they are extremely different: the barbarian, wild, self-willed woman, in the prime of her vitality, and the Greek king, trapped in the commitment he had made, an old man afflicted with remorse. Notwithstanding his weakness, or even his humaneness, Creon is still able to deliver a tough speech which shows that he is still a matching enemy for Medea (40). Creon’s arguments in defense of Jason bespeak his personality as a man and as a Greek citizen. The king exonerates the Argonaut from all accusations, shifting the entire blame onto Medea; without her and her excesses Jason would be free from any accusations. As a result, the male is granted victory over the female. In addition, in Creon’s view, Jason also boasts another advantage: “il est de chez nous” (he is one of ours), giving the Greek a victory over the barbarians. To conclude, he repeats the expulsion order, now based on the sole argument that Greeks and non-Greeks are incompatible: “Retourne vers ton Caucase, trouve un homme parmi ta race, un barbare comme toi; et laisse-nous sous ce ciel de raison, au bord de cette mer égale, qui n’a que faire de ta passion désordonnée et de tes cris” (Go back to your Caucasus, find a man among your own race, a barbarian like you; and leave us alone under this sky of reason, by this equal sea, which have nothing to do with your disorderly passion and your shouting). Creon’s known tolerance in giving Medea some more hours is not enough to spare him from Medea’s criticism after she has left. The differences she had mentioned – between her extreme way of handling her enemies and the Corinthian king’s weak, remorseful attitude – prepare her first steps towards revenge. And then, unannounced, Jason comes before her,24 and a second, almost excessively long agōn begins. 24   He himself explains his presence (44) saying that he had followed Creon and his retinue from a distance; now that the king has left, Jason wishes to speak to Medea in private.



Creon had just given the aggrieved woman an opportunity for revenge, to which Jason adds more motives, or justifications. The Argonaut shares with the Corinthian king the same feeling for Medea, i.e., fear (45), since he knows her violent, impulsive nature better than anybody. At first there seems to be a degree of tenderness in their exchange – after all, the couple had shared years of their lives. Jason does not bring arguments or excuses: he behaves submissively, like one who is prepared to be held accountable; Medea “va doucement à lui” (meets him with sweetness) (45), using words of tranquil love, not in a whirlwind of fleeting passion but rather with longing for a past that has brought face to face two people who have now grown old; now is the time to recreate, or, in terms of the play’s structure, to develop, in the voice of those involved, past experiences which had been mentioned in the prologue, in the conversation between the Colchian princess and her Nurse. A fit caption to underpin the starting-point of their relationship would be “a world without Jason” or “a world without Medea”, as if a new, blank canvas were needed to free the Argonaut and the barbarian woman from the chains that tie them together.25 From that first moment, Medea recalls the immediate fascination that the mere sight of Jason brought to her, and the adventure she was willing to embark on; without her help, Jason would not have been able to conquer the dragon who kept the Golden Fleece, and another ‘world’, an “easy” world, would have begun (46). But that was not fate’s choice and so they must be forever bound to each other (46): “Mais ce monde comprend Jason et Médée” (But this world comprises Jason and Medea). This is the unlucky framework against which their feelings and reactions must be explained and understood. The development of Jason and Medea’s relationship must be analyzed from a flash-back perspective; after the present circumstances have been identified, their determining causes are to be found in the past. The present rests on two pillars: the protection that Jason is determined to grant Medea, and his decision to be married again. Unlike his Euripidean counterpart, a selfcentered, cynical Jason who used other people’s interests as an excuse to hide his own, Anouilh’s character has genuine integrity. He tries to make sure that Creon guarantees Medea’s safety for understandably humane reasons: Medea had been his wife for many years and he had really loved her.26 As for his new 25   This utopian desire to delete a lifetime and start all over again is a topic frequently developed by Hélia Correia; see below, p. 182, and Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 278. Lasso de la Vega (2002) 905 identifies it as a topos that can be found in several of Anouilh’s works (Jézabel, La sauvage, Le voyageur sans bagage, Roméo et Jeannette). 26   Unlike Hélia Correia’s Jason (see below, pp. 171–81), who also had to qualify his feelings for Medea, Anouilh’s Argonaut does not shy away from the word ‘love’ (“parce que je t’ai

In Search of Lost Identity


marriage, his reasons are different from those that might motivate the suitor of the Corinthian princess: his interest in what she represented for his full integration into a Greek city or even for his access to power, as in Euripides; or the romantic facet of a man who tends to succumb to female charms.27 Anouilh chooses to identify the motives for the couple’s breakup within themselves, with no outside interferences; from the viewpoint of the spouse who leaves, the reasons lie exclusively in Medea (“c’est toi”, 48). This “c’est toi” becomes a motto for a second issue in this tentative explanation of what is happening before our eyes.28 The way each of the members of the couple views this justification is the basis for their separation, a separation that becomes obviously necessary or inevitable. Medea’s perspective depends mainly on the way she feels towards Jason; as she sees it, time and physical decrepitude, added to the resentments caused by a lifetime of crime and violence – “la rancune et le temps” (rancor and time), 48 – are the main reasons why he seeks younger, purer lovers, based on sexual attraction, as always (49): “Tu iras boire dans d’autres yeux, sucer la vie sur d’autres bouches, prendre ton petit plaisir d’homme où tu pourras” (You will drink from other eyes, suck life on other mouths, take your little pleasure as a man where you can). According to Medea’s perception of Jason, because he is a man, he cannot resist his senses, the urge of his hands which feel the need to touch and channel the irresistible impulse of passion;29 for her, love is a relentless struggle between reason and senses in which the latter are necessarily victorious. But Jason feels differently about it; he is now a tired older man who simply seeks ‘forgetfulness’ in parting with Medea and in his alliance with Creusa. It is as if his love experience with Medea has left him depleted and incapable of making a new beginning (50): “Ce n’est pas seulement toi que je hais, c’est l’amour!” (It is not only you that I hate – it’s love). Another pause and another look clarify Medea’s future path: while Jason seeks peace (53) in a new alliance, the repudiated woman has no choice but aimée” [because I have loved you], 47). His Portuguese counterpart was unable to find a better word than “gratidão” (gratitude) to justify his complicitous relationship with Medeia. 27  This is the facet most deeply explored by Hélia Correia; see below, p. 166. 28  Anouilh punctuates the successive stages of this dialogue by means of pauses and looks exchanged between the couple and described in stage directions: “Un temps. Ils sont l’un en face de l’autre. Ils se regardent” (A pause. They are one in front of the other. They look at each other) (48); “Un temps, ils se regardent encore” (A pause. They look at each other again) (50). 29  Medea’s memory of her first encounters with Jason, where she felt an irresistible passion after experiencing the touch of his strong lover’s hands, is here extensively developed, focusing on the hands as an instrument of masculine instinct in a love relationship (49–50).



to flee. Faced with a new odyssey of exile, she recalls her long list of crimes. Colchis, the crossing of the Hellespont, Lemnos, Thessaly, the traditional mythical journey, which is now impossible for her to make in the opposite direction (cf. Seneca, Medea 450–9). In all these stages of her journey, in all the ports she called at and all the crimes she committed, Medea had left a trail of hatred and thirst for revenge, and consequently, she cannot go back. But besides these reasons, a different constraint deters her from repeating her journey: would it make sense to replicate on her own a path that had been planned for two? And so Medea confronts Jason with the same challenge she had posed to Creon’s authority: for the sake of security, and now also for the sake of peace, the woman who jeopardizes these public goods must be eliminated – and this takes courage; being abandoned was a first step in that direction, and therefore not much else is needed to annihilate her. Again, Medea demands to be put to death, thereby consolidating an idea of extinction that is gradually taking shape in her suicidal mind. Beneath the ‘soundness’ that Medea believes had been the hallmark of their common path, and which had been broken in Corinth, Jason shows that their separation was not conditional upon the figure of Creusa as a rival. Well before that, weariness had begun to wear off their passion; other women’s charms attracted Jason’s attention, while Medea, in her more extreme fashion, engaged in an adulterous encounter as a form of retribution. But she put an end to this adultery in the same way that she had solved all problems interposing between her and her ‘conquest’ of Jason: she did not hesitate to resort to crime one more time and she gave her lover away to Jason, exchanging the pure, genuine love of a shepherd for the growing coldness of the Argonaut (55). In matters of love, and treason, Medea responded instinctively, “stuck” as she felt to Jason, “like a fly”, or faithful like a “dog” (56). Jason takes Medea’s instinctual reactions to a more human level of affection. They discuss the best word to define the feelings that now separate them,30 as a consequence of their common journey so full of hazards and setbacks. Jason suggests “pity” as his determining feeling, but Medea dismisses it intolerantly; “disdain” might better express the collective reaction towards her as a unique, and therefore isolated and misunderstood woman (57–8) who nevertheless does not give up her pride and strength of character. Marked by her mythic fate, Medea turns this contempt into vigor and a reason to play, and further enjoy, her destined role (58): “Plus nous serons à te juger, à te haïr, mieux cela 30   Orthoépeia as a means to define feelings is surely one of the topics which Hélia Correia imports from Anouilh and which becomes clearly prominent in her work; see below, p. 162.

In Search of Lost Identity


sera, n’est-ce pas? Plus le cercle s’élargira autour de toi, plus tu seras seule, plus tu auras mal pour mieux haïr toi aussi, plus cela sera bon” (The more we judge you, the more we hate you, the better for you, is that not the truth? The bigger the circle around you, the more you will be alone, the more you hurt in order to better hate, the better for you).31 Jason’s portrayal of Medea is based on pity – and he insists on it as if he were genuinely exposing her; this is how he reads her and perhaps how Anouilh himself reconfigures his protagonist (59): “J’ai pitié de toi, Médée, qui ne connais que toi, qui ne peux donner que pour prendre, j’ai pitié de toi attachée pour toujours à toi-même, entourée d’un monde vu par toi …” (I pity you, Medea, you who knows nothing else but yourself, who gives only to take, I pity you, forever bound to yourself, surrounded by a world as seen by you …). She is depicted as an egocentric creature, the exact opposite of the woman who could boast the highest level of generosity in her readiness to accommodate Jason’s wishes. Thus, acknowledging his legitimate pity, Medea praises herself not for the services she has rendered him, but for her evil deeds, glaringly identifying herself as a new Pandora paradigm (61): “J’ai menti, j’ai triché, j’ai volé, je suis sale” (I have lied, I have cheated, I have stolen, I am dirty); “Je suis ton malheur, Jason, ton ulcère, tes croûtes” (I am your misfortune, Jason, your ulcer, your crusts); “Je suis l’orgueil, l’égoïsme, la crapulerie, le vice, le crime. Je pue!” (I am pride, egoism, roguery, vice, crime. I stink!); “Tout ce qui est noir et laid sur la terre, c’est moi qui l’ai reçu en dépôt” (Of all that is black and ugly on earth I am the depository). Jason is also given an opportunity to confess, so that Anouilh may portray his hero in exclusively personal terms. The French Argonaut is nothing like his traditional, especially Euripidean, counterpart: he is not presented as an inconsequent adventurer, an opportunistic man, a traitor. As if taking stock of his inescapable traditional role as a traitor, Anouilh’s Jason submits to it, while reserving the right to explain himself (62): “Je ne peux rien empêcher. Tout juste jouer le rôle qui m’est dévolu, depuis toujours. Mais ce que je peux, c’est tout dire, une fois” (I cannot help it at all. All I can do is play the role that has always been my role. But what I can do is to tell it all, once). His long speech defines him in terms of the couple’s parallel course. The path Jason has travelled alongside Medea was not just a rough and eventful journey of exile – it was also a sentimental journey, with clearly defined stages. First there was ‘love’, the 31  This pleasure in martyrdom, which does not accept commiseration, tolerance, or pity, is a topic which Hélia Correia, perhaps inspired by Anouilh, develops in her Antigone (see, Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 280). Hating them would be to concede that they might be right, to acknowledge their role as victims.



love that a man feels for a woman, where gender plays its part and sex imposes its rules. Here, Jason was able to awaken Medea’s female yearnings. However, on Jason’s part, physical attraction was enhanced with affection, a sentiment not corresponded, or even adequately understood by Medea (63): “Je t’ai donné plus qu’un amour d’homme – peut-être sans que tu l’aies su. Je me suis perdu en toi comme un petit garçon dans la femme qui l’a mis au monde. Tu as été longtemps ma patrie, ma lumière, tu as été l’air que je respirais, l’eau qu’il fallait boire pour vivre et le pain de tous les jours” (I gave you more than a man’s love – maybe without you even knowing it. I lost myself in you as a little boy loses himself in the woman who gave birth to him. For a long time, you were my motherland, my light, you were the air I breathed, the water one must drink in order to live, and my daily bread). In this Jason one may glimpse the adventurous, not yet mature adolescent, between childhood and the prime of life, who seeks the comfort of a mother’s affection in his female companion. Then came his adult ambitions; he shared his desires for conquest with his male companions, and a measure of self-centeredness prevailed. The hero’s male self occupied center stage and Medea was pushed into the background until their egotistic wills confronted each other (62): “Je t’ai d’abord aimée comme toi, Médée: à travers moi” (I first loved you like you do, Medea: through me). And, unsuspectedly, the time came when Jason began to feel a genuine fatherly love for Medea, who nestled in his arms. It was as if, having reached adulthood, he now felt no longer dependent on motherly protection and was himself able to afford protection (64): “Le jeune homme Jason était mort. J’étais ton père et ta mère” (Young man Jason was dead. I was your father and your mother). With the disappearance of the young man, sexual attraction became less of a priority, giving way to mature, sensible affection; additionally, as Jason’s maturity replaced his youthful vigor, his adventure companions lost their captain. During these years, rather than lovers, Jason and Medea were more like brother and sister, ready to confront the world as equals, with no hierarchies or differences. And then nature claimed its rights and their companionship came to an end; she felt like a woman, he felt like a man, and weariness settled into their relationship. Each of them sought new partners to compensate for their lost connection. Their occasional sexual encounters were like an addiction, which, instead of satisfying them, made them feel ashamed (“honteux de nos corps encore complices”, 67 [ashamed of our still complicit bodies]). The time for rupture and hatred had come. Emotional disruption followed physical incompatibility. For Jason, the time when Medea attracted him for her vigor, her marginality, her adventurous mind, was gone; he now needed peace and tranquility instead, two things that the barbarian woman could not provide. Now

In Search of Lost Identity


that the non-conformist vigor of youth had passed, Jason wished for nothing else but to share the monotony and the disenchantment of those who he formerly saw as enemies; the time came when routine became his last pleasure. That was a conquest Jason was prepared to experiment, not in the company of his old partner, but rather without her (72): “Ce geste j’aurais voulu le faire avec toi, Médée. J’aurais tout donné pour que nous devenions deux vieux l’un à côté de l’autre, dans un monde apaisé. C’est toi qui ne l’as pas voulu” (This gesture I would like to make it with you, Medea. I would have given anything for us to grow old together, in a peaceful world. It was you who chose not to). What makes them so radically different and incompatible is simply their nature, rather than ambition, lack of love, or weariness. Jason’s place is in the ‘world without Medea’, in the world of commonness and anonymity; he is like Creon, not like Aeëtes’ daughter. His marriage to Creusa is just a door giving him access to that different world. As for Medea, like Anouilh’s Antigone, she is naturally incompatible with the cosmos, in its masculine or feminine element. She is the exception.32 4.3 The Execution In a play where agonistic reflection is given considerable space, the action ends rather quickly. Tradition imposes its rules: first of all, Medea attacks her rival by means of the poisoned gifts she sends her, which are carried by Medea’s own children. However, the long rhesis of Euripides’ protagonist, where, as a mother, she hesitates as to whether or not to kill her children, has a rather different tenor in Anouilh: confirming Jason’s description of Medea as the egoist, selfcentered woman focused only on her own separate world, her long monologue addresses the pleasure of revenge. The barbarian woman prepares to spend a night of love with Evil, her relationship with revenge exaltingly experienced as a sexual act. Just like Zeus, who, in order to achieve the utter satisfaction of his desires with Amphitryon’s wife, Alcmene, decided to spend a long night with her, so does Medea expect the night to provide her a macabre dialogue with the wild beasts and the occult, maleficent forces of nature. Anouilh chose an unusual ending, as far as tradition goes, but one which is gradually and meticulously prepared as the play unfolds. The assassin, whom everybody loathes and hunts, continues to spread death around her. In order 32  Pulquério (1995) 12 notes that this unusual behavior can indeed be found in Anouilh’s characters who tend not to submit to the rules of society that common mortals generally abide by. This type of characters divides Humanity into two contradictory groups: those who rebel and break convention, and those who submit and adopt routine as a life rule. This dichotomy posited by Anouilh as concerns the type of sociability of each human creature is clearly materialized in this agon by Jason and Medea.



to exact her revenge, Medea prepares a fulgurant conclusion. Not the sinister Euripidean ending, where she is rescued by the miraculous Sun’s chariot; in Anouilh’s play a wagon in flames carries a family that must disappear off the face of the earth. To her children, who are sacrificed along with their mother, she does not say much, her words not enough to reflect her repugnance at her own filicidal act; in Pulquério’s words (1995) 13, it becomes simply “mais franco, mais linear” (more honest, more linear). Her whole attention is focused on hate and revenge, i.e., on Jason, to whom she hands down something else besides his sons’ dead bodies – the terrible doubt as to who Medea really was. A fierce woman who could not recover her peace and joy? A misunderstood woman who was not given an opportunity to love? To the doubts she bequeaths Jason, Medea seems to oppose her own certainties: putting an end to so much pain means returning “to the world without Jason” (88): Ils sont morts, Jason! Ils sont morts égorgés tous les deux, et avant que tu aies pu faire un pas, ce même fer va me frapper. Désormais j’ai recouvré mon sceptre, mon frère, mon père et la toison du bélier d’or est rendue à la Colquide: j’ai retrouvé ma patrie et la virginité que tu m’avais ravies! Je suis Médée, enfin, pour toujours ! (They’re dead, Jason! They are both dead, their throats cut, and before you can take a step, that same iron will strike me. Now I have recovered my scepter, my brother, my father, and the fleece of the golden ram is returned to Colchis: I have found my lost fatherland and the virginity you had taken from me! I am Medea, at last, forever!)

chapter 6

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries Rosanna Lauriola [Chorus] Ascolta donna e fatti assennata! Non a te, ma ai figliuoli tuoi devi pensare! […] Per l’amore che tieni a questi figli Medea, ti devi sacrificare! […] Che da madre degna e non da donna orgogliosa devi pensare. […] [Medea] E io zitta me dovrebbe stare per lo bene de li figlioli … che ricatto infame! [Chorus] Listen to us and be wise! You must not think about yourself, you must think of your children! […] For the sake of love, the love you feel for these children, you must give yourself up! […] For you must think and act as a dignified mother, not as a proud woman. […] [Medea] And I should keep silent for the good of my children … This is blackmail! What despicable blackmail! Franca Rame, Medea, 68, 701

∵ The initial exchange of words between an imagery group of women – an apparent counterpart of the dramatic chorus – and the onstage woman, who is the main and sole character of Franca Rame’s Medea (1977),2 by way of allusion 1  Page numbers and quotations are from Rame (1989). All translations into English from any language other than English are my own. As for Rame’s piece, it is among the few Italian adaptations and productions of Euripides’ Medea that enjoy an international reputation, and certainly one of the even fewer adaptations that have been translated into other languages and are available on commercial video (for English translations, see also Hood [1981], and Hanna [1991]). On Rame’s play, see, also, below n. 2. 2  Rame’s Medea is a part of Tutto casa, letto e chiesa (All Home, Bed and Church), a set of monologues written and performed in the vernacular of contemporary Rome by Rame, and all dealing with women suffering from some form of exploitation by men. Before performing © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_008



well encapsulates the quintessential motif that has come to define, and to stigmatize, both Euripides’ Medea and almost all of her subsequent reincarnations in the diversified fields of art:3 ‘unmaternal motherhood’. Medea, the best-known mythical mother, is in fact the iconic child-murdering mother.4 Ironically, if not oxymoronically, it is the act of killing her children which has made her the perhaps most famous mother ever. To be fair, according to the stereotypical view, she is an infanticide5 who is a jealous avenger, i.e., a scorned and betrayed wife who kills her innocent sons in retribution against her husband Jason for his faithlessness. Such an oversimplifying reason – a betrayed wife’s jealousy – which should account for such a ‘beyond-any-belief’ action – a mother’s infanticide – has mostly become what Medea stands for, at least in the standard imagination. Not surprisingly she has soon come to share the same ‘destiny’ of Oedipus by becoming a Complex’s titular figure: the situation in which a mother harbors death wishes to her child(ren), usually as a revenge against the spouse, is referred to as ‘the Medea Complex’.6 Such is ‘Medea for all’. the piece Medea, the actress addressed the audience directly, through a ‘cautionary’ prologue where she focused on Medea’s reaction to Jason’ betrayal as being far different from that of contemporary women. Medea does not fall apart in depression, Rame specified; she plans a revenge by killing the children she bore to Jason. The actress thus warned the audience to take that action metaphorically: it is a gesture of rebellion against the patriarchal exploitation of women who are expected to keep quiet and, within the “cage and yoke” of marriage, to think of themselves as mothers rather than as women. For a further analysis see Cavallaro (2010); Lauriola (2015) 412–4. On the social expectation about motherhood, see below, 108. 3  A broader discussion of Euripides’ Medea reception in diversified fields of art (from literature to figurative arts, from music to stage and cinema) can be found in Lauriola (2015) 377–442. 4  It is possible that the infanticide motif was introduced by Euripides: see Finglass, above, p. 16, and Mastronarde (2002) 52–3; there are other versions of the story, in one of which Medea’s children were killed by the Corinthians for revenge (for details, see Finglass, above, pp. 14–5, and Gantz (1993) 340–73). A few modern re-elaborations prove to prefer this other version in the attempt to overcome the uneasiness of having a mother infanticide: on this issue, see below, 109. The oxymoron ‘unmaternal motherhood’, which vividly expresses the iconic essence of Medea, well reflects the society’s common judgment of women who kill as being especially deviant and ‘unnatural’. “The woman who kills is exactly what she is supposed not to be. Her act is deemed not only unnatural but impossible in a real woman; so she is ‘unwomaned’ by her violence and seen as the classic aberration, exiled from her community and her gender”: Jones (1991) XI. On this topic, see, also, below, 108 and n. 77, and above Finglass, p. 16. 5  Filicide should be a more accurate term to use in this case, as Medea’s children were not exactly infants. I will use however the word infanticide, in its double sense to indicate the act of killing itself and the perpetrator, since it is the more commonly used with reference to Medea. 6  See Stern (1948); Tyminski (2014). Sometimes this complex is also referred to as ‘Medea Syndrome’, see, e.g., Foster (2007) 84.

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


Is it so? Is it as simple as phrases “like Medea” or “modern-day Medea”, which the media repeatedly and promptly use any time they comment on the cases of mothers killing their child, would allow anyone to think?7 Actually, it is not, not least since Euripides’ Medea is not just a mother who kills her children, nor does she do so simply out of revenge.8 Medea is a far more complex figure and, perhaps, the continuing fascination which she has been exerting since the 5th century BC lies in her untamable and elusive complexity as it surfaces in the portrayal that Euripides has masterfully created in the play named after her. In this play Medea is ‘what is left’ of a woman who not simply, according to the social expectations of the time, has completely entrusted herself to her husband with self-denying devotion; but she has done this in a country, Greece, which was not hers own, and where, consequently, there was nobody on whom she could rely in case of a marriage’s termination.9 Adhering to a well-established social convention of such a patriarchal society as the ancient one, Medea has in fact looked at her husband as being “everything” to her (Eur., Medea 228), acknowledging the women’s complete dependence on their ‘master’, i.e., their spouse (232–4a),10 in terms of life’s resources 7  The examples would be infinite: see, e.g., Jones (2003); Moroco (2003). It might be interesting to highlight that non by chance a 2006 seminal North American study on newspaper coverage of maternal infanticide is entitled Medea in the Media (Barnett [2006]), which is an evidence of how ‘typically’ Euripides’ Medea has become an icon called forth in the media every time a mother murders her child. As for the phrase ‘modern-day Medea’, it has been used by the media to label an American recent case of maternal infanticide which has caused a widespread reaction of interest and debate in the entire nation, the case of Susan Smith in 1994: see, e.g., Jones (2003) 71–87. Another ‘sensational’ case for which the media have drawn parallel with Susan Smith and, in consequence, the ancient Medea, occurred in 2003: the Andrea Yates case (on which, see below, n. 85): see, e.g., Jones (2003) 101–29; Hyman (2004). 8  The same apply to any case of a mother killing her child(ren): spousal revenge appears to be one of the possible motivations, but, in reality, a more complex set of factors is usually detected behind such an action. For a concise analysis of the literature with an abundant indication of further bibliography, see, e.g., Barnett (2006) esp. 411–4; Friedman-Resnick (2007). As for Medea’s jealousy as a motivation (I would say an ostensible one) for her action, it is true that the laconic conclusion of her first speech on stage (Eur., Medea 214–66) sounds as a glacial foreshadowing for she talks of women’s ‘homicidal mind’ when they are hurt in love (262–6). But it is also a very generic reference which does not necessarily imply the children as victim, considering that later, after the dialogue with Creon, Medea voices, yes, her ‘homicidal mind’, but explicitly with Creon, Glauce/Creusa, and Jason as target (374–6). 9  In case of divorce, the woman could return to her family, along with the dowry (see, e.g., Renshaw [2008] 160). 10  Ancient Greek women were always under the rule or guardianship of a male, the kyrios (lit., “master, lord”): her father in his lifetime, her brothers (or nearest male family relative)



and of life’s quality (234b–46). As such, her condition is an ordinary one, unfortunate as it is, as she herself recognizes (230–1). What indeed makes her womanly ordinary status ‘extraordinary’ (in the worst sense of the word) is her foreign condition and subsequent isolation in the country where she lives. For the sake of Jason’s love Medea left behind her family and her country. Furthermore, according to the most known version of the story, she even killed her brother only to help Jason, who, in return, made her his wife. And once in Greece, she continued to engage in questionable actions, still only to favor Jason’s ambitions.11 Now in Corinth, the set of Euripides’ play, Jason is given the chance to fulfill his ambitions without Medea’s help, and Medea is promptly left alone, abandoned and banished. She has no mother, no brother, no father, no home and community to go for shelter from such an adversity (Eur., Medea 251–7). She must provide for herself and for her children as they too are banished with her, at least at first (271–3). This Medea is a woman, that is to say, true to her own words, the most miserable being (230–1), and she is a wife betrayed, abused (255, 603), and deserted in a foreign country. She is thus a socalled ‘other’, with all the issues this condition implies. And there is even more, which contributes both to her extraordinary status and to her complexity: she is a gender-aware woman, i.e., an acute observer of women’s state. By using her own personal situation as starting point, Medea proves to be a woman who dares to speak out against the women’s social vulnerability and subjugation to the quietly accepted male norms.12 Women too – she indirectly claims – indeed have an intellectual faculty (230); they, too, are thus capable of independent judgment, which, on the contrary, is standardly denied to them. This self – and gendered-awareness and independence of judgment, along with a consequent lack of the expected resignation to her fate as a woman, contribute to her otherness: she is not like all the other women, for she transgresses the social expectations. Her otherness is a feature determined not only by her different ethnic origin; it also originated from her daring act of stepping over the gender’s boundaries and invading the male territory.13 This woman’s bordering after the father’s death, and her husband: see, e.g., Harrison (1968) 1–60. In other words, in her lifetime a woman just passed from a kyrial authority to another: see, e.g., Sophocles, Tereus fr. 583+P.Oxy 5131 Radt (for this new papyrus see Finglass [2016b]). 11  Besides betraying her father and country, as she herself admits (Eur., Medea 483, 502–3), Medea conspired to have the daughters of Pelias, Jason’s uncle, kill him (486–8, 504), as Pelias had refused to give up the throne in favor of Jason. 12  Silence was one of the societal primary expectations from a woman: see, e.g., Sophocles, Ajax 293 with Finglass (2011) ad loc.; Aristoteles, Politics 1. 1260. 23a–33, Lauriola (2012). 13  Such a woman who does not restrain herself from violating the social expectations of silence, passivity and invisibility, is perceived as being so different from her fellow women (or from the male idea of women) that she cannot any more be classified as a woman, with

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


on a male space centers around what identifies both women in general in ancient times, and Medea in particular in antiquity and beyond: motherhood. They say that we live a safe life at home, While they go to battle with their spear. How foolish they are! I would three times Stand in battle holding my shield, rather than give birth one. Eur., Medea 247–51

To stand for the women’s right pertaining to the central role that the ancient society grants to them, i.e., the mother’s role, to have what in a patriarchal culture is by definition a woman’s task be adequately recognized, i.e., childbirth, Medea appropriates what in that same culture is by definition a man’s task, i.e., war.14 She focuses on the hardship of motherhood, a clear sign of how being a mother is something she would not easily dismiss as her final action has caused many to think.15 Her maternal feelings indeed surface more clearly toward the end, where, after pretending to reconcile with Jason, Medea calls the children on the stage and lovely addresses them (Eur., Medea 896–970): she weeps at the sight of them (899–903); she reaches out to their hand and fills their tender checks with her tears (905); she sheds abundant tears thinking about them (923, 925; cf. also 1005), and gives way to pity (930–1). Medea is overcome by her maternal love, paradoxical though it may sound. The tears signal that she experiences the children as object of love rather than as means of her revenge plan. man being the only other type she can be compared. This transgressive woman turns into a man-like woman: see, e.g., Aeschylus, Agamemnon 10, 351–2; Sophocles, Antigone 480–5 (cf. with 248, also 60–2). With reference to this, the Japanese stage production Medea by the director Yukio Ninagawa (premiered in Tokyo, 1978) should be mentioned. Using the convention of the Japanese traditional theatre, Kabuki, Ninagawa makes it possible to see the transformation of Medea from a passive woman to a transgressive ‘man-like’ one for, as soon as Medea becomes committed to revenge, the actor performing her role removes the female costume, reveals a masculine body and takes on what is thought to be reserved for man: revenge, murder and action. See Smethurst (2000; 2002); Lauriola (2015) 418–20. 14  “Go to the house and busy yourself with your own tasks”, Hector says to Andromache, “[…] but the men must see to the fighting …” (Iliad 6. 481–5). 15  Although at 251b what is literally implied is the hardship, and, possibly, the difficulty, of giving birth itself, the fact that Medea does show concerns for her children’s future (see, e.g., 513–5, 1061), and struggles desperately with her maternal feelings before making the final resolve (1021–80; I shall return to this topic later) would let us think that the initial reference to the hardship of childbirth implies a reference to the hardship of what is a consequence of giving birth: becoming a parent, precisely a mother, which is something more than just a biological status. On the complex construction of motherhood in this Euripidean play, see Given (2009).



They are valuable to her and worthy of being saved. Medea is aware of these feelings which erupt in the famous monologue preceding the terrible decision (1021–80): had her tears and maternal feelings had not been sincere, there would be no point to the monologue. The inner struggle, to which this monologue testifies, is another signal of the complexity of this (in)famous mother, to say the least. If in Euripides’ play there is someone who easily dismisses Medea’s motherhood, this is Jason, a ‘perfect’ representative of the patriarchal norms. In his callous self-defense (Eur., Medea 524–75), while claiming that his new marriage is for the benefit of ‘his’ present children,16 as producing them brothers of royal rank would improve their social status (559–64), Jason arrogantly asks, “What need have you, woman, of children?” and continues, “But it profits me to benefit the living one with those to come.” (565–7a). Jason’s words betray not only the mere self-interest nature of his decision to engage in a new marriage; they also mirror the then contemporary male conception of women and children as mere instruments for assuring to men the stability and preservation of a (male-centered) household, which was central to the social and political structures of the Greek world. Women do not have need of children; they must only bear them. Should there be another way for men to procreate, the female race could vanish (573–4)! Medea’s motherhood does not matter in the eyes of Jason. Yet she is the culprit given that she is seen, and judged, as the one for whom motherhood does not matter. This is in fact the Medea of the common imagination, which keeps surfacing in almost any reception of Euripides’ play. Starting from the 19th century a certain awareness of the multifacetedness of Medea character is identifiable both in many new versions and adaptations of the ancient tragedy and in related scholarship. Scholars have so far been attempting ‘to classify’ the new works according to the multiple persons Medea comprises: the ‘proto-feminist’ woman, the abandoned wife, the witch, the infanticide (whether out of revenge or out of excessive love!),17 the outsider / (ethnic) other, the oppressed colonized, and more.18 Each work of reception 16  Jason egoistically refers to the children using the first-person singular possessive adjective ‘my’ (e.g., 550) rather than ‘our’. 17  Regarding to the ‘excess of love’-motif, a (paradoxical) cause of infanticide, see below, pp. 96 with n. 38; 97–104. 18  Macintosh (2000) 1–31, and Foley (2012) 190–228 have indeed structured their broad discussion on the reception history of this tragedy through different paragraphs, each of which clusters works dealing with a specific feature of Medea’s multifarious character. Macintosh, for instance, accordingly labels each paragraph with titles like: ‘Medea the Witch’, ‘Medea the Infanticide’, ‘Medea the Abandoned Wife’, ‘Medea the Proto-Feminist’, ‘Medea the Outsider’. Similar is the articulation of Foley’s discussion, although she confines her analysis to the American stage, where, as she specifies (2012: 193), the othernesstheme is actually the one that defines, since the beginning, “the central trend in Medea’s

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


has in turn privileged one or more features over others, anchoring them to each own historical period in a way that could resonate with thoughts, situations, and issues of the receiving society. The realization of Medea’s multifarious essence has however been often coupled with a certain uneasiness, for Medea appears to be all of those persons and not one of them exclusively, proving to resist to any one definitive interpretation. Nonetheless, the infanticide mother remains the one specific thematic concern that has universally prevailed, overshadowing, in a way, all the other aspects, whether blatantly or not.19 It is this specific, ineluctable feature that makes Euripides’ Medea as much a disturbing character as an intriguing one in any re-elaboration. Works of reception have indeed attempted both to settle on how disturbing this feature is and to determine whether other interpretations that would ‘redeem’ Medea are possible. Both kinds of attempts suggest anyway a certain degree of gender bias: a paternal infanticide is less disturbing and thus more ‘redeemable’,20 a maternal one remains an unthinkable crime, something “contrary to all the Dictates of Humanity and Motherhood”.21 As Hall observes,22 in comparison to some other domestic crimes, the psychoanalytical and sociological bibliography pertaining to maternal infanticide is quite small, which reflects the horror and repulsion that it arouses. What all of this suggests is the deeply rooted, and common, gender-based thought that a mother is supposed to be guided by ‘natural’ feminine instincts which makes her willing to annihilate herself and place her own needs second to those of her children (and husband).23 This specific gender bias has affected the reception history of Euripides’ play. This is in part proved by the fact that, for a long while beyond antiquity, the literary representation of Medea basically centered both on her association American reception”, alongside her ‘acting like a man’. Appreciable though it is, the structure of Macintosh’s and Foley’s discussion with the inevitable overlapping among the ‘clusters’ reflects how we strain to fully grasp such a complex character in her original version and in her varied re-incarnations. 19  In particular Corti (1998) insists on this trait. Her analysis in fact, which includes a variety of 20th-century ‘Medeas’ (e.g., pp. 178–220), almost exclusively highlights the theme of child-murder, with an attention to a dynamic link between this prevailing theme and the specific concerns of particular texts. 20  I return to this topic with more details: see below, p. 109 and n. 85. 21  From the ‘Preface’ of Charles Gildon, Phaeton, or The Fatal Divorce (London 1698) as quoted by Macintosh (2000) 10. Accordingly, perhaps following a variant of the myth (on which, also below, pp. 103–5), in his own version Gildon have Medea’s children killed by the Corinthians, a modification particularly central to Christa Wolf’s adaptation (see, below, pp. 103–5). On Gildon’s reworking of Medea’s story, see Hall (2000) esp. 52–7; Heavey (2009) 3–16. 22  Hall (2010) 16. 23  I shall talk more about this stereotypical thought in the following pages.



with ‘dark’ witchcraft and on her sadistically vengeful nature, which gestures toward a one-dimensional characterization of Medea as bad, and of Jason as good.24 The disturbing maternal infanticide-issue is almost avoided like a taboo. Regarding to this a major evidence is the reluctance that particularly Euripides’ Medea had to face in one of the European countries best known for its solid theatrical tradition, in a time, i.e., the 18th century, when Greek drama re-emerged under the influence of its success in music and opera: England.25 Medea is here found profoundly unsuited to the contemporary sentiment and concept of femininity, on account of the central thematic concern that has stigmatized forever Medea, i.e., the deliberate act of infanticide. The need to refigure precisely this feature in order to possibly make conceivable the unconceivable leads the playwrights to subject Medea to an extreme ‘plastic surgery’26 by ‘sharply cutting’ what has made this figure forever disturbing and problematic, i.e. her ‘unmaternal’ motherhood. Euripides’ Medea thus undergoes a ‘sanitizing’ process27 that, while making her fit for the cultural and ideological imperatives of the time, would reduce her complex character, as well as the complexity of her action, to meet those same imperatives dictated by a maleoriented culture. This process starts with the most successful 18th-century British adaptation by Richard Glover (Medea: A Tragedy, 1767).28 Symptomatic of the contemporary (male-oriented) ideology is the expedient by which the problem posed by Medea is cut out: a plea of insanity. Acting under the influence of ‘temporary phrenzy’ would prove the innocence of a mother who kills her children. The phrase ‘temporary phrenzy’ indeed occurred in real, contemporary cases of child-murdering mothers. In court it was introduced as evidence of the mother’s state of mind to determine the degree of intent in the 24  Certainly this has happened in the wake of Seneca’s portrayal. The few revivals of Medea’s myth during the Middle Age, and the ‘resurrection’ of some special attention to this Euripidean tragedy in the early Renaissance were mostly mediated through Seneca: see Purkiss (2005) 32–48. On the preference for Seneca over Euripides in the early Renaissance Europe see Macintosh (2000) 7–8. 25  Hall (2000) 49–74. For an overview of the re-elaborations in music and opera, see Lauriola (2015) 409–14. 26  I borrow the phrase from Hall (2000), on which some of the above analysis is based as well. 27  Some traces of what I defined above as ‘sanitizing trend’ can also be found in some works of figurative art of the medieval and early modern ages when representations of the scene of the marriage of Medea and Jason through the oath became very common and, ironically, they were taken as a symbol of ideal marriage. The scene often appeared in love tokens and marriage gift like the Florentine cassoni (“marriage chest”): see Kepetzis (2010) 80–93. 28  On Glover, see Caiazza (1989) 34–8; Hall (2000) 53–5; Haevey (2009) esp. 16–9.

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


killing, and thus the degree of guilt.29 A mother would never kill her children in a sane state of mind, nor would Medea. Maternal love remains unchallenged. Glover takes this sanitizing process to the extreme as his Medea even became a model for the 18th-century matron.30 The plea of insanity allows an insight into the law for which Medea has been serving as a template for the legal representation and judgment of ‘conventional’ feminine conduct in the role of wife and mother, which adds to the reception history of this figure in the last two centuries. In this perspective, mention should be made of the Infanticide Act in 1938, which testifies to a construction of a legal category from socially created expectations of women essentially as care-givers for babies. A mother who kills her children must thus be mentally insane, “an isolated and biologically determined phenomenon, an unfortunate product of woman’s ‘nature’”.31 It still remains a matter of gender-biased social constructions, as also proved by the fact that, in modern times, in case of maternal infanticide/filicide both police and psychiatrists are quicker to diagnose mental illness than they are in the case of male filicide.32 The gender-bias undertone of the sanitizing process which Euripides’ play has so far experienced in its modern reception is at times re-enforced by the specific religious orientation of the receiving society. This is, for instance, the case of some 20th-century Brazilian re-elaborations of Medea play, which ‘fix’ the problem of the infanticide mother by ‘Christianizing’, in a way, the end: Medea must die; she will kill herself as a form of self-punishment which would signify repentance and would thus grant her some kind of redemption.33 This is in particular the case of Caso Especial-Medéia (Special Case-Medea), a TV adaptation by the Brazilian scriptwriter and political activist Oduvaldo Viana Filho’s, broadcasted on Brazilian television in 1973; and the case of Gota d’água (Drop of Water), a theatrical adaptation by Chico Buarque and Paulo Pontes,

29  Jackson (1996) 120–3, 142–3. 30  This sanitizing trend continues also in 19th-century England. The Victorians were interested in what Euripides’ Medea could say to them especially about divorce (which passed in 1857) and the condition of the abandoned women, thus avoiding to deal with the problem posed by the brutality of Medea’s infanticide. Only with the rise of the movement for women’s suffrage was Euripides’ Medea allowed to be performed in translation rather than in its sanitized adaptation: Hall (2000) 71. 31  Showalter (1987) 58. See also Hall (2010) esp. 22; Phillips (2010). 32  Hall (2010) 16 (with further bibliography in n. 9). 33  This can already be found in the Renaissance English academic John Studley, known as a translator of Seneca’s tragedies. In his 1566 translation of Seneca’s Medea, in accordance with his Christianized world-view, he changed the ending of the play to prevent the departure of the revenger without penalty: see Macintosh (2000) 10.



written in 1975 and still now staged regularly.34 In the first, in the sphere of the Christian matrix, which is profoundly important in Brazilian culture, not only does Medea sacrifice herself in repentance, but also the children, whom she poisoned, are miraculously saved and taken into the custody of their father. In Gota d’água, too, in accordance to the same religious spirit, Medea (here called Joanna) cannot be allowed to remain alive, as it “would not be in line with the great ‘feeling of maternity’ that exists in Brazil”.35 She becomes a mater dolorosa who must die to atone for her crime, which – by way of innovation – also includes the abandonment of her first husband for a much younger man, i.e., Jasão (= Jason). Such a scandalous thing, which also reflects a sexist and prejudiced culture, would meet the audience’s implicit request for some form of punishment for Medea. She dies beside her children in the hope of some kind of happiness in the afterlife: her final words in consoling her children in fact suggest the existence of a paradise after death. Still within the sanitizing response to the unbearable, iconic feature of Medea, i.e., her being a child-murdering mother, a considerable number of writers have built on, and exploited, what has been often dismissed in analyzing the Euripidean character, i.e., a basic trait of humanness36 along with her deep grief and concerns for her children’s condition and fate. In the related new versions of Medea’s story, the infanticide no longer stems from her desire for passionate revenge, nor from mental illness or insanity. It rather becomes a necessity37 dictated by the circumstances of which both Medea and her children are victims. Aware as she is of those circumstances’ effects on her children’s lives, infanticide becomes her last resort through her desire to prevent her children from meeting with a worse fate in the future. Paradoxical as that might sound, her act of infanticide becomes a necessary act of love, a form of altruism as she believes death to be in her children’s best interest.38 34  On this play and other Brazilian re-makings of Euripides’ Medea see Coelho (2013) 359–80. I shall later discuss about other aspects of the Brazilian reception of the tragedy, with a particular attention to Gota d’água: see below, 105–6. See also below (Luísa Buarque), 105–6. 35  Coelho (2013) 369 with n. 37. 36  March (1990) 38. 37  The role of Medea repelled many actresses precisely because of her infanticide; but things changed once the horror of that same act was diluted by presenting it as necessary for the sake of the children themselves (see below, nn. 38, 39). The actress Adelaide Ristori accepted the role of Medea of Legouvé’s version (see below, n. 42) in 1856, while she had turned down an earlier offer in 1814, on the grounds that Legouvé “had discovered a way to make the killing of the children appear both just and necessary”: see Macintosh (2000) 15 with n. 24. 38  Psychologists call it “altruistic filicide”, which refers to when a mother kills in the belief she is saving her child(ren)from a fate worse than death: see, e.g., Friedman-Resnick (2007) 137 with n. 11; Arkins (2010) 191.

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


[MEDEA] What hopes have they, what hopes? If here they stay with their sire, That sire so base and infamous, What shall their lot be then? The children of this latest bed Will scorn them, do despite to them And to their mother, that wild thing From distant Colchis’ strand! Their lot will be to serve as slaves; Or else their anger, corroding their hearts Deep and ever deeper, Will make them bitter, hard, Until they grow to hate themselves. […] What have they To live for, then? F. Grillparzer, Medea Act V39

These words are emblematic of the necessary and ‘altruistic’ connotation granted to Medea’s act starting with Franz Grillparzer’s homonymous play, Medea, early in the 19th century.40 Fostered by important socio-political factors of the time, including the growing support for the emancipation of women,41 this change of focus on Medea as both a mother who is a victim of circumstance, and as a suffering, abandoned wife whose maternal love is not under discussion, rather than as agent of revenge, continues to characterize re-elaborations of Euripides’ Medea well up until the 20th century,42 often overlapping such 39  My translation of Grillparzer’s work is based on Miller (1913–14). 40  Grillparzer’ Medea, the third play of the trilogy Das Goldene Vließ, published in 1820, retells, with innovations, the whole story of the ‘Golden Fleece’, with a focus on Medea, who is sympathetically presented throughout the sequence of events that almost inevitably led her to the crime, a sequence that is meant to redeem her from responsibility. Although part of a trilogy, Medea was best known and performed as a separate play, in German and elsewhere. See further Lauriola (2015) 391–3; Caiazza (1989) 58–76; Flashar (1991) 77–8; Corti (1998) 134–7; Macintosh (2000) 12–4. The concerns for the children’s future expressed in the passage mentioned above stem from the Euripidean Medea’s concerns. Indeed, in Euripides’ play, Jason’s claim that his new marriage serves to provide his sons with a better status (559–60) is weak for he himself doubts that Creon will let the children stay (941). Moreover there is no proof that the stepmother will care for them; on the contrary, entrusting children to the care of a spouse who was not the real parent was commonly discouraged (cf. Eur., Alcestis 309–10; Corti [1992] 65). 41  See, e.g., Macintosh (2000) 14–5; also above, p. 95 with n. 29. 42  Grillparzer sets these trends of presenting Medea for the following two decades, and the first most important 19th-century adaptation which exploited them is the French



an important thematic concern as Medea’s ethnic otherness,43 which, in turn, marks the emergence of issues of racism and colonialism in the reception history of this figure. The concern with Medea’s ethnicity, which adds to the necessity of her infanticide, actually becomes dominant in Europe, in particular, starting from early 20th century when, with the rise of Nazism, racial issues are paramount.44 In his play Medea, first staged in Berlin in 1926, the North German novelist and dramatist Hans Henny Jahnn makes the racial concerns overt by introducing the issue of skin color: his Medea is a black woman and her children are mulatto. They are rejected precisely because of their skin color.45 Jahnn’s Medea recalls Seneca’s more closely in her brutal revenge. But as far as the motif which central to Medea’s story, i.e., the infanticide, is concerned, her brutality is transcended, and the killing is dictated by her wish to spare her children from racial injustice, both present and future. Anxieties about racial identity, alongside a patent critique of colonialism, also lie behind the re-elaboration of Euripides’ play by the French playwright Henri Lenormand, significantly entitled Asie (Asia), published in 1931. Written in prose, the rewriting is almost radical as the story is completely set in modern time, and the characters’ names and places are also modern. Colchis becomes an Asian-Indochinese state under the French government; Greece is thus France and symbolizes the colonizer Europe. Jason (Mounsier De Mezzana) is an ambitious French colonizer, and Medea is an Indochinese princess (Katha) who, conspiring against playwright Ernest Legouvé’s Medea, on which see Macintosh (2000) 15–7; Lauriola (2015) 393; also, above, n. 37. 43  The issue of Medea’s ethnic ‘otherness’ is certainly to be traced back to Euripides’ play where it is Jason who, in particular, voices such a concern by ascribing the woman’s unthinkable act of killing her children to her non-Greek birth: “No Greek woman,” – he claims – “would ever have dared to do this” (Eur., Medea 1329–40; cf. also Jason’s claim at 535–41.) Medea’s otherness is not only an ethnic matter; as Foley puts it (2012: 193), Medea’s is a ‘multidimensional’ otherness: see, below, 106. Undoubtedly the different ethnicity of this character has been a stimulus to exploiting the play in ways that issues of (ethnic) identity, along with related issues of racism etc., can be explored. One emblematic case is represented by African American adaptations of Medea’s play as discussed by Wetmore (2003) 132–204. See also below n. 51. 44  Grillparzer had already proposed the otherness-feature in a way that resonated with contemporary racial stereotypes of the Jew, “the essential Other for German speaking lands”: Corti (1998) 128. See also Macintosh (2000) 19; Bartel (2010); Lauriola (2015) 392–3. On the insistence on racial conflict in the Medeas of 1930s see Corti (1998) 196–7. 45  On Jahnn’s adaptation, see Vedrenne (1986), 99–100; Caiazza (1989) 98–101; Macintosh (2000) 21. With reference to the skin-issue, see also Wetmore (2003) 144–5. Jahnn’s reworking of the story also explores homoeroticism: for an analysis which highlights this feature, see Corti (1998) 181–3.

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


her own father, helped the Frenchman to subjugate, and so colonize, her people. Colonialism and related abuse of the colonized are an important thematic thread strictly associated with the racial issue. The theme of the infanticide is re-shaped to address both racial and colonial concerns through a motif that appears here for the first time and symbolizes the abusive intrusion of the colonizers. This new motif is the technology, i.e., the machine-culture through which colonizers claim to ‘civilize’ ‘primitive’ and ‘wild’ societies. In Asie the children of the French Jason and the Indochinese princess, who were left for a while in the care of missionaries, are portrayed as being already assimilated to the ‘civilized’ European culture, which contributes toward alienating them from their mother. Medea-Katha feels thus compelled to protect her children not only by sparing them the pains of racial discrimination: because of their skin color, they become the object of ridicule at school, once they transfer to France. Medea-Katha also wishes to spare them from becoming the slaves of an imperialist and industrialized society. Giving death to them is in their best interest: for this Medea is in fact to give them peace and freedom.46

46  On Lenormand’s Asie see Belli (1969) 161–71; Caiazza (1989) 101–3; Macintosh (2000) 21. The contrast between the civilized / industrialized Western World and primitive / wild East, featured in Lenormand’s Asie, by thus putting into the foreground colonial and racial concerns, is originally refigured in terms of an antithesis between conservative primitivism and subversive progressivism within the western world itself in the adaptation of Medea by the American poet John Robinson Jeffers, in 1935, in his poem Solstice. Set in a ranch close to the Rocky Mountains, this American Medea rebels against her husband’s decision to turn the ranch into a modern tourist center. Deprived of her children and banished from the ranch, she turns her rage against the machines symbolizing corrupting technology and progressivism, and kills her children to save them from becoming slaves to the modern, technological comforts that are destroying the world. Later, in 1946, Jeffers wrote also a tragedy entitled Medea, which is closer to the ancient model than his poem Solstice, but in agreement with Solstice’s critique of the Western Word’s progressivism, Jeffers’ Medea turns into a polemical comment on the degeneration of Western / American society, with a focus on the atomic bomb and the U.S. involvement in the Second World War: Richardson 2005. As far the infanticide issue is concerned, once again it gestures toward being a ‘mercy’ action: Jeffers’ Medea may be seen in fact as “a dramatization of parental revulsion in the face of the routine procedures that regularly turn ordinary children into producers, consumers, and defenders of American culture”: Corti (1998) 203. On Jeffer’s Medea, see also Foley (2012) 207–10. Medea’s story has become a metaphor for the contrast between technological/progressive, and capitalistic world – regularly identified with the Western, so-called First World – and primitive/poor countries – usually identified with the Eastern, but not Japan, and the underdeveloped countries, including Latin America. Such are the case of the well-known movie Medea (1970) by the Italian avant garde director and writer Pier Paolo Pasolini (on which, see below, p. 102 with n. 57), and of some Brazilian adaptations, starting from the ’70s: see below, pp. 105–6.



The necessity of infanticide, its turning into a quasi-act of compassion which the mother performs under the pressure of racial discrimination, often re-appears in 20th-century versions of the story, above all on the American stage where, starting from the late 1970s, the American feminist and civil rights movements provoke a rash of new Medeas, in particular of black/mulatto Medeas.47 These versions, of which one of the most acclaimed is the musical Marie Christine by Michael John LaChiusa (1999),48 tend to locate the tragedy of Medea in the impossibility of assimilation to a white, male-dominant, and unjust society: here the various black Medeas can but only walk on a bleak route to isolation or death, with their children often being killed less out of revenge than because they would face a humiliating life as mulatto bastards. It should not come as a surprise that racial discrimination, combined with the question of gender, characterizes several, if not all, 20th-century re-adaptations of Euripides’ tragedy in South Africa.49 In particular Medea becomes the symbol of the oppressed by the apartheid system, and thus victims of racial exclusion. This condition, subsequent to the ‘otherness’ of Medea, is once again central to the ‘necessary’ and ‘altruistic’ connotation of infanticide. A milestone in this kind of re-working is the play Demea by the South African poet Guy Butler. Written in the early sixties, because of its attack on official government policy it could not be performed until 1990.50 The story is set in the late 1820s in the Eastern Cape; it centers on the marriage between a local princess and a British officer, Jonas (= Jason), who, after turning into a trader, is ready to abandon his black wife, Demea (= Medea), to subscribe to Kroon (= Creon)’s policy of racial purity and, subsequently, to marry his daughter. The play is an exploration of the pressures that colonial mixed marriages were undergoing. Those pressures are such that eventually infanticide is a ‘necessity’. As Demea reveals in a monologue, she has sent her children to their death ‘to save’ them from suffering by sparing them the racial oppression and the humiliation of racial prejudice as determined by the ideologies of apartheid.51 47  Besides Wetmore quoted above (n. 43), see Foley (2012) 210–5. 48  It premiered in 1999 at the Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beautmont Teatre in New York, and was designed for the African American opera and music star Audra McDonald: Foley (2012) 213–5. See also Lauriola (2015) 413–4. 49  There are valuable studies on the reception of Classics in South Africa by Betine van Zyl Smit (2007a, 2007b, 2007c). 50  The need of a multiracial cast and the plot’s focus on a love relationship between members of different racial groups prevented this play from being performed at the time: see Macintosh (2000) 27–8. On Butler’s play, see also Wertheim (1995–1996). 51  Another ‘mercy killing’, with the purpose of sparing the children from growing up in a world that will reject them for their skin color, i.e., for their race, is the infanticide committed by another African Medea, in the homonymous play, African Medea, by the American

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


The oxymoronic motif of maternal infanticide stemming from Medeamother’s love and care – which, while reflecting the often disregarded complexity itself of Medea’s motherhood, accounts for the ‘sanitizing’ approaches to the ineludible trait of this tragic woman – is of paramount importance in another remaking of Euripides’ play which is also concerned with racism in the wake of the emphasis more and more given to Medea’s ‘ethnic other’. It is the novel Beloved by the American playwright and poet Toni Morrison, published in 1987. It is the story of a black-slave woman, Sethe, based on the true story of an escaped slave, Margaret Garner (1855). Garner was named ‘Modern Medea’ in the contemporary press. She killed her daughter and committed this crime with a specific intention: to prevent the girl from being returned to slavery, once she, the ‘Modern Medea’, had been reached by the slave-catchers.52 Slave of a man, referred to as ‘school-master’, Sethe reacts to the dehumanizing racist practices of her master (a Jason who might be perceived as the institution of slavery) by escaping with her own children. Once she is captured again, she attempts to save her children from the cruelty of slavery and racism by killing them. “She cannot protect them from slavery. And so she protects them from the white patriarchal order in the only way she can. She takes their lives before they are turned over to him”.53 Sethe succeeds in killing only the baby girl, the Beloved. Hers is an act of love; she cannot stand to expose her daughter to suffering that she herself could not bear to endure. Through death Sethe means writer and English professor James Manguson in 1968: for an extensive analysis, see Wetmore (2003) 149–63. It is partly a mercy killing in that Manguson’s Medea decides to kill her children also because Jason’s ‘white’ blood runs in their veins as well. The children are part white; they partly belong to the European, colonizer people whom Medea has been driven to hate: Wetmore (2003) 156. This hate and the subsequent act of Manguson’s Medea are consistent with a peculiar “nervous condition” which can be found in colonized people, and which is a “direct product of the colonial situation”. Colonial subjects would tend to develop some mental disorder, including homicidal urges, because of the psychological stress of having one’s own identity questioned and annihilated by colonialism: see Fanon (1963; the quotation is on p. 309). Among others, Pasolini’s Medea insists on the loss of identity both throughout the movie and in a particular scene, when Medea landed in Greece: see Lauriola (2015) esp. 424. 52  See Weisenburger (1998). The name ‘Modern Medea’ was given by the painter, Thomas Satterwhite Noble, who portrayed the episode eleven years later (1861). The painting represents the woman confronting the slave-catchers over the bodies of two of her children, while the other two sons are clinging to her skirt and begging to be spared. The painter adapted the traditional Medea to his portrayal of Garner by simultaneously representing the killing of the sons and their appealing for mercy to the mother. On Morrison’s novel and a comparative analysis with Euripides’ Medea, see Corti (1992); Haley (1995); Emmett (2010). The above analysis draws on these studies. 53  Cornell (1991) 194.



to give her daughter a freedom that she herself could not enjoy. By giving death to the one to whom she has given birth, Sethe reclaims control at least over her child’s destiny. The ghost of her dead baby girl soon starts haunting her. This haunting ghost is indeed the issue “of an overwhelming grief commensurate with her mother’s bondless love”.54 The absence of a real counterpart of Jason, i.e., of a spouse to spite, more than elsewhere reveals here, in Beloved, the motherly love component in the act of killing.55 Apparently, while accounting for her concerns about the ‘alien’ status of her children,56 which, subsequently, often foregrounds the mercy-killing-motif, the ‘otherness’ of Medea has soon turned her into an emblem of the clash between two polar opposite civilizations, with all that each of them implies. Colchis, the ‘barbarian’ country, and Greece, the civilized one par excellence, are respectively replaced by Non-Western and Western civilizations, where ‘Non-Western’ stands for the rest of the world, which is prejudicially considered primitive and inferior to the White-Western culture, i.e., the colonial/imperialist, capitalist and industrialized First World that arrogates to itself the mission to civilize all the others.57 Against this background, Medea becomes the symbol of any ‘exploited other’, in particular one ‘who fights back’,58 which adds to her diversity, and contributes to defining her as a wild rebel. Jason, in turn, becomes the symbol of the exploitative and progressive First World, and of the violent and repressive politics of the Western colonizers. Rather than 54  Corti (1992) 70. 55  Among others, the motif of ‘altruistic filicide’ can be identified in the Irish version of the tragedy, By the Bog of Cats … (1998) by Martina Carr: Hester Swane, the abandoned Medea, a traveller, and thus an outsider in Irish society, eventually kills her daughter to prevent her from being in a world without her mother who has decided to commit suicide. This ending might also reflect what was happening in contemporary Ireland, that is, the frequent death of children at the hands of suicidal parents: McDonald (2005) 130. On Carr’s play, see also Arkins (2010) 190–2; O’Brien/Fey Fellow (2012). Another Irish 20thcentury most acclaimed adaptation of Euripides’ play is Euripides’ Medea: A New Version (1991) by Brendan Kennelly. This remake mainly deals with “the exploitation of women by men, Ireland by England, […]” (MacDonald [1997] 304), thus exploring the feministic motif of oppression and exploitation of the woman-other with a political shading in reference to colonialism. On this work, see McDonald (1997) 304–12; Arkins (2010) 189–90; Lauriola (2015) 401–2. 56  As observed earlier, these concerns are already implied in Euripides: see, above, n. 40. 57  As hinted at above (n. 46), a reading of Euripides’ Medea as an emblem of the clash between Western and Eastern Culture, Progress/Technology and Primitivism, First and Third Worlds, Colonized and Colonizer especially informs one of the most worldrenowned cinematic rendition of this play, Pasolini’s Medea. From the structure to the meanings, this movie highlights the cultural and political polarity of the world as a whole. See further Fusillo (1996) 127–79; Kvistad (2010); Shapiro (2013); Lauriola (2015) 422–6. 58  McDonald (1997) 302.

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


being the fulfillment of his heroic destiny, Jason’s journey to Colchis becomes a parable that denounces the “ethical bankruptcy of cultural imperialism”.59 His arrival in Colchis is indeed seen as an invasion, and his overall story thus comes to being reinterpreted as the quintessential “myth of colonization”.60 This is the case of Heiner Müller’s remaking of Medea’s tragedy, Medeamaterial (1982). The East German dramatist’s adaptation of Medea story is articulated into three parts, of which Medeamaterial is the central one, the part that can be traced back to Euripides. It mostly consists of a monologue by Medea, although at the beginning and at the end there are bits of dialogue with Jason and the Nurse. The other two sections are Despoiled Shore and Landscape with Argonauts (1982).61 Medeamaterial represents a critical response to the authority of the ‘White’ and his colonizer culture, and functions as an empowerment of the colonized. Medea’s crime is in fact a reaction to the violence of colonialism personified by Jason, rather than a reaction to her rejected love; it is a form of political rebellion against the oppressor colonizer, the white ‘Western’ conqueror who has taken Medea along as his ally, but also as his slave, and corrupts wherever he goes with his version of civilization. More broadly the play conveys a critique of the author’s ‘own West’, i.e., of the Federal Republic of Germany in particular, and of Western Capitalism, along with its industrialized society, in general. Medeamaterial expresses the human rejection of such a society, which begins with colonization and is doomed to self-destruction. Medea’s real enemies are the prosperity, comforts and consumerism – symbolized by Creon’s “trough” –62 which allure her children. They will inevitably love her affluent oppressors more than herself. The only way to avoid this and rebel to the allure of Western capitalism is to kill them.63 Medea as vehicle of the critique of Western capitalism, more precisely of European/Western politics and, again, ‘civilized’ society, is the core of another 20th-century East German writer’s remaking: Medea. Stimmen (Medea.Voices),

59  I borrow the expression from Kvistad (2010) 227. Although the scholar has used that label specifically with reference to Pasolini’s interpretation, it well fits any adaptation that emphasizes post-colonial issues. 60  Corti (1998) 217. 61  Müller has been inspired by Medea’s story more than once. In 1974 he wrote Medeaspiedel (Medea play): see Macintosh (2000) 25–6. As to the trilogy mentioned above, and in particular Medeamaterial, see McDonald (1992); Rogowiski (1993); Corti (1998) 216–20; Campbell (2008). 62  About this metaphor see Corti (1998) 217. 63  In Müller the progress/industrialization motif intertwines with environmental concerns: see, e.g., Corti (1998) 217–8.



by Christa Wolf, published in 1996.64 Differently from Müller, in Wolf the infanticide issue is central. Similarly to Müller, the political-cultural criticism goes beyond the feud between the two Germanies: it is not (or not simply) an implicit polemical discourse of an East German on the shortcomings of the Federal Republic, and, subsequently, of the reunited Germany.65 More markedly than in Müller, both Germanies in fact stand for the whole Western world, presented by Wolf as a corrupt community which lies to itself and connives with its corrupted rulers in the cover-up of their crimes, by fabricating stories and rumors to discredit their opponents and keep hold of power. Wolf’s Medea is the scapegoat-voice of such a community; the realization and awareness of this community’s flaws makes her an other and outsider to an extreme degree: there is no real place for her to feel at home, either at Colchis (East Germany) or in Corinth (West Germany). Both have hypocritically defamed her by ascribing to her crimes that the rulers, and conniving community, committed. This Medea is completely innocent; the infanticide issue is thus central here in a different way from almost elsewhere else. Its straight rejection is not dictated by a sanitizing intent; it rather gestures toward the innocent victimhood characterizing Wolf’s Medea.66 In her version, once Medea receives the order to leave Corinth, she entrusts her children to the priestesses of Hera’s temple; but soon they are taken by the Corinthian mob and put to death. Wolf’s Medea is also innocent of the other murders traditionally ascribed to her, i.e., the killing both of her brother Apsyrtos and of the princess of Corinth, new bride of Jason. In Wolf’s version Apsyrtos is ritually murdered at the command of their father to allow him to maintain the political power. As for the princess of Corinth, she commits suicide, since she is unable to bear the memory of what happened to her older sister. Not differently from Apsyrtos in Colchis, the first daughter of Corinth’s royal couple was ‘ritually’ sacrificed in secret as a result of a plot to 64  The English title mentioned above is my translation from the original German title. It seems closer to the original as it also reflects the essential trait characterizing this reworking more than the title under which Wolf’s novel has been published in English, that is, Medea: A New Retelling. On this adaptation, see Schiavoni (1998); Hochgeschurz (1998); Rubino (2000) 84–123; Carrière (2012) 125–40. True to the title, the novel consists of a plurality of ‘voices’, i.e., characters, including Medea, who, through monologues, ‘voice’ their own ‘version’ of the story by thus expressing their own different view of Medea. 65  Although the contrast between Colchis and Corinth can be seen as a metaphor for the contrast between the ‘two’ Germanies, with an implied partisan view that East Germany (Colchis) – i.e., the land of the author – was better than West Germany (Corinth), true to the words of Wolf herself, this would be a reductive interpretation: see Schiavoni (1998) 42–3. 66  Wolf explicitly chose to follow the different mythical tradition, as far as the infanticide is concerned: see above, n. 4.

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


assure the king (Creon) the continuation of his dominance in a power-struggle with his own queen.67 This is the secret of civilized Corinth, which proves to be not so different from the ‘barbarian’ and ‘primitive’ Colchis. This is the secret that Medea is guilty to have discovered. She thus must pay, and must be prevented from saying the truth. Lastly, Wolf’s Medea flees Colchis not because of a blind passion for Jason. Leaving with Jason for Greece was for this Medea the only way to escape from the corruption of her father’s politics. Wolf’s Medea is partially autobiographical, for she reflects the experience and feelings of the author after the end of the East German regime, with the fall of the Berlin wall. Her rehabilitation of Medea might be seen as a plea for exculpation of both East Germans and the author herself.68 At the same time her Medea stands for the injustices that women suffered at the hands of the manipulative male power, which needs to keep women in an inferior, subordinate state of silence.69 In the 20th century and later, an appropriation and adaptation of Medea’ story in part similar to Müller’s and Wolf’s re-workings, i.e., as a vehicle of critique of the capitalist world (the Western ‘white’ First World), occurs in another, and completely different, corner of the world, precisely in Brazil. Although most of the re-elaborations by Brazilian authors reflect a postcolonial approach, as they treat the myth as a story about otherness and foreignness,70 one in particular aligns itself with the political discourse against capitalism, the new invader. It is Gota d’Água (Drop of Water, 1975) by Buarque and Pontes, mentioned above with reference to infanticide. According to the authors’ preface to the 1975 edition of their play, their first preoccupation was to discuss the relationship between Brazilian society and capitalism, within the context of the economic boom and growing concentration of wealth – at the expense of the working class – which followed the decolonizing process. They completely re-wrote Medea’s story in a way to provide, between the lines, a Marxist analysis of the socio-political situation of their country, and to thus denounce the unmerciful and predatory capitalistic miracle occurring in Brazil in the seventies. Corinth becomes a suburb of Rio de Janeiro, a lower class residential complex whose owner is Creon, a capitalistic bourgeois who has become rich by building speculations and usury. Medea turns into Joana who is a worker, a woman 67  Wolf’s interpretation is based on her strong belief in the existence of an early matriarchal system where men usurped power from women and preserved it through crimes: see Hochgeschurz (1998) 10–1. 68  Mention should be made of the fact that it was revealed that she collaborated for a short time with the East German secret police, against the unification of Germany. 69  For a feminist reading of Wolf’s novel see van Zyl Smit (2002) 115–7. 70  For characteristics of this Brazilian remaking of Euripides’ play see above, 96 and n. 34. The following discussion draws on Croce (2006) and on Coelho (see, above, n. 34).



of the people: she has abandoned her wealthy first husband to live with Jasão, a samba composer much younger than her. For years Joana has economically supported Jasão and taught him everything she knew about music. Once Jasão becomes famous for the samba entitled Gota d’água, he leaves Joana for the rich Alma, daughter of Creon. The chorus is the lower class community living in the same residential complex, and kept in perpetual servicing of their debts by Creon. The community’s relationship with Joana is ambiguous as they eventually let themselves be manipulated by Creon when he has to confront their protest: he demagogically cancels their debts. Aegeus turns into Egeu, Joana’s godfather, who represents the small Brazilian bourgeois which aims at reaching a solidarity among its members to rebel to the capitalistic power. All the essential parts of Brazilian society are thus represented through this radical transformation of the main characters. This reconfiguration allows the author to turn the postcolonial dichotomy of colonized/colonizer into an exploitation relationship between poor and rich. In this relationship, Joana completely succumbs to the power of the capitalistic Creon, to Jasão, and to the community itself. Her attempt to eliminate her enemies, Creon and Alma, fails, and she ends up poisoning herself and her children. The overall character of Medea is so multifarious that it eludes any rigid categorization, except for the ineludible child-killing mother one. The same multifacetedness applies in particular to one of her lately much exploited traits, her otherness. Hers is a multidimensional otherness to the point that, as just remarked in particular in Gota d’água, Medea’s otherness acquires a socio-economic nuance by becoming the symbol of the exploited ‘poor/working class’-other. A striking and incisive epitome of Medea’s multivalent otherness is conveyed by the very first words that she utters in the Brazilian composer and multimedia artist Jocy de Oliveira’s reworking, the 2006 opera Kseni – a estrangeira (Kseni – The Foreigner): “Transgressive … Immigrant … Barbarous … Terrorist … Woman …”71 In this way, Kseni-Medea identifies herself, standing and fighting for the right to be different, such an identification and fight that might apply to her overall otherness.72 In a time, like ours, in which diversity has been, and is, in the spotlight, Medea’s otherness and connected theme of marginalization could be re-adapted to voice issues pertaining to sexual identity / sexual diversity. This is the case in The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea, a lesbian-themed adaptation by the Chicana feminist writer Cherríe Moraga. Written and, at first, confined to staged readings in 1995, this controversial play was performed in a mainline 71  The quotation is from Coelho (2013) 374. 72  The name ‘Kseni’ indeed traced back to the ancient Greek xenos, meaning also ‘foreigner’.

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


theatre (the Magic Theatre in San Francisco) only five years later, in 2000.73 The story takes place in a hypothetical future, in a newly formed post-revolutionary country, a grim borderland located between the United States and a Mexicaninfluenced nation; it is a place specifically reserved for queers. Medea is exiled to this place, together with her lover Luna and the son she had with her first, oppressive and older husband Jasón. Medea has been expelled from her community after she left her husband for her lesbian lover, i.e., because of her sexual diversity. Jasón remarries, but her new young wife turns out to be barren. He thus claims custody of Medea’s son. But Medea is worried about her son growing into a man like his father, i.e., a man who perfectly fits the patriarchal, homophobic world of her homeland, a man who considers women ‘things’ and ‘creatures to be controlled’. Hence this Medea too re-enacts her ‘traditional’ crimes: she kills her son with poisonous herbs to ‘save’ him from indoctrination into machismo and misogyny. For this crime, she is confined in a psychiatric hospital until she is ‘liberated’ by her lover Luna, who brings her poisonous herbs, and by the ghost of her son, who leads her to the world of dead. The play clearly is a critique of male-dominated and homophobic attitudes that refuses to recognize sexual diversity by representing female homosexuality as a tragically doomed condition.74 Long though it may be, this overview is far from doing justice both to the original Medea and to her re-incarnations in the 20th- and 21st-century new literary ‘versions’.75 This unavoidable shortcoming is not merely quantitative, as the multifarious complexity of Medea-character constitutes a challenge for a possibly full account in such a small space. What can be safely said by way of conclusion is what has been more than once surfacing throughout the discussion: despite her multifaceted-slippery essence, one specific facet has proved to be both the most engrained one in historical memory and ‘the one’ responsible for the commonly repulsive reaction of the audiences, i.e., her being an infanticide mother. Still, the issue of motherhood keeps being the pivot of 73  About Moraga’s play, see Eschen (2006) 103–6; Straile-Costa (2010); Carrière (2012) 97–109; Foley (2012) 215–7. 74  An engagement in the sexual diversity- / queer culture-matter also characterizes Medea. The Musical by the American playwright John Fisher, a farce at first produced at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1994, when Fisher was a graduate student. In the mid ’90s it moved to San Francisco, where it ran for 15 months (with a revival in 2005); later in 2000 it was produced in Seattle. With Fisher himself being one of the characters, precisely the ‘Auteur’ (i.e., theater director), it is meant to be a serious commentary on contemporary gay issues. On this play, see Brown (2004) 293; Foley (2004) 108–10; Lauriola (2015) 413–4. 75  For other versions see Corti (1998); Macintosh (2000); Foley (2012); Lauriola (2015); Hall, Macintosh, Taplin (2000).



most recent versions of Medea’s myth. A further example is From Medea by the Italian singer and writer Grazia Verasani, premiered at the Teatro Colosseo in Rome, in 2002. Within thirty short acts, it tells the story of four women who, convicted of murdering their own children, are serving a term of imprisonment. These women are presented as colpevoli innocenti (innocent guilty), a striking oxymoron that well renders the complexity behind the action of Medea and of women to whom social expectations have always been asking to nullify their person and their dignity for the sake of motherhood. The latter thus appears to be a weapon of the male/patriarchal-oriented culture that confines femininity to being mothers. Like the ancient Medea the four women are victims of a system that exasperates them to the point that, to rebel and free themselves, they become guilty of monstrous actions. Their stories reveal the often overlooked complexity of murderer-mothers by delving into the social and cultural environment of contemporary mothers, posing challenging questions about motherhood, social pressure, and the hidden guilt of such a tragic event as the maternal infanticide.76 Theirs are stories that, like the ancient Medea’s story, cause the audiences of any period to experience bipolar reactions, vacillating between pity and blame, empathy and disbelief. Nevertheless, the scales commonly tip in favor of a feeling of horror and repulsion: the action of a mother who kills her children continues to be seen as an unthinkable violation of an inherent natural law, and it calls into question the essential notion that women endowed with an innate nurturing maternal instinct.77 Whether the motif is re-proposed in a radical feministic perspective as the “ultimate act of selfempowerment”, or as a critique of the perennial androcentric view, in that a woman who hurts herself to hurt the man who has abandoned her is “a male idea of a feminist act”,78 whether it might be made ‘more understandable’, from the oppressed and marginalized mothers’ viewpoint, as a mercy-altruistic killing, Euripides’ Medea is doomed to be tied to any child-murdering mother and vice versa.79 The child-murdering mother has in fact continued to imprint Medea’s picture on our mind to such a point that it has been taken to the very extreme: in the genetics of the beetle Tribolium her name is indeed used to 76  See Bernocco (2013). Verasani’s piece recently inspired the movie Maternity Blues, by the Italian director Fabrizio Cattani, released in 2011: see Uffreduzzi (2012). 77  Motherhood is expected to come ‘naturally’, and women’s mothering work is generally taken for granted as it is considered ‘natural’ (see First [1994]). Studies have shown that it is not so. For a concise review of the problem see Barnett (2006) esp. 411–4. 78  Both quotations actually belong to Fisher’s Medea. The Musical (see, above, n. 74); I borrow them from Foley (2004) 109. 79  See, e.g., Moroco (2003); Hyman (2004).

The Reception of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries


describe a gene responsible for arresting the development of some embryos i.e., for provoking their abortion.80 That is to say, by way of metaphor: Medea is the ne plus ultra of ‘unmaternal’ /’unnatural’ mother as she kills the ‘children’ before they are even born. Medea is such an abomination. Again, is it so? The dilemma remains and keeps hunting us. Certainly as in the past so in the present time it is a gender-biased dilemma, for the common feeling has always been that there is something more shocking and forbidden about maternal violence than paternal infanticide. He killed his children, so where is Hercules’ electric chair?81 This question asked by the chorus of women in Tony Harrison’s opera Medea: A Sex-Opera (1985)82 sets the record straight. Standing for a universally valid “powerful indictment of traditional male representations of the female”,83 Harrison’s reworking of Medea’s story fairly contrasts Medea with Heracles, a father who has killed his children, and, yet, his reputation is one of a hero: he can get off unpunished, while Medea, who in this version is even wrongly accused of infanticide for her children are killed at the hands of the Corinthians,84 is inexorably electrocuted. Once again, such is her stain as murderer-mother. This discrepancy between Medea and Heracles in evoking outrage, in promptly casting a verdict of guilty, and in calling for a death penalty, is indeed one that regularly occurs today as well.85 80  See Hurst (2010). The scholar has also observed that, in this case, MEDEA well works as acronym for ‘Maternal-Effect Dominant for Embryonic Arrest’ (2010: 300). 81  Harrison (1985) 437. 82  The English poet Tony Harrison is the author of the libretto which he wrote for the operatic work on Medea that the New York Metropolitan Opera had commissioned to the American composer Jacob Druckman in late 1980s. Druckman died in 1996 without completing the opera (only the overture and one scene were completed). Harrison decided however to publish his complete libretto. On Harrison’s work, see McDonald (1992) 115–25. 83  McDonald (1992) 115; Lauriola (2015) 413. 84  About this variant of the myth, see, above, n. 4. 85  Infanticide becomes especially newsworthy if the perpetrator is the child’s mother; see, e.g., Coward (1997); Douglas, Michaels (2004). Gamiz (2002), for instance, comparing the press coverage devoted to the case of one of the 21st-century American infanticide mother, Andrea Yates (Houston, 2001: see, above, n. 7), to coverage devoted to Adair Garcia (Los Angeles, 2002), noted that while in the first four week of Yates trial, more than one thousand articles were published about her case, fewer than one hundred were written about Garcia in the same amount of time.



Whether Euripides intended to call our attention specifically to this, too, or not, the different ways in which his Medea’s reception has unfolded do call for our attention to such universal and recurring human experience that cannot be coincidental.

part 2 Portuguese Versions of Medea in the 20th and 21st Centuries

chapter 7

Medea as an Aesthetic and Ethical Space in Fiama’s Work Ália Rodrigues We1 are all women. Who humiliates me Humiliates you all.2

Hélia Correia, Desmesura. Lisboa (2006) 36

∵ Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão (1938–2007), a remarkable Portuguese writer,3 began her career in the late 1950s in poetry, but she also wrote plays,4 essays, novels and translated several works into Portuguese, mainly German and American thinkers such as Novalis, Tchekhov, Bertold Brecht, Antonin Artaud, and John Updike, among others. The play that concerns us here, entitled Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw the Epidaurus), was first published in 1985, while the second text, Fiama’s first novel Sob o Olhar de Medea (Under the Gaze of Medea), was released more than a decade later (1998). Both works explore the myth of Medea from different angles: while the play shows Medea as the Euripidean dramatic character, “the classical woman who killed her own children”5 as well as the icon of feminine otherness, the novel explores the shamanic power of Medea’s gaze from an ethical point of view. 1  The first version of this article was published in Portuguese, “Medeia sob o olhar de Fiama” (Biblos n.s. [2008] 411–28). This English version is a translation of the original Portuguese, but several changes have been made to the original. 2  “Somos todas mulheres./Quem me humilhar/A vós humilha!”. 3  Fiama received several prizes, among them: Adolfo Casais Monteiro Prize, 1957, Theatre Revelation Prize, 1961; Portuguese Pen Club Prize (Poetry), 1985; Portuguese Writers Association’s Poetry Prize twice (1996 and 2000). 4  Fiama had an intense theatrical experience: she did an internship in the Teatro Experimental do Porto (1964) and she also founded the theater group Hoje (Today, 1974). 5  Brandão (1976) 121.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_009

114 1


The Play Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw the Epidaurus)

1.1 Medea as an Aesthetic Space in the History of Theatre Eugénia Vasques defined the theater of Fiama as a “theater of voices”,6 an eloquent expression that summarizes the polyphonic textuality of Fiama dramaturgy: the play Eu vi o Epidauro can be understood as a revisionist text of the history of the theatre as traditional characters, places, and topoi are ubiquitous throughout the play, as Compère’s (a theatre director) words reveal: “The show is going to start. Or rather, it will start and restart the theater, ancient and modern. Life will start, the life of the theater! The time and the place” (73).7 All characters of the cast are explicit references to famous stages of the Western history of theater: Epidaurus, the Greek city where the oldest theater is located; Bayreuth, a small German city where the theater of Richard Wagner is located; Stratford-on-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare and home to the Shakespeare Memorial Theater. These places are personified by the Angels characters: “spirits that populate the sacred places of the Theater” (128).8 Judging by this cast, Fiama considers Euripides, Shakespeare, and Wagner as the main references that marked the history of European dramaturgy. Along with their authors, the characters of their own masterpieces are also explored throughout the play: Medea and Jason, Romeo and Juliet, and the Nordic mythical figures Brünhild and Siegfried which are also the main characters of the Wagnerian tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung (Der Ring des Nibelungen, 1848–1874). Despite the high number of characters, the cast only has seven actors: Compère or the theatre director, three actors and three actresses which represent the history of theatre: Jason/Medea, Romeo S./Juliet, Siegfried B./

6  The well-known Portuguese Theatre director Luis Miguel Cintra recognizes that Fiama’s plays are a challenge for any theatre director: “It is a very personal and most interesting theatrical writing, but the plays are so elaborate and sophisticated that have intimidated filmmakers.” (“É uma escrita teatral muito pessoal e das mais interessantes, mas são peças tão elaboradas e sofisticadas que têm intimidado encenadores.”) Fiama herself confirms that she writes preferentially for a “chamber theater” (“Teatro de Câmara”) (Diário de Notícias 2007.01.21). 7  “Compère: Vai começar o espectáculo. Ou antes, vai começar e recomeçar o teatro, antigo e moderno. Vai começar a vida a vida do teatro! O tempo e o lugar.” I am following this edition: Brandão, Fiama H. P. (1990), Eu vi o Epidauro, in Teatro-Teatro. Lisboa: Fenda. 8  “Espíritos que povoam os lugares sagrados do Teatro”.

Medea as an Aesthetic and Ethical Space in Fiama ’ s Work


Brünhild, Irina9 from Tchekhov’s The Three Sisters, among others.10 However, only one set of these would explain all the others: Jason/Medea in Epidaurus, which is represented by the Angel. All these female characters become Medea and, consequently, they also continue to reproduce the same tense Euripidean dualism women vs men and the rest,11 as Fiama’s Medea stated: Medea – I, from the beginning, I was summoned here! And now I know that there are only four plays in the world: Euripides, Shakespeare, the other by Pirandello,12 and Tchekhov! Each of them wrote always the same and the only one.” (129)13 Thus, Juliet, Marta Ayala, and Irina are just eloquent variations of the Euripidean model: After the shooting, the actress dies, the character remains. But which character? The one, the eternal, that has already changed so much, in the theater of the West, so many imitations has changed with others … (72)14 These imitations, however, focus on one aspect of the version of the myth crystallized in Euripides, glimpsing in Medea the betrayed woman in continual 9  Three Sisters is a four-act drama by Anton Tchekhov whose main characters are Olga, Maria, and Irina. 10  The Portuguese Eduarda Dionísio, in her play Before the Night Comes (Antes que a noite venha, 1992, see below), presents a similar cast: Juliet, Antigone, Medea, and Inês de Castro, Galician noblewoman lover of King Peter I of Portugal who was posthumously recognised as his wife. Cf. Ferreira (1999). 11  In the staging of this play by Mónica Calle (2000), the criticism emphasises the physical and psychological violence throughout the play: “A disturbing “peep show”, where women are attacked by men in a crescendo of violence that the spectator may feel tempted to look away.” (“Um “peep show” perturbador, onde as mulheres são agredidas pelos homens num crescendo de violência de que o espectador se pode sentir tentado a desviar o olhar.”), in Gomes, Kathleen, “Peep show with Greek tragedy”, in Público, 16.06.2000: 30). 12  This is a reference to Pirandello’s first novel, L’Esclusa (The Excluded), which tells the story of Marta Ajala, a housewife who was unjustly expelled from home and betrayed by all men in her life. At the end, even if she became autonomous, she was never able to recover her identity in society again. 13  “Medea – Eu, desde o início que estava convocada para aqui! E hoje sei que só há quatro peças de teatro no mundo: a de Eurípides, de Shakespeare, a outra de Pirandello e a de Tchekhov! Cada um deles escreveu sempre a mesma e a única” (129). 14  “Depois do tiro, morre a actriz, fica a personagem. Mas qual personagem? Essa, a eterna, já tanto se modificou, no teatro do Ocidente, já tantas réplicas trocou com outras …” (72).



emancipation, who attempts, at all costs, to refute the male discourse in order to become an autonomous voice in society: Matrix – Oh, since I was born, you, my husband, allow me this, you forbid me that. Enough for me. If she is a daughter of the Martyr, she was influenced by the model. Women mold women. She said well that, from generation to generation, in Europe, a great myth, of man covers women (…). (102)15 Medea – Do you want to know? That I was abandoned by Jason. (128)16 In the traditional version of the classic myth, Medea’s main opponents are mostly male figures: Jason, Esson, Pellias, Creon, and Aegeus. However, although the idea of Medea as a female victim is consistent and almost exclusively explored throughout the play, one can still find references to the classic woman that kills her own children: Juliet (to Medea) – I was able to see you myself. When you came down from the amphitheater with bloody hands. (82) 1st Sister – And to think that there was a classic woman who killed her children … (121)17 Unhappy, Medea claims new actions, a different destiny for her character, since the ‘classic’ one condemned her forever: Medea – I want to know, I want to know if I’ll ever be the example of a less loaded, more nuanced action. An action of a bourgeoisie in crisis of modern consciousness. No director of this comedy, and of the others (…) has, nevertheless, the right to drag me eternally through moral misery (…) (91)18 15  “Matrix – Oh, desde que eu nasci, tu, meu marido, me permites isto, me proíbes aquilo. Chega, comigo. Se for filha da Mártir, sofreu a influência do modelo. As mulheres moldam as mulheres. Ela disse bem, que de geração em geração, na Europa, um grande mito de homem cobre as mulheres (…)” (102). 16  “Medea – Querem saber? Que fui abandonada por Jasão” (128). 17  “Julieta (para Medea) – Eu, a ti ainda te cheguei a ver. Quando descias do anfiteatro com as mãos ensanguentadas” (82). “1ª Irmã – E pensar que houve uma mulher clássica que matou os filhos …” (121). 18  “Medeia – Eu quero saber, quero saber se alguma vez serei o exemplo de uma acção com tintas menos carregadas, mais matizada. Uma acçãozinha de uma burguesa em crise de

Medea as an Aesthetic and Ethical Space in Fiama ’ s Work


This is just one example of the numerous references to the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt (“estrangement” or “distancing effect”),19 a break and refusal of the Aristotelian scenic illusion, that had a strong influence on Fiama’s dramaturgy who also translated several works of Brecht into Portuguese. In this process, the actor questions the actions of the character that s/he is playing, not only to prevent the illusion effect, but also to include the audience in the drama itself, which, according to Brecht, seeks a specific purpose: “for a single purpose to show the world in such a way in order to make it shapable”.20 1.2 The Structure of Eu vi o Epidauro In the first part of the play, Medea is present in five scenes and in the first two of the second part. Medea’s interlocutors are her own theatre historical ‘doubles’, the Shakespearean Juliet and the Wagnerian Brünhild as well as their male partners (also opponents in some cases), Jason, Romeo or Siegfried. Apart from these, the character Medea does not interact with any other set of personages of the play, that is, the Angels, the Greyhounds or the Three Sisters of Tchekhov. Brechtian aesthetics flows throughout the play in, and by influencing its technique, it also emphasizes and reinforces its main idea: how the female condition is explored throughout the history of the theatre and how Euripidean Medea shaped and determined the Western imaginary towards women: Greyhound 4 – The characters were people. Greyhound 1 – But they are not, they are models. Greyhound 4 – But they will be. People follow the models. (127)21 Jason E. – You already know that we can have a life at all times. Now, this is to be all simultaneous, or this spreads through various lives and existences. (…) Romeo A. – And the lives and the existences, who they belong to? Julieta – To everyone, to those who make public, to those who act as actors sometimes, to those who are characters! consciência moderna” (91); “Nenhum encenador desta comédia, e das outras (…) tem, mesmo assim, o direito de me arrastar eternamente pela miséria moral (…)” (91). 19  Here is a list of some of the Brecht’s Portuguese translations: Schriften zum Theater: über eine nicht-aristotelische Dramatik (Estudos sobre o Teatro, 1975?, Portugália), Furcht und Elend des dritten Reiches (O terror e a miséria no Terceiro Reich: 24 cenas, 1984, Portugália) as well as other plays (see Hörster, 1985 and Cortez, 1996). 20  Brecht (1975) 138–9. Translated by Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão. 21  “Galgo 4 – As personagens eram pessoas./Galgo 1 – Mas não são, são modelos./Galgo 4 – Mas serão. As pessoas seguem os modelos” (127).



Romeo A. – How would they, men, know what they will be if it were not because of us? And all the great figures, who breathe on paper, above on paper, through the books, through the scenarios …? (84)22 The use of this distancing technique also enables the reader to identify which aspect of the classical myth continued to be relevant: Medea represents the archetype that flows in the main female characters of the Western theatre. “After all, life is longer than the oeuvre”, said Fiama in an interview about the launch of the her main poetry work: Obra Breve (Brief Works).23 The same applies to the Bretchian reception of Medea in Fiama’s play Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw the Epidaurus), the life of these characters crystallized in the Western imagination becoming autonomous from their own authors, beyond time, beyond the text itself: “They have had their own history for many centuries. Each presupposes the other. There is no one else who can be alive for so many days, if not them. Still alive, yesterday, today” (75).24 By presenting mostly meta-discussions and self-reflexive dialogues as if “The past is always simultaneous” (84), “Epidaurus” in I Saw the Epidaurus. About the Theatre is thus a narrative on how the classical plays become the centri­petal point of the history of theatre25. That said, all later female characters are a variation of Medea which justifies the structure of the entire play and also the reception of the myth of Medea in Fiama:

22  “Jasão E. – Já sabes que podemos ter uma vida em todos os tempos. Ora, isto é para ser tudo simultâneo, ou espalha-se por várias vidas e existências (…). Romeu A. – E as vidas e as existências, de quem são? Julieta – De toda a gente, dos que fazem público, dos que fazem de actores às vezes, dos que são personagens! Romeu A. – Como é que eles, homens, haviam de saber o que hão-de ser, se não fôssemos nós? E todas as grandes figuras, que respiram no papel, em cima do papel, através dos livros, através dos cenários …?” (84). 23  Marques (1991) 6. 24  “Têm há muitos séculos uma história própria. Cada um pressupõe o outro. Não há mais ninguém, que possa estar vivo tantos dias, senão esses. Vivos ainda, ontem, hoje.” (75). Regarding this idea, Roland Barthes (1980) 31 also mentioned: “Who was Sancho Panza? Who was Sganarelo? They live, though. They are eternal, because – as germens alive – they had the fortune to find a fantasy that knew how to feed and create, that made them live for Eternity.” 25  As the Epidaurus Angel says: “People pass in places. There is a procession of people parading through tragedies and comedies. They want to see Epidaurus, whether tourists or not” (“Anjo do Epidauro: As pessoas passam nos lugares. Há um cortejo de gente a desfilar por dentro de tragédias e das comédias. Querem ver o Epidauro, quer sejam turistas, quer não”, 74).

Medea as an Aesthetic and Ethical Space in Fiama ’ s Work


Compère – (…) Bayreuth Angel – No, the place is not this one. Epidaurus Angel – It was in Colchis. (73)26 2

The Novel Sob o olhar de Medeia (Under the Gaze of Medea)

2.1 Medea’s Gaze as an Ethical Engagement with Reality The novel Sob o olhar de Medeia (Under the Gaze of Medea) narrates Marta’s childhood, growth, and education during which she learns classical myths from her school teacher. The novel is narrated as a long recollection of her childhood which is only possible because Marta learnt classical myths at an early stage in her life and, for this reason, she is now able to accurately describe the ‘imprecise’ reality once lived: Maritime images are close, but still unnamed. Only the classical myths will later name the images and the metamorphoses. (13)27 The initiation to the ‘light’ began in the childhood, during which she learnt civic virtues and human affections, while she was able to find the time to dedicate herself to the “tasks of nature”: from 3 to 4 years she took care of the sheep, from 6 to 10, she watched over the rabbits and an abandoned bird. However, this path of light did not go without an initiation to evil which is embodied by the child of the housekeeper, Lazarus, whose name seems to predict his own condemnation.28 However, the initiation to evil is the only way to know the Light: “Very early, the gnosis of light and darkness was for her the configuration of the world.” (16).29 The first exile of the Light occurred when the mother took her, as a child, to a room far from her, a wise departure as she would later acknowledge: “To protect her daughter from the innate suffering, which occupies, along with joy, half of our life, [the mother] expelled her from Paradise, teaching her

26  “Compère: Vai começar o espectáculo. (…). Anjo de Bayreuth: Não, o lugar não é este. Anjo do Epidauro: Era na Cólchida” (73). 27  “As imagens marítimas estão perto, mas ainda sem nome. Só os mitos clássicos, mais tarde, vão dar o nome às imagens e às metamorfoses” (13). 28  “Names of men mark their conduct as dramatic roles” (“Digamos que os nomes dos homens lhes marcam as condutas, como papéis dramáticos”, 166). 29  “Muito cedo, a gnose da luz e das trevas foi para ela o modo de configuração do mundo”.



the pain”30 (124). As Marta grew up, she was in permanent readjustment between the experience of reality and that ‘initial’ time that the classical myths symbolise. Learning classic myths at an early age allowed Marta to access the knowledge of the archetype that embodies human actions, as if each beha­ viour corresponded to an archetypical conduct that repeats again and again in various times: The reality, in the face of myths, would be an exile, because these are its [reality] models, as the personal childhood relived, being identical to the childhood of the world and of the peoples, showed it to her. (170)31 The myth of Medea had a strong influence on her education and, especially, on her perception of reality and also Art: In reading, in class, she had heard, in the penetrating voice of the teacher, something she could never again forget, in wonder. To overcome Talos, the bronze giant, Medea gazes at his eyes in enraged ecstasy, and transmits images of death to him, which lost him. Surprised and frightened, Martha never forgot the revelation of this power again. She thinks, seated in the refuge of the isolated stone bench, that the gaze is powerful, which receives and transmits the world seen.32 (67–8) 30  “Para proteger a filha no inato sofrimento, que ocupa, com a alegria, metade da nossa vida, expulsara-a do Paraíso, ensinando-lhe a dor”. 31  “Toda a realidade, face aos mitos, seria um exílio, porque são estes os seus modelos, como a infância pessoal revivida, idêntica à infância do mundo e dos povos, lhe mostrara” (170). 32  “Na leitura, na aula, ouvira, na voz penetrante do professor, algo que não pôde nunca mais esquecer, maravilhada. Para vencer Talos, o gigante de bronze, Medea fita os olhos dele com o seu olhar, em enfurecido êxtase, e transmite-lhe imagens da morte, que o perderam. Surpreendida e atemorizada, Marta nunca mais esqueceu a revelação deste poder. Pensa, sentada no refúgio do banco de pedra isolado, que o olhar é poderoso, que recebe e transmite o mundo visto” (67–8). Robert Graves (32004) 616 presents three versions of the death of the giant Talos, which takes place when the Argonauts arrive to Crete, the most represented episode in the art. In most versions, Medea is responsible for the death of the giant, with the exception of the second version presented by Apollodorus (1.9.26), which attributes the death to Pelias (Apollod. 1 [141] 9. 26). In the most wellknown version, Medea deceived the monster with sweet words, promising him immortality if he drank a magic potion which was, in fact, a sleeping pill that made him fall asleep. In this version, while the monster slept, she kills him by striking the only vein that ran through his body (Apollod. 1 [141] 9. 26). In another version which is here presented, Talos, bewitched by the eyes of Medea, stumbled and injuring his only vein, eventually died of the intense bleeding. Soph. Frr. 160–1 TrGFr. Already in the second version of

Medea as an Aesthetic and Ethical Space in Fiama ’ s Work


Later on, without ever forgetting Medea, he thinks that this is the definition of Art, by releasing images of life and death, the only ones possible on Earth.33 (68) This is the Pasolini’s Medea: the sorceress, a priestess of Hecate and a chthonic semi-goddess. According to this passage, Marta learnt from Medea a very specific emotion: the gaze and how this can transform reality. Tiago, a childhood friend, once said to Marta that her life in the future would be influenced by her tendency to transform reality into a metaphor or an image: “you are avid, you create symbols and transformations, which are an ethical search” (109).34 For instance, when her grandmother died, Marta would rather remember her as a bird; or when the adventure of the Argonauts was narrated to her, she interpreted the gold as the image of the sun, as the Argonauts myth was the fundamental search of the origin of the sun (109). Marta made this solar adventure her own project: “(…) I would rather live like the classics. Which? The Sailors of the Golden Fleece”35 (103). Her personal project emerged by the end of adolescence and consisted in the search for the salvation of people/countries which were victims of injustice and also going through reforms of political systems. The archetypes transmitted by the Medea’s narrative would determine Marta’s actions. However, Martha was afraid of this mimetic thought because she did not want to be led by metaphors, but by acts, as she wanted to remain “active and pragmatic” throughout her adulthood. Later, Martha reinvented the beginning of Genesis in the light of the revealing power of the images: “In the beginning was the image and the image became body” (99).36

Apollodorus, Pelias threw an arrow at his heel and killed him, since the only vein he had from neck to ankle. The Dioscuri are also often associated with the death of the giant, but only in the iconographic tradition, not in any literary source. 33  “Mais tarde, sem jamais esquecer Medeia, pensa que é essa a definição de Arte, ao lançar imagens de vida e de morte, as únicas possíveis na Terra.” 34  “(…) és ávida, crias símbolos e transformações, que são uma procura ética.” (109). 35  “(…) antes viver como os clássicos. Quais? Os marinheiros do Velo de Ouro” (103). 36  “Marta glanced at them, as if she could avoid the metamorphosis of those dead in images … She knew from continuous experience that the power of images is often the reverse of Creation in Genesis: in the beginning was the image and the image became a body.” (“Marta olhou-os de relance, como se assim pudesse evitar a metamorfose daqueles mortos em imagens […] Sabia, por continuada experiência, que o poder das imagens é muitas vezes inverso do da Criação, no Génese: ao princípio era a imagem e a imagem se fez corpo”, 99).



What are exactly these “images”? The concept of the image consists of the Marta’s personal reading of each experience and her own interpretation is deeply influenced by the classical myths. Thus, Martha’s interpretation of her memories would become more lucid, depending on her knowledge of the myths which would increase accuracy of her judgement and perception about herself, as her primary teacher once revealed to her: You will be creative, multiply similarities, imitate with new memory, ever more faithful, says the master. (112)37 Thus, for Marta, the notion of art based in Medea would consist in “casting images of life and death”, the two extremes that the human being knows: while the former allows humans to infinitely transform reality, the latter poses a limit to creation. This was the main revelation of Medea’s gaze to Marta.

37  “Poderás antes ser criadora, multiplicar as semelhanças, imitar com nova memória, sempre mais fiel, diz o mestre” (112).

chapter 8

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio, Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes) Maria de Fátima Silva Antes1 que a noite venha, by the Portuguese author Eduarda Dionísio,2 is a set of four monologues on the theme of love and death, spoken by four famous heroines: Antigone and Medea, from classical Antiquity, Juliet, and the Portuguese Castro3 from the Middle Ages, who are all part of a European tradition eternalized by its expansion into the world. Dionísio chose to trivialize the essential traits of these famous myths, adapting them to a recognizable Portuguese setting in Lisbon, which the conventional pair formed by the sailor and the prostitute could be seen to represent. The author explains her assumptions in the 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Eduarda Dionísio, a Portuguese secondary school teacher, has maintained a constant relationship with professional and university theatre groups in the city of Lisbon, and has also developed interesting activities in the fields of art (participating in joint exhibitions 1965, 1968) and literature (as a writer and critic). She co-founded the Contra-Regra theatre group. A well-known author of various fictional works between 1972 and 1993, she has made brief incursions into drama. Perhaps because she was associated with both textual production and the stage experience, Eduarda Dionísio expresses herself with much vehemence about the multi-dimensional experience of spectacle, where words are but one among many other equally important materials. Antes que a noite venha was conceived as a response to the challenge raised by actor Adriano Luz, whose project included the creation of a spectacle with four actresses from his circle of friends: Luísa Cruz, Rita Blanco, Maria João Luís, and Márcia Breia. The result was performed in 1992 in the Bairro Alto Theatre with the support of the Cornucópia company. Written for a particular mise-en-scène and for the above-mentioned particular actresses, Antes que a noite venha did not aim to be a theatrical text but rather a text for the theatre (12). See Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 285–304. 3  Inês de Castro is the Portuguese contribution to the list of famous heroines, protagonists of episodes of love and death. From Galicia, this lady of the Castilian court came to Portugal in the entourage of Dona Constança, who was betrothed to the heir of the Portuguese throne, the future Don Pedro I (14th century). However, between Pedro and Inês there developed an incontrollable love, which, for political reasons, led to her assassination upon the orders of Don Afonso IV, the reigning monarch. This episode from Portuguese history, with its romantic potential, has been converted into a veritable national ‘myth’, which has given rise to many artistic and literary versions, including the tragedy A Castro by António Ferreira (1587) and another tragedy in five acts, A nova Castro (The New Castro), by the Neoclassicist João Baptista Gomes Júnior (late 18th century). © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_010



following words (1992) 10–1: “Porque é que Julieta, Antígona, a Castro, Medeia, saídas quase em directo das suas tragédias mais ou menos antigas, não haveriam de passar por aqui, pelo menos com a banalidade que lhes deu a contínua passagem de boca em boca, de cabeça em cabeça, de coração em coração? (…) Porque é que o amor e a morte de uma mulher sem nome hão-de ser diferentes, como isso do amor e da morte dos monstros sagrados que a literatura foi reduzindo a frases?” (Why would Juliet, Antigone, Castro, Medea, stepping almost directly out of their more or less ancient tragedies, not stop by, at least with the banality afforded by their continuous passage from mouth to mouth, from heart to heart? […] Why should the love and death of a nameless woman be different, like that thing about the love and death of sacred monsters which literature has gradually reduced to sentences?). This approach may have implied a different cultural context, but it still kept close to the stories it was based upon;4 on the question of structure, however, there is a much wider difference. The new text does not follow the conventions of dramatic writing. It consists of a succession of monologues which might not fall under the label of theatre were it not for the identity of the voices, all of which belong to the tragic tradition. In the volume dedicated to the reception of Antigone, included in this collection,5 I analysed the influence of Malago author María Zambrano and of her text La Tumba de Antigona (Antigone’s Tomb) on Eduarda Dionísio. The change of protagonist from Antigone to Medea did not entail a change of structural model. Dionísio sticks to a similar pattern of successive monologues addressed to several interlocutors, through which the course of a life and its emotional entanglements can be reconstructed. 1

Medea’s Monologues

Thus in Antes que a noite venha, Medea speaks three monologues: Fala a Jasão (Speech to Jason), Fala a si própria (Speech to Herself), Fala ao público (Speech to the Audience). The very choice of interlocutor, in the first two cases, shows that the storyline is essentially a conflict between two people, in which the remaining traditional players fade into the background. With the final address to the public, Medea’s story is immortalized, raised to a different level, making the personal universal. Notwithstanding this, whoever her interlocutor is, 4  Euripides’s version of Medea is E. Dionísio’s main classical reference, as I shall seek to prove with several references to specific passages of the Greek Medea. 5  See Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 90–109.

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


Medea expresses her feelings in each monologue; she and her life journey are the focus, which means that in this new approach to the story of the Colchian princess the emphasis is laid on the female experience of a betrayed love that unleashes an extreme revenge. Central traditional figures, such as Creon, are absent. If he is mentioned at all, it is mostly in his quality as king, and as such he represents his daughter’s prominent position as the object of Jason’s ambitious designs; on the other hand, as a “pai e rei poderoso” (a father and a powerful king), he is held responsible for the loneliness that Medea has been condemned to endure, and as such, he becomes a target for her anger. In her turn, the young woman who is now her rival deserves no more than an anonymous “she”; deprived of a personality, she is regarded as a mere alternative among Jason’s interests and goals. Even the role of Medea’s children – who, according to convention, will serve as a means of revenge – is continually postponed and sidelined in relation to the main theme of excessive love and betrayal. Such absences, as well as other brief references to nameless figures, underline the fact that the text dynamics is almost entirely centered on a couple’s relationship, witnessed in memories and in the children it produced, and revealing an oikos that is falling apart. In Euripides’ version, the two agones between Jason and Medea are defining moments.6 The asymmetry of these confrontations is well known: in the first of them, Jason is confronted with Medea’s outspoken, unrelenting rage, expressing her rejection of the traitor. To her outburst of hatred caused by his ingratitude and betrayal in the face of a love so generously given, Jason responds by invoking altruistic motivations, which mask his ambition, both genuine and vain. Her explosion of rage is followed by the subtle and cynical preparation of retaliation. With simulated meekness and words of repentance, Medea prepares deception; and Jason, unconscious of the true nature of his years-long companion, believes in her compliance, and unwittingly collaborates in her revenge. Euripides thereby endows his protagonist with the arts of an actress, one who feigns in order to persuade each one of her interlocutors, namely Creon and Jason. The Portuguese author substitutes straightforwardness and the power of words for feigning, as if the absence of Medea’s interlocutors (who are only virtual), would allow her to avoid that effort of theatricality. 6  The importance of language effects in the Euripidean play led Boedeker (1991) 97 to describe it as a “tragedy of discourse”. On this, see also McClure (1999) 373–94, who stresses Medea’s “blame speech”; the heroine’s oaths, threats, censures, and insults (e.g. 465–74, 488) are also present in the speeches of Eduarda Dionísio’s protagonist. This type of language does not correspond to the Greek model of how a wife should address her husband, but it obviously befits Medea’s passionate soul.



This central passage in Euripides’ play, in which the poison of words rather than that of drugs is used by Medea to overcome enemy resistance, was not without influence on contemporary rewritings of this theme. For example, on Anouilh’s creation, Lasso de la Vega suggests:7 “In its structure, the play is supported by two central dialogues, one between Medea and Creon, her declared enemy, and another between Medea and Jason; this second dialogue occupies almost half of the play, in length, and lies at its very core”. These monologues convey a vivid description of a life journey – from a remembered past, on to a present of rejection, anticipating a future charged with revenge – as if the protagonist’s words were being matched by genuine live action. The verb tenses accentuate this diachrony in each of the speeches. Treachery, the driver of all reactions – which is congruent with the choice of beginning in medias res – is expressed in present tenses, signaling each one of Jason’s false gestures: “falas” (you speak), “saúdas” (you salute), “fazes” (you do), “és” (you are), “dizes” (you say), “mentes” (you lie), “disfarças” (you hide) – all variants of a sort of captatio of goodwill with a repeatedly outspoken aim voiced in the future tense: “serás rei” (you shall be king), “serás déspota” (you will be a despot). This is followed by a flashback, recalling a past that is over, but puzzling in light of present feelings. The present and past perfect tenses highlight the differences in their commitment to each other – the doubts of one, and the determination of the other of the young couple: “me tenhas amado” (you [may] have loved me), “amei-te” (I did love you), “larguei terras” (I left my lands) “matei” (I killed) “entreguei” (I gave), “foste” (you were). Before its actual fulfillment, revenge is being planned – “ela há-de morrer” (she will die), “morrerão” (they will die) – expressed in threatening future tenses aimed at her enemies. But other utterances – “enterro um punhal” (I bury a dagger), “beijo” (I kiss) “abraço” (I embrace), “a morte que lhes dou” (the death I grant them) – bring to the present the future death of the children. Given the compactness of the text, verbal tenses produce the dynamic effect of an imaginary action. Adopting a monologic model within the set of interventions that make up Antes que a noite venha8 – which, as suggested earlier, is inspired by María Zambrano – the Portuguese author gives voice to the unconventional personality traits of Euripides’ Medea. In a society where women were relegated to a silent background – a diagnosis of female condition presented by Euripides’ Medea herself – the lucidity and strong personality of Aeetes’ daughter explain her disregard of convention. As suggested by S. Barlow,9 Medea is not only aware of the injustice 7  I I (2002) 903. 8  See above p. 124 9  (1989) 160.

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


and inequality that women endure, “she is capable of analysing the behaviour of others and she can diagnose how they will act in reaction to her own calculated movements”. Such lucidity and will to rebel account for her ability to avoid stereotypes and manipulate them in the brutal and outspoken way that befits her excessive personality. But those same qualities explain the reflections which, in Dionísio’s play, constitute the only means of presenting her history. 1.1 Speech to Jason Speech to Jason focuses on key aspects of the development of the couple’s relationship: the description of the hero, their encounter, their coming together, followed by the breach, and the triggering of revenge. This is the longest of the three monologues,10 because it summarizes the story’s preceding events. It bears the recognizable biting tone of Euripides’ Medea. Detesto a tua voz azeda quando a oiço riscando o silêncio fundo do palácio. (I hate your acrid voice when I hear it across the deep silence of the palace.) The account begins in medias res and the conflict is presented as language conflict, with traditional Euripidean wordplay and incapacity for genuine communication between the figures being two prevalent elements. More than authenticity or our understanding of the matter, what first strikes us negatively is dissonance, which resonates in the verbalization of the story on stage. Only 10  In Euripides’ prologue, the Nurse recalls the events that occurred before the critical present moment in Medea’s home, in Corinth, a role taken on by the Corinthian princess herself in the Portuguese version. This transposition causes a change of tone, which becomes more intimate, more personal, as well as more violent, intensifying the deser­ ted woman’s explosion of anger. What the old Nurse described as the signs of her lady’s fury caused by the breach of a commitment that had been spontaneously made by the ­couple – “Medea – poor unfortunate lady! – cries out in outrage, and invokes the oaths he swore, the handclasps, the supreme pledge” (Euripides, Medea 20–2) – can now be heard live. Flory (1978) 69–74 gives some thought to this question of the pledge between Jason and Medea being sealed with a handclasp. Easterling (1977) 180–1, in her turn, uses this topic as a way to emphasize that Euripides was indeterminate about the legal bonds between the couple, thus arguing that theirs was not a formal link, but rather an emotional commitment; the rupture can therefore be seen as a true emotional betrayal. In the Greek tragedy, the Nurse’s speech is followed by the entrance of an enraged Medea, confirming the Nurse’s words. The first monologue of Dionísio’s play covers the aspects which in the original play are recounted by Medea and the Nurse.



then does the fakeness of what is being said become apparent, at the same time as Jason’s portrayal begins. Falas com fingidas felicidades a quem te cruza. (You speak with fake felicities to those you meet.) The Argonaut’s major personality trait is superficiality, a tendency to avoid strong, sound emotional connections with those around him. Once family ties are broken, Jason favors loose, conventional ties, and avoids solid relationships. Consequently, what he says may be pleasant to the ear, but it is false. This assumption is soon elaborated upon:11 Saúdas sem vergonha o sol, e todos, como amigos recentes, inseguro da tua mórbida decisão. Com esforço fazes como se tudo já te pertencesse na cidade. (Unashamedly you greet the sun, and all, like recent friends, unsure of your morbid choice. With effort you behave as if everything in the city was already yours.) Jason comes out as the wandering hero, who knows no homeland and always tends to be the stranger. There is a certain insolence about him that stems from this emotional detachment and from constantly facing the unknown. Stateless, optimist, daring, a conqueror – he unashamedly pretends to feel philia, wherever he finds himself; the sun is the symbol of his boundless universe. In truth, however, his aims are inconsistent and fleeting; he acts “as if”, and as far as his affections are concerned, his life is a complete sham. His friends are recent and he appears to be unfettered by family or any other kind of emotional ties. 11  Williamson (1990) 24 argues that, for Euripides’ Medea, Jason’s detachment from his philoi is the main justification for her revenge. In the agon where the couple confront each other, the betrayed woman’s first accusation is precisely this lack of respect for the philia (Euripides, Medea 470). Later on – (1990) 25 – Williamson views Medea’s accusations as the expression of the famous norm applied to the philia: “love thy friends and hate thy enemies” (cf., e.g., Euripides, Medea 809).

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


As she completes this brief sketch, accentuating Jason’s instability and rootlessness, Medea moves on to the major phase of the Argonaut’s life – his meeting with Aeetes’ daughter. És hoje o pior dos homens que mulher alguma alguma vez concebeu nestes países medonhos para onde em má hora corpo e alma me transportei. (Now you are the worst of men whom any woman has ever conceived in these dreadful countries whither at an unlucky hour I transported myself body and soul) After this portrayal of Jason as the worst of men, the focus is laid on his relationships with the opposite sex, particularly with Medea. Jason belongs to a category of men that might perhaps be acceptable among men, but which women find utterly unacceptable. Feelings, and the consistency of those feelings, separate the male and the female worlds. Thessaly and Corinth, those dreadful countries, imply rootlessness, but whereas for Jason, the man with no home city, the universe is his world, Medea suffers tremendously from being stranded in an alien land. Women don’t deal well with this kind of limbo of feelings, and the Colchian princess is once again the paradigm of the woman who, out of love, is led to accept an unnatural situation: she willingly exiled herself, body and soul, in an unconscious and reckless gesture. The confessional tone of the text is heightened as Medea recalls Jason’s dreams – the enticing promises that he did not keep: Serás rei, dizes, e poderoso pela mão daquela por quem com alarde me trocaste. Serás déspota do corpo dela como qualquer homem é déspota do corpo da mulher que só lhe serve para fazer fortuna e descendência,



mais alta ou mais baixa, conforme a sorte, o ano, o dia, o mês.12 (You shall be king, you say, and powerful by the hand of her for whom you have exchanged me. You will be a despot of her body as any man is a despot of a woman’s body which serves him only to make a fortune and secure his progeny, higher or lower, depending on luck, year, day, and month.) Considering the cultural distance between Euripides’ tragedy and the speeches of this Portuguese Medea, the way in which the defining traits of the female condition are rendered in the second text deserves attention. Of all those aspects condemned by Euripides’ Medea in her rhesis (230–51) as the signs of subservience that fifth-century Athenian society imposes on women – the necessity of a dowry to buy a husband, home reclusion, the dependence on a husband, the impossibility of putting an end to a marriage that has lost its meaning – the only one singled out in the contemporary speech is that which is supported by physis, ‘nature’, rather than by nomos, ‘custom’, or ‘convention’: the male power over the female body (see Euripides, Medea 233–4). Stripped of affection, that entitlement preserves its usefulness, in E. Dionísio’s choice of words, which allude to the advantages of a profitable marriage and the higher goal of guaranteeing progeny. Jason’s plan is typically masculine, set primarily on access to power, which in his view justifies everything, even treachery. His aim is the fusion with a new genos, the lineage of the royal house of Corinth. Driven by mere self-interest, he shows no feelings for his new bride (as he possibly did not towards Medea, in Colchis). To hide this, he exaggerates his feelings for his new bride, a heavy blow for the Colchian woman and an illusion for Creusa. All his personal relationships are motivated by this kind of ambition. Jason, as a man, does not conceive the relationship between a man and a woman as needing affection or intimacy; it is reduced to the exercise of a purely physical tyranny, with the very pragmatic aims of reaping the immediate benefits of a fortune and, in a

12  The motives exposed by Medea for the marriage betrayal are denied in advance in Euripides’ play, by Jason himself (Euripides, Medea 555–7): “Not for those reasons that so hurt you did I leave, not because I was tired of you, not because I was drawn by desire for another woman, or because I was set on begetting many children”.

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


near future, those that result from the begetting of children. It is impersonal, mechanical and occasional. The female part in this story is altogether different. Talvez me tenhas amado. Eu amei-te certamente. Larguei terras, pais. Matei irmão.13 (You may have loved me. I certainly did love you. I left my lands, my parents. I killed my brother.) Strong, concise words describe Medea’s love and the excesses she is by nature driven into. The sharp contrast between the two protagonists of the Colchis episode is clearly expressed with “Talvez” (You may) and “certamente” (certainly) – she doubts his feelings, while hers are true. Neither the Golden Fleece nor the princess’s part in the adventure are mentioned, and this omission of the myth’s details universalizes the story. This is about a woman who relinquishes all for a stranger who has captivated her. Like the traditional Medea (Euripides, Medea 509–18) this one also acts against philia, as she abandons and/or kills her own children14. Her magic is also absent, which accentuates the humanity of the reasons and the strength of the feelings involved. Everything changed in Corinth, including Jason: Não passas de um exilado inconformado com o pouco poder que te coube na partilha. Mentes. Disfarças com inventadas razões os desejos impuros que te corrompem e consomem. Aquela que te ofereceram é filha de rei. Foste construindo a sangue frio à revelia da vida que te entreguei 13  See Euripides, Medea 31–4, 166–7. 14  Williamson argues (1990) 24–5 that Jason’s desertion of his philoi seems to pass on to Medea herself. To protect her escape and her overwhelming passion, Aeetes’ daughter is willing to sever her closest philia ties. Therefore, their relationship is based on these multiple ruptures.



o bom senso que nenhum peso tem. No outro prato da balança está num pequeno monte de pó o ouro do meu amor intenso. Foste tudo para mim. Hoje és um outro. (You are nothing but an exile dissatisfied with the little power that was your inherited share. You lie. You hide behind made-up reasons the impure desires that corrupt and consume you. The one you have been offered is a king’s daughter. You gradually built up cold bloodedly notwithstanding the life I gave to you your weightless common sense. Cast onto the other pan of the scales is inside a small heap of dust the gold of my intense love. You were everything to me. Today you are another.) In Corinth, Jason is more of an alien than in Colchis. In his homeland he feels like an exile, more so than Medea herself, because his world is the world of power, the throne, a goal he failed to achieve. Maybe it is in Greece, where Medea can be of no help, that Jason’s great adventure is supposed to unfold and fail. On his own, Jason’s weapons are, as usual, false words and guile. To achieve his designs, the meanest of ambitions, with none of the excellence expected of an heroic figure, he will once again use a woman. Of this woman’s character and emotions, we know nothing. Her feelings are not mentioned, so that all that matters is the consequences of her involvement. She was a passive offering, in which her will had no part. Her only identity trait is summarized in a sentence – “é filha de rei” (she is a king’s daughter). Her existence is merely circumstantial. She was, in her status, the bait for the Argonaut’s ambition. She became the empty counterweight of Medea’s love, cast onto the other pan and unbalancing the scales. Jason’s conscious, coldblooded choice has once again turned feelings into dust, gold dust, the only prize he intends to conquer. The emotional void that his actions betray is matched by the intensity of Medea’s passion. After the rupture, for which she holds Jason solely responsible, everything changed. In this case, the foreign woman’s exile is sentimental, in a story of love and death.

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


Como rocha, como onda do mar, escuto os conselhos desses conciliadores de profissão, enviados das terras e das casas, onde nunca ninguém soube o que fosse paixão. Tenho o corpo prisioneiro do gelo em que este lago de lágrimas se vai tornando. Não posso despregar os olhos do chão.15 A minha mente roda presa à lança que a espeta. De nada valeu afinal a bárbara coragem com que traí os meus e a ti me dei. (Like a rock, like a sea wave, I listen to the advices of those professional conciliators, envoys from the lands and the homes where no one ever knew what passion might be. My body is prisoner of the ice which this pool of tears is becoming. I cannot lift my eyes from the ground. My mind swirls stuck to the spear that pierces it. In the end to no avail was the barbarian courage with which I betrayed my own and gave myself to you.) Her immediate response is personal, physical, rooted in the past and in her deepest identity. An obstinate silence, in full contrast with Jason’s false and feeble words, expresses her reticent and strong personality. The rock and sea landscape metaphor is in tune with Medea’s character, the barbarian from across the sea. No one around her understands the silence and the reticence that turn into her a paradigm of passion. Among those “conciliadores de profissão” (professional conciliators) are the Nurse, the chorus women, Aegeus, or even Creon, all of whom, following tradition, try to persuade her with words of compliance. Medea’s initial reaction is visual, she offers herself to the imprudent eyes of those who surround her without perceiving her strength – the Argonaut, first of all. Rigid, tearful, eyes fixed on the ground, as if in an obstinate breach with 15  These words echo the Euripidean passage where the Nurse describes the physical reaction of her mistress, in an explosion of suffering (Medea 24–8): “She lies fasting, yielding her body to grief. She wastes her days in tears ever since she learnt that she was wronged by her husband, never lifting her eyes nor raising her face from the ground”.



the world, Medea feels bound by a painful obsession which hurts her mind, her reasoning, more than her soul. Being emotionally betrayed or exposed to Corinthian xenophobia is not as prominent as the notion of emptiness – an emptiness that had rendered useless her escape from Colchis or the crimes she had committed, leaving her exposed to the utmost annulment, that which, as previously pointed out, is the most alien to female nature. Medea looks back on her life’s journey, away from her homeland: Homem, filhos, casa, pais nada do que tive e fui é já parte deste mundo. (Man, children, home, parents nothing I had and was now belongs to this world.) Her normal self – Medea is not, in this text, the radical or heroic personality that many have seen in her, but rather the paradigm of women and their yearnings – is shaken, and the lover becomes a brutal and unfamiliar creature. In this abnormal state of mind, the thought of her children takes hold of her: Antes me queria ver, no fio da morte, em campo de batalha que não vencesse do que ser aquela a quem coube parir estes dois filhos16 desonrados e banidos na voragem que te arrasta. Se não queres que te pertençam a ti também não me hão-de pertencer a mim. Cães danados serão errando por esses caminhos, mordidos na alma que se abate neles por tua mão de ferro e tua vontade de corvo.17

16  This is a paraphrase of the famous verses of Euripides’ Medea, in the protagonist’s speech on the woes of the female condition (250–1): “I would rather stand three times in battle than give birth once”. 17  This first mention of her sons by the Portuguese Medea seems to illustrate the detachment that the Nurse had noticed in her mistress in Euripides’ play (Euripides, Medea 36): “She feels hatred for her children. She feels no joy, when she looks at them”. The turmoil of feelings inside her stifles the mother’s love for her children – who, at first, seem more like pawns in a game played by conflicting parents than the object of true affection.

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


(I would rather find myself, at the edge of death, in a defeated battlefield than be the one whose lot was to give birth to these two sons dishonored and banished into the vortex that sucks you in. If you do not wish them to belong to you neither shall they then belong to me. Mad dogs they shall become wandering about these roads, bitten in the soul that crushes inside them led by your iron hand and by your raven’s will.) As with Euripides’ Medea (Medea 250–1), what this woman recalls from motherhood is a type of suffering that no manly battle can compare with. Because of Jason, those sons that were the fruit of love and the source of so many dreams were now destroyed, heirs to the exile to which their parents had condemned them. Complaints are now gradually replaced by threats, especially the one she knows will hurt him the most; Medea’s words do not so much imply death in the infernal shadows as death in life; let exile and the dishonor of his offspring be the worst of punishments for a father who is guilty of violence and ambition. As her love is transformed in equally violent hatred, Medea’s feelings burst into fierce words. Her whole nature rebels, in a physiological and visceral reaction. This is a long scene, like the depths of her state of mind. É nojo de ti o que me inunda. Vejo-te acomodado nesse outro leito quente onde todas as noites ela te esperará e onde hás-de refazer os gestos que aprendemos, eu contigo e tu comigo, os dois.18 (Loathing of you is what overwhelms me. I see you settled in that other warm bed where she will await you every night and where you will be repeating the gestures we have learned, I from you, you from [me], both.) 18  With these words, Eduarda Dionísio specifies what the chorus of Corinthian women announces in general terms, in Euripides’ play (204–6): “Hear her bitter cries, her woeful lament caused by that traitor of her marriage bed.”



More than ‘hatred’, the word that best expresses the nausea caused by Jason on the woman who had once loved him is ‘disgust’, or ‘loathing’. This nausea becomes a symptom of jealousy, when the memory of their former shared intimacy is profaned by its repetition with another woman. Her motivation rises and incurs consequences. É um nojo tão intenso que não sei onde o vazar. Entorna-se no silêncio que sobe do coração à boca em palavras como fétidos alimentos que estômago algum pode tragar. Fel bebido a tragos, vinagre sugado da esponja na hora da morte que me libertará. Assim abrevio a vida odiosa que me ofereces.19 (My disgust is so intense that I do not know where to leak it. It spills into the silence that goes up from the heart to the mouth in words like fetid food that no stomach can take. Gale taken in gulps, vinegar sucked from the sponge at the hour of the death that will free me. Thus I cut short this hateful life you give to me.) Once more, Medea speaks words of death, of lethal poisoning. But in this case there are no filters or poisons engendered by the cunning hand of a sorceress; this time the soul of an offended and deserted woman seems to segregate bitter potions whose effect is as powerful as any other potion. And Medea is the first victim of this interior alchemy. Reminded of that “outro leito quente” (other warm bed) where Jason replicates the happy bygone days, the betrayed woman views her bed as the cause of her greatest suffering. In so doing, she seems to legitimize Jason’s accusation, in Euripides, towards women in general (569–73): “You women always think that the world is yours as long as your marriage bed is safe; but as soon as this bed is deserted, you feel nothing but hatred for the best and most handsome of lovers”. This reference from the Greek version inspired Eduarda Dionísio to emphasize jealousy as the driving force of her character; for the Portuguese Medea, the memory of their meetings as lovers, in full contrast 19  The idea of liberating suicide is also not alien to Euripides’ protagonist; cf. 40, 96–7, 145–7, 226–7.

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


with the present situation, after she was replaced by a rival, causes deep bitterness, a feeling that Euripides’ Medea, more sensitive to her condition as an exile in a hostile polis, does not show to the same extent.20 Fico imóvel nesse leito que foi nosso. Abruptamente, brutamente o pudeste esquecer fazendo-te selvagem. (I lie motionless on that bed which used to be ours. Abruptly, brutally you were able to forget it making yourself wild.) With this unexpected but by no means less radical emotional breach, Medea perceives the hero’s true brutality, which now takes the place of his old glamor, and her passive feelings of disgust are replaced by a proactive need for revenge. A minha vontade de vingança vai subindo da imobilidade, águia mal ferida. (My thirst for revenge gradually raises up from immobility, a severely wounded eagle.) At first paralyzed by the shock caused by the betrayal, Medea gradually reawakens – not to love, which had already led to crime – but to seek revenge; a revenge that, in a strong character like hers, is bound to be devastating. Rangem nos ares faíscas de venenos, lanço sobre quem chega o olhar de uma leoa parida.21 (In the air creak lightnings of poisons, on those who come near I cast the look of a lioness who has just given birth.) 20  Boedeker (1991) 95 speaks for the commentators of Euripides’ Medea who assert that: “When we look at her own words, in contrast to what others (the Nurse, the chorus, Creon, Jason) say about her situation, we find little reference to jealousy and even less to love gone wrong”. But the words of the Portuguese Medea show a rather different emphasis. 21  This comes from a comment made by the Nurse in Euripides’ Medea (187–9): “She glares fiercely upon her servants, like a lioness with cubs, if they come near, or speak to her”.



Finding it difficult, once more, to put her anger into words, whether they be words of hate or of recrimination, Medea’s reaction is fierce – it does not follow reason, it springs from her inner self, like a beast, all her strength concentrated on her eyes and fangs. But under that image of the feline ready to jump on its prey there is something of the sorceress Medea who deals with poisons and of the woman who carries a painful memory of giving birth – two inescapable topics in the tradition of the Colchian princess. 1.2 Speech to Herself The second monologue is about Medea herself, as if erasing Jason in order to allow the drama to fully identify with the word “saudade”, expressing not only longing, but also regret. É uma saudade muito grande que alastra por cima da raiva que mantenho sem já conseguir fazê-la crescer como queria. Não mais serei aquela que já fui. (A very deep longing spreads over the anger that I harbor unable to make it grow as I would have wished. No more will I be the one who I once was). In spite of her break with the past, her longing seems to surpass her anger. At first, those vague, general memories have a soothing effect, reminding her of those two immensely different phases of her life, the past and the future. Her longing is expressed in the palpable image of the “mar que deixei” (the sea that I left), the distant and inaccessible homeland, and in the loss of her personal ties, “quando tinha pai e mãe” (when I had a father and a mother). All that is left is the disgusting shame resulting from the failure of what had looked like a seductive and natural life plan. O corpo que ele já não quer, os filhos paridos nas dores feridas, a coragem que eu soube ter. (The body he no longer desires, the children born in wounded pains, the courage I was able to amass.)

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


The courage that had found expression in Medea’s ability to kill and to betray in the name of her love is now completely focused on revenge. The “azul líquido” (liquid blue) of the immense sea that reminded her of her youthful days is transformed by the bitterness of revenge into “verde líquido que do fundo sobe e faz morrer” (the green liquid that rises from the bottom and makes you die). This interplay of colors, turning clear water into veritable poison, turns the past into a weapon of the future. Sei bem esse verde junto às rochas quando o antigo mar era muito transparente. (I know well that green by the rocks when the ancient sea was remarkably transparent.) She now talks of poison: Ela se há-de envenenar sem saber (…) ela há-de morrer. (She will poison herself without knowing it […] she shall die.) As in Euripides, her rival will be the first victim of a now inevitable revenge. But that would not be enough for such a profound hatred. E morrerão pai e rei poderoso numa só morte, (…)22 E morrerão todos os que me puseram numa solidão de velha mulher que não sou ainda. (…) Vermelho o sangue que há-de haver. Os meus filhos o farão correr. (And the father and the powerful king shall die one death, […] And all shall die who have led me to the solitude of an old woman which I am not yet. […] Red the blood that shall be drawn. By my children’s hands.) 22  See Euripides, Medea 163–4.



Creon will also die, and, with the king of Corinth, so will the city of so many of Medea’s enemies. With this crucial episode, her longing for Colchis seems to fade away, to be replaced by another longing, now for a second phase of her life, which is also over. In between her outbursts of aggressiveness and revenge, Medea is nevertheless still a passionate lover. Guardarei para mim o contentamento grande que houve nesta casa quando ele me trouxe de longe e eu o quis. (I shall keep to myself the great contentment in this house when he brought me in from afar and I desired him.) 1.3 Speech to the Audience The final monologue is addressed “ao público” (to the audience), now that her interlocutors in the successive stages of her life are no more. To those who listen, either on the other side of the stage or on the book pages, she reveals herself as the filicide. The famous monologue, in Euripides, of a mother’s agonizing dilemma – to kill or not to kill her loving children (1019–80) – displays its true nature: a list of the reasons that can lead a woman to kill her own children. It begins with an emphasis on innocence. Chegaram as crianças. Vêm contentes. Ofereceram o presente envenenado sem qualquer engano nas palavras que tinham para dizer. (The children are back. They are happy. They have delivered the poisoned gift no mistakes at all in the words they were supposed to say.) In line with tradition, the children are unaware of the crime they committed. Their hands delivered the presents which, with their threatening charm, will cause death. The deception is all the more true because their actions are completely innocent. For the first time, sincere words are spoken – without losing their elusive nature. The children of the forsaken wife are the means through which the new bride is denied the blessings of motherhood. Rather than reject the laughter

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


that so tormented her as a sign of scorn and insensitiveness for the Colchian exile, Medea is now intent on eliminating all the proofs or fruits of a rival love. Ela não será mãe, nem amante, nem madrasta.23 (She shall not be a mother, nor a lover, nor a stepmother.) Furthermore, the full story of a broken family is embodied in these children. Vejo o olhar do pai nos olhos dos filhos que brincam à porta de casa (…) Vejo a vergonha da mãe abandonada nas corridas que eles dão. (I see the father’s look in the eyes of the children who play by the door […] I see the shame of the abandoned mother in their racing games.) In their gesture of naivety and innocence, children are expected to open the future. In a story of failure and ruin, the only future in sight is one of extinction. Acabadas estão as suaves manhãs e as doces noites no leito que escolheu, o de maior poder e de maior riqueza. Ele não terá coroa, nem louros, nem felicidade, nem amor que não tenha sido o meu. (The soft mornings and the sweet nights are over in the bed that he chose, the more powerful one, the wealthier. He will not have a crown, laurels, neither happiness nor love other than what mine has been). After the death of his bride, Jason is killed alive, forced to endure the frustration of everything he had dreamed about. One final blow was missing, the one with which Euripides immortalized Medea’s experience as a woman.

23  See Euripides, Medea 805.



Enterro um punhal no centro exacto, no peito de cada criança enquanto as beijo e abraço. Eram meus filhos. (I stick a dagger into the exact center, into the chest of each child while I kiss them and embrace them. They were my sons.) Such a radical gesture has given rise to many interpretations. Was it caused by hatred, a rash gesture of a disturbed mind? Or rather the measured planned act of a jealous wife? Could she have killed her children out of love, wishing to protect them from an uncertain future? Dionísio’s Medea has her own reasons, which, because they were mostly personal, might be seen as mean. She lacks the ‘heroic’ soul’s pleasure in victory that we find in Euripides’ play (Medea 765–6), whose heroine rejoices in her enemy’s defeat. Her reasons are personal, emotional – she wished to crush her rival’s dreams and to protect her children, whom she now sees as her exclusive property:24 A morte que lhes dou pertence-me a mim. Mato o maior amor que tive, eu que lhes dei o viver. (The death I give them belongs to me. I kill the greatest love I have ever had, I who gave them life.) Her words seem to betray no more than the pleasure of deciding what to do with what she considers hers, a feeling of “numa quase alegria de nascer” (an almost-joy of being born). This final blow puts an end to Medea’s human journey. She is now bound for that other side of her remote past, as one link in the chain of Helios’ descendants. 24   One might interpret the Portuguese heroine’s words and attitude in the light of Williamson’s words (1990) 26 on her model, Euripides’ Medea: “One reading of this new style is that it gives Medea heroic dignity, and adds weight to her as a spokesman for the rights of women”. Dionísio’s version may be less forceful, but her Medea does assert the merit of emotions, the defining trait of female nature, and in so doing, she upholds the supremacy of women over men.

A Portuguese Medea: Eduarda Dionísio


Seguro as rédeas do carro do sol. A terra está toda por baixo de mim, espalmada entre mares azuis que conheci. (I hold the reigns of the sun’s chariot. The earth is all beneath me, flattened between blue seas that I have known.) In that miraculous flight that takes her away from earth and raises her above humans,25 the Sun’s granddaughter gradually loses the features induced by a life journey that had made her fierce while she was a mere mortal. She looks back with pleasure on the outcome of her revenge on the traitor. And she finds an altruistic explanation for her filicide which she could not feel before, when she was chained to the earth. She can now proclaim: Salvei-os do mundo podre onde o pai queria com traição dar-lhes poder e riqueza. (I have rescued them from the rotten world where their father wished through treason to give them power and riches.) And finally be redeemed. Cada vez mais longe muito perto do sol começo a matar a minha saudade. (Farther and farther away very close to the sun I begin to assuage my longing.)

25  This final image has drawn many interpretations. The ‘sun’s chariot’ is obviously a magical means of escape that can be linked to Medea’s mixed human and divine ancestry, but also to a regulatory order of the universe that escapes human control. Bordaux (1996) 173 suggests that this chariot escape is also an image for yet another exile to which the Colchian princess has been condemned: suspended in the air, she is like a landless person in search of a destiny that, in this critic’s view, is turned into a paradox, neither revenge, nor failure.

chapter 9

Hélia Correia’s A de Cólquida (The Woman from Colchis) Maria António Hörster and Maria de Fátima Silva Celebrating1 their long years of companionship, Hélia Correia dedicated to Jaime Rocha on his birthday four short poetic prose texts that represent a very personal re-reading of classical culture and of some of its major myths in­ volving women as central characters. Gathered under the title of Apodera-te de mim (2002) (Take Possession of Me), the texts, which show a profound know­ ledge of the Greek world, are hermeneutical exercises in which Hélia Correia is deeply engaged, and they establish a dialogue between mutually interrogating and mutually illuminating epochs and characters. We have had the opportunity of discussing two of those texts before: the proem, Em Knossos (In Knossos),2 which reflects on the development of Hellenic culture, from the Minoan civilization to Athenian classicism, in which the acknowledgement of women as cultural beings had an extremely relevant dimension; and Penthesiléa,3 which deals with the big questions of time, memory and the adequate language in which to express myth, even in its most forbidden facets. This time we will focus on the figure of Medea, the protagonist of A de Cólquida. As in the two previous texts, in the case of this Medea women’s issues become the core of the interpretation of the myth, in line with the author’s preferences.4 The text is short and differs from the major Euripidean guidelines, while incorporating other topics within the myth that were also keen to antiquity. As a matter of fact, Medea’s Colchian adventures, her passion for the Argonaut and her coming to Greece, all aspects which in Euripides function 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Hörster, Silva (2014) 421–32. 3  Hörster, Silva (2015) 169–92. 4  This preference is acknowledged in all of the plays that the author has dedicated to classical tradition: Perdição. Exercício sobre Antígona (1991) (Perdition. An Exercise on Antigone), Rancor. Exercício sobre Helena (2000) (Rancour. An Exercise on Helen) and Desmesura. Exercício com Medeia (2006) (Excess. An Exercise with Medea).

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_011

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mostly as a background to the central action, were given a variety of literary solutions in archaic and hellenistic epics, in the lyric and in Greek tragedy around Euripides’ time.5 The attraction that the Colchian woman’s character holds for Hélia Correia, which is manifested for the first time in this text, was to be developed some years later in a drama version called Desmesura. Exercício com Medeia (2006).6 This first narrative may thus be considered a sort of counterpoint of both the Euripidean version and Hélia Correia’s later approach to the myth. 1

“Não conheci Medeia, a pensativa” (I Did Not Know Medea, the Pensive One)

An important reading protocol is immediately established in the incipit: not only does Hélia Correia emphasize the personal relationship between the firstperson female narrator and her character7 – “Não conheci Medeia” (9) (I did not know Medea) – but she also characterizes her by means of a single trait, not of a social or physical nature, but rather psychological and intellectual: “Medeia, a pensativa” (9) (Medea, the pensive one). Two important motifs are thus synthetically introduced: (a) the foreignness of the figure vis-à-vis the narrator, which might be read as a metonymy of what is impenetrable in the human soul,8 and in particular, in women’s soul; and (b) the enhancement of the reflexive component in a female character.9 Hélia Correia thus continues 5  On this, see above Finglass, pp. 11–20. 6  See below Silva, pp. 158–83. 7  The narrator explicitly acknowledges her female identity: “Muitas foram as vezes em que estive deitada sobre as lajes” (9) (Many were the times when I laid on the slabs). [TN: Since in the Portuguese language gender is as a rule expressed in adjectives, the original sentence includes a participle, “deitada” (laid), with a feminine ending – a]. Although we obviously do not wish to mistake the narrator for the author’s autobiographical self – despite the fact that this specific narrator bears idiosyncratic similarities to Hélia Correia – we believe that this narrative choice does provide a climate of dialogue, seeking a deeper understanding between two beings who have the advantage of sharing the experience and the status of women. 8  The unfathomable depth of the human soul and the behaviors it dictates are approached in Desmesura from an essentially philological perspective. In each version of the same story it is the use of the right word that defines its ever-renewed interpretation. About Medea and her motives, a number of words are weighed against each other and discussed by those who witness her excesses: Love? Jealousy? Whim? See below pp. 180–1. 9  The predominance afforded to women’s thinking skills has Euripidean echoes; among the plays written by the Athenian playwright on the issue of ‘misogyny’, it certainly conjures


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to develop a topic that she has insistently explored: re-establishing women as thinking beings who have the ability to understand and to create.10 In an attempt to cover the distance in time and space between herself and her object, the narrator engages in an exercise in meditation, surrounding herself with the adequate ambience for their meeting: the roughness of the cold stones, the mysterious exhalations commonly associated with Medea’s magic practices, seeking also to conjure up a northern place, in accordance with the origins of the barbarian woman. Those same elements further suggest the Delphian environment as a starting point for the literary investigation into the Colchian princess: “muitas foram as vezes em que estive deitada sobre as lajes, na estação em que os vapores das fendas são propícios ao viajar da mente” (9) (many were the times when I laid on the slabs during the season where the vapors exhaling from the cracks propitiate the wanderings of the mind). Behind the references to ‘slabs’ and ‘vapors’ lies the implied figure of a Pythoness who, like Medea, converses with the transcendent. Therefore, although the text is focused on a barbarian woman, this mysterious being is examined from the vantage point of the Greek world, in an oracular space where it opens to the unrevealed. The search for the other involves the identity of the narrator itself. Flight, the trope used to signify the propinquity of the two characters – “Muitas vezes tomei voo para norte, a procurá-la” (10) (I have often flown northwards in search of her) – can be read as an exercise of the imagination inherent to literary creation. This would therefore be a metapoetic reference. The movement described leads to a world identified by the narrator as being the barbarian woman’s world: a primeval nature painted not in Mediterranean blue, but in dark green-colored tints, with an intense paroxysmal dryness capable of sending shivers down one’s spine. In her mental flight, the narrator retrieves the traditional coordinates that signal the frontiers between the civilized West and the yet unexplored East. Deeds that required Jason’s heroism are simply there at the narrator’s disposal through a sleight of hand which the Delphian ambience helps to encourage: “Subia o mar de púrpura, onde as ilhas ainda flutuam ao sabor da própria raiva” (9) (I flew over the purple sea where the islands still float with the wind of anger). This brief reference is suggestive of the Symplegades, the floating rocks which randomly crashed together, up the famous statement by Melanippe (in the tragedy Melanippe Wise fr. 482 Collard and Cropp), which was paraphrased by Aristophanes in Lysistrata 1124: “I am a woman but I’m not lacking in talent”. Perhaps those were the opening words in the Euripidean heroine’s famous speech, with which she began her own defence as a victim of Poseidon’s passion, as well as the defence of the twin children she had had by him. 10  See Hörster, Silva (2014) 427–8.

Hélia Correia ’ s A de Cólquida ( The Woman From Colchis )


hindering ships from sailing between different worlds (Eur., Med. 1–2).11 After this obstacle is overcome, the unknown continues to pose perils that are possibly even more threatening, expressed in the Greek imagination as sacrifices by means of which the barbarians would slaughter any approaching foreigners (9): “Depois, roçava aqueles desfiladeiros por cujos flancos jorra o sangue vivo”12 (Then I would graze against those gorges down whose flanks red, living blood runs). A sketch of the barbarian world is first presented through the landscape, with abundant references to ‘terra’ (land/earth),13 which, according to the later Aristotelian concept of ecosystem, is projected on the nature of its inhabitants. This passage, syntactically structured on the basis of syndetic coordination, generates a hierarchy that develops from the outside to the inside, highlighting the links between the landscape and people and feelings (9). The aesthetic and ethical values that collectively distinguish a true civilization do not correspond to this strictly individual level (9): “Tudo aquilo que entendemos por beleza e por princípios de civilidade era desconhecido nessa Cólquida” (All that we understand as beauty and civility principles was unheard of in that Colchian land). Insofar as rituals always generate a community, magic is what seems, to some extent, to fill that void. However, the barbarian rite does not provide relief, as it would in an organized society – it rather induces fear. 11  The reference to the Symplegades in the Nurse’s opening monologue in Euripides (Medea 1–2) is poetically expanded by the Chorus later in the play (210–2, 431–3, 1263–4). In Odyssey 12. 59–72, Circe explains how Odysseus, like Jason, was the only man who had been able to surmount the rocky obstacle which Homer called the ‘Errants’. The islands are mentioned again, though with different names and having a different nature in Simonides, fr. 546 PMG, Pindar, Pythian 4. 208–9 (who calls them ‘Erratic’). The Homeric poems themselves attest that the Argonauts myth is even older than that of Odysseus; in fact, in the passage from Odyssey quoted above, Odysseus explains that the Argo had already passed between the ‘Errant Rocks’. On the similarity of the adventures of both heroes in this place, see García Gual (2002) 30. 12  This motif is exuberantly treated by Euripides in his Iphigenia in Tauris. And in his play about Medea, Anouilh has a Colchian Nurse accompanying her lady in her Corinthian exile, thus providing the spectator with an image of the barbarian land. In his picture, the elements that characterize this different geographical and cultural environment are, as in Hélia Correia, blood sacrifices, which provide an occasion for collective celebration, and the herbs with their indelible smell as a true ex libris of those faraway places. See above p. 146. 13  In fact, the destination of Jason’s mythic adventure is “Ea”, a word that meant “Earth”, that is, an unnamed, enigmatic country which may globally represent a destination that is mysterious and dangerous, because indefinite and unknown. Only later was the vague “Ea” identified as Colchis, a land situated on the edge of the known world, by the Black Sea.


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The barbarian landscape is still peopled with monsters, as if a civilizational hero, like Heracles or Theseus, whose deeds included the elimination of the horrendous creatures that assailed the world, had not yet arrived there (9): “Ervas amargas referviam em buracos e aqueles monstros do início das idades, que os nossos deuses já petrificaram e tornaram rochedos habitáveis, aguardam, em prisões muito precárias, um alimento humano que os acalme”. (Bitter herbs were boiling in holes, and those monsters from the beginning of ages whom our gods have petrified and turned into inhabitable rocks, await, in very precarious prisons, for human flesh to appease them). As we penetrate an archaeological age, we enter also a matriarchal world where there appears to be no men and where women exist in a double condition: that of human creatures, wrapped in Eastern veils, but also, in contradiction, that of sorceresses who are able to darken light itself by touching the earth with their steps.14 Magic, which tradition associates with these women,15 had the power to control even nature. On the other hand, it surrounded them with deep solitude; the absence of the male element in this barbarian environment annuls the concept of the domestic and, with it, the notion of women’s subservience to conjugal pressure. Their isolation gives them a strong potential for affirmation, in consonance with their primitive world (9): “Durante o voo, eu avistava mulheres sós no dealbar das horas, caminhando, sob os véus importados do oriente. Feiticeiras seriam, pois a luz era sorvida pela sola dos seus pés e 14  García Gual (2002) 34 notes the relationship between Helios, the Sun, and Hecate, the goddess of darkness in those faraway lands of Colchis. For some scholars (Wilamowitz, Kérenyi, apud García Gual), the Argonauts’ destination is the world beyond; in fact, in mythology, Helios’ wife is called Perse (“Destruction/Havoc”), a kind of ‘nickname’ for Hecate, the goddess of darkness and nocturnal magic, therefore connected with the moon and the dead. Thus Hélia Correia enhances the ability that the woman inhabitants of the country of the Sun possess of simultaneously being mediators of darkness and Hecate. Euripides (Medea 395–8) already mentions Hecate as the goddess who sponsors Medea’s witchcraft. At the beginning of Desmesura, Hélia Correia also dedicates a hymn to the goddess of darkness, evoking female values and their intercourse with the manipulative obscurity of magic; see below, pp. 159–60. 15  In Greek tradition, Medea and her aunt Circe were the two most famous sorceresses. They were very knowledgeable about potions, and were wise and inclined to passion. If Circe had the power to transform men into animals and to then give them back their human forms, Medea had a hypnotic power which put to sleep the ever-wakeful dragon that guarded the golden fleece. On the other hand, the tradition that associates them with the Cretan women Pasiphae, Ariadne, and Phaedra explains their propensity towards rapturous passions. However, the Greeks generally considered concocting potions to be a female skill. Iriarte (2002) 165 notes that, besides Medea, that skill was also recognized in Helen (Odyssey 4. 227). Euripides himself (Medea 380) mentions the preparation of drugs as an art in which women are more competent, and which they hand down from generation to generation.

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elas comunicavam com a noite e o sol desesperava de nascer. A escuridão da Cólquida brilhava como um carvão no meio de tanta aurora” (While I flew I saw women alone at the dawning of hours, walking, under their veils imported from the East. They must be sorcerers, because the light was swallowed up by the soles of their feet and they could communicate with the night and the sun rose in much despair. In Colchis, darkness blazed like a live coal in the midst of so much dawn). 2

“Porém, Medeia não se achava ali” (But Medea was not to be Found There)

The evocation of the Eastern atmosphere of Colchis ends with a laconic “Porém, Medeia não se achava ali” (9). In other words, her time there was just a passing moment in her life. The love story she experienced in the meantime was, in contrast, a decisive event, and her passing through the Symplegades signals the impossibility of ever returning to her origins. Love led her to a new place, Greece, which the narrator introduces with sharp critical distance: in the “presunçosa terra grega” (presumptuous Greek land), intolerantly proud of its superior culture, women are condemned to a life of reclusion and effacement. Locked up in palaces, which symbolize power and social status, they are, princesses included, relegated to the most basic domesticity.16 A chiastic relationship between Colchis and Greece is thus postulated: in opposition to the uncivilized roughness of the former, where women reign alone, shared domesticity is what the Hellenic civilization has to offer them. Coming from a different cultural background, Medea undergoes a metamorphosis so undermining of both her identity and her potential that the narrator herself fears to witness it: “Eu não queria presenciar a domesticidade, correr o risco de avistar Medeia entre as suas criadas”17 (9) (I did not wish to witness 16  This reference to the fact that even princesses have no way of escaping domesticity and the isolation of the women’s quarters seems to have a double intention: this condition not only comprises Greek women but it also extends to barbarian princesses, like Medea, who may be subject to it. From this perspective, Anouilh too establishes a contrast between Medea’s position in her distant homeland and the new status Corinth offers her. In Colchis – as her accompanying Nurse reminds her – Medea was a princess, complete with all the urban niceties of her rank: she went riding in luxuriant green parks, wore sophisticated dresses, while still enjoying the gift of freedom to an extent that the Greek mores did not tolerate. See above, p. 69. 17  However, again taking up the theme of Medea, in Desmesura Hélia Correia emphasizes exactly the ‘domesticity’ motif, surrounding the protagonist with a female circle of servant women, both Greek (Melana and Eritra) and foreign (Abar, a Nubian) who interact


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her domesticity, to run the risk of seeing Medea among her women servants); “Eu não tinha coragem para olhar” (10) (I did not have the courage to look). Passion, however, leads her to yield, to settle into a daily life that belies her nature; her days as a married woman are spent in idle conversation with her servants,18 among routine tasks, looking after her children, with her husband permanently absent.19 The things that had formed part of her identity, like her with her at different levels: as women, which all of them are, but of different origins, and therefore, with different status and mind frames; see below p. 162. 18  In the Euripidean tragedy, this female interaction is materialized in the chorus, a group of Corinthian women who feel in harmony with Medea, of whom they become ‘friends’ (138, 179, 181). In fact, this philia is mostly a form of female solidarity, which in Medea is explained by the fact that the heroine is a paradigmatic exemplum: what the Corinthian women in the Greek tragedy bewail is the specific case of adultery and treason that they witness, rather than, as happens in Desmesura, the traditional neglect of the married woman. In contrast, the female circle around Jason’s wife in Hélia Correia’s Desmesura is reconfigured as the image of domestic routine. The kitchen as the preferred scenery for the action signals exactly that. There, Melana, the Greek slave, who is older and therefore more prone to abiding by the rules of her condition, is the one who mostly lives her apathetic life with a certain angered subservience. On the other hand, in her new version, the author creates a second slave, the Nubian Abar, who is a model of the foreign woman who acquiescently obeys the Greek rules, as a counterpoint to revolted Medea. In Desmesura, Abar is to a certain extent the projection of this first Medea found in A de Cólquida, introducing a kind of mirror reflection in the rewrite: it is as if in Desmesura Medea, the powerful barbarian woman, could see herself in that other weak, submissive barbarian she herself was in Hélia Correia’s previous version. 19  This is impressively similar to the situation of Portuguese women in the recent past. In a chronicle she wrote for the newspaper O Público, August 3rd 2001 issue, sociologist Maria Filomena Mónica writes about the situation women found themselves in as recently as the 1960s: “Eu trabalhava, estudava e frequentava a Academia dos Amadores de Música. De certa forma, estava em vias de fugir ao meu destino. Outras, a maioria, estavam enclausuradas. Mesmo as ricas, tinham de pedir ao marido o dinheiro para a manutenção da casa. O seu quotidiano limitava-se a comprar naftalina, a verificar se as calças do marido tinham o vinco bem feito, a garantir que o jantar era de qualidade. Por ser esse o seu dever, amamentavam os filhos até tarde. Eram elas que se levantavam de noite quando os pimpolhos, em número crescente, resmungavam. Além de serem obrigadas a aparecer impecavelmente vestidas, quando havia visitas, era suposto manterem conversas espirituosas, o que, dada a reduzida escala dos seus interesses, lhes era manifestamente impossível. Finalmente, ao fim de algum tempo, muitos dos maridos estavam sexualmente fartos delas. Perante a complacência da sociedade, tinham as amantes que lhes apetecesse. À mulher, cumpria sofrer em silêncio” (2002: 128–9) (I had a job, went to college and was a member of the ‘Academia dos Amadores de Música’ [Academy of Music Amateurs]. In a certain way, I was about to flee my fate. Others, the majority, were imprisoned. Even the wealthy women had to ask their husbands for money to pay the household expenses. Their daily lives included buying naphthalene, checking whether their husband’s trousers were properly ironed and creased, and making sure dinner was top quality. They extended breastfeeding for quite a long time because that was supposedly their duty. They were the

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knowledge of magic herbs and the freedom to move at liberty, are interdicted in this new world whose herbs are unknown to her and where her freedom is completely curtailed. Thus we witness the destruction of Medea’s core traits.20 Paradoxically, however, Medea becomes submissive, compromising her entire being (10): “No entanto, toda ela estava ali” (All of her was nevertheless there). Love thus emerges as an imperious force or a cosmic principle even before it materializes into an object identified by a name. In point of fact, although the overwhelming power of passion and its consequences have been stressed, Jason’s name has not been mentioned so far. Like her model before her, the path of this new Medea is one of rupture with her family as a precondition for her flight and her satisfaction in love. However, this brief previous story, which mentions her treason of her father and her murder of her brother, includes no reference at all to the conquest of the treasure which traditional Medea used to be proud of having been a part

ones who got up from their bed when their brats, who tended to grow in number, became agitated in the middle of the night. When they entertained, besides having to be impeccably dressed, they were supposed to engage in witty conversation, which, given the small scale of their interests, was manifestly impossible for them to do. Finally, after some time, many of their husbands lost all sexual interest in them. Enjoying society’s complaisant leniency, the men could have as many lovers as they chose. A woman’s duty was to bear all this in silence). In Filomena Mónica’s (b. 1940) generation there was a significant number of women who graduated from universities and who became prominent in Portuguese politics and letters. Among famous women writers are names like Lídia Jorge (a university Professor, b. 1946), Teolinda Gersão (a university Professor, born 1940); the previous generation of women writers is headed by Agustina Bessa Luís (born 1922), a kind of Portuguese Dostoyevsky who unforgivingly dissects the feelings and behaviours of both women and men, especially those from the northern part of Portugal. Natália Correia (1923–1993), the iconoclast, was a politician and a poet of that same generation. 20  This attempt to enfeeble Medea, resulting in utter acquiescence, can be paralleled to an interpretation of the character which, according to Arriaga Flórez (2006) 17–8, had its origins in Antiquity and sought to acquit Medea from the crimes she is generally accused of (e.g., Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 4. 442, identifies Apsirto, not Medea, as Jason’s murderer; according to Pausanias 2. 3. 6, the Corinthians are responsible for the death of Medea’s children, not their mother). This line of interpretation was to culminate in Christa Wolf’s contemporary novel (1996) Medea. Stimmen (Medea Voices), which recreates Medea’s mythic path from a female standing point. Wolf critically analyses the extreme acts attributed by tradition to the Colchian woman, because they seem to her to be symptoms of that which Bohmel Fichera (2006) 103 calls “a programmatic misogyny typical of the patriarchal culture from its origins”. Without divesting her heroine of her traditional vigor, the justifications that the German author allows her character to voice seem to somehow ‘weaken’ her as well.


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of. This absence divests the Argonaut of his heroic status, and reduces him to that of a man, a mere object of passion.21 Medea keeps nothing from her past: “Toda ela passara para o amor. Nem o mais fugidio pensamento escapava para norte, para a Cólquida” (10) (Her whole being had gone into love. Not even a fleeting thought would escape northwards to Colchis). But nonetheless this is the time where male presence in that kingdom, which had hitherto been silenced, is given a form through the narrator’s imagination; it is represented by “o velho rei tropeçando nas conchas do areal” (the old king stumbling over the seashells on the sand), age and weakness rendering him incapable of preventing treason or exacting vengeance. Even though the fugitive, now invested in her wifely status, holds no memories of her Colchian past, the motherland does not forget her in the vague threat through which old Aeëtes seems to foresee a future of redress (10): “Matá-la-ia com a sua própria faca e atirá-la-ia para o mar” (I would stab her dead with her own knife and throw her into the sea). 3

“Correu voz de que os filhos lhe morreram” (Rumor Had It That Her Children Had Died)

The death of Medea’s children is present in the most famous versions of the story. The reasons are different and the causes and dimension of the mother’s behavior are variously assessed. The motives for the infanticide are explained at different levels, including the religious, the political, and the social. Fear for the children’s mortal nature is what drives their mother to bury them in Hera’s temple, in the illusory hope of redeeming them; some versions highlight the children’s condition as descendants of a foreign woman, or of a regicide, and the limitations this represents for their citizenship status – more terrible even than death itself; other focus on their congenital frailty, which must be solved. Depending on the motives highlighted, responsibility for the infanticide is laid either on Medea or on the Corinthians. However, even when Medea’s interference in the annihilation of her children is acknowledged, none of the traditional versions, with the exception of Euripides’, imputes egotistical motives or

21  Anouilh also reduced Medea and Jason’s relationship to a case of sexual obsession. Hurt by love, the protagonist of the French version acquiesced to subservience as well as to the long hours of waiting for a lover who was growing colder and more distant as days went by. The rationality or the vigor of barbarian Medea were replaced by utter subordination and self-erasure. See above p. 73.

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reasons of personal revenge to the mother. And yet, this was exactly the aspect that became prevalent in the identification of the figure of Medea. Among this variety of options, the choice of the Portuguese author of A de Cólquida falls on the issue of the children’s frailty, which is announced even before birth, in the mother’s womb, and signals a physiological inconformity of barbarian Medea vis-à-vis the Greek status of wife and mother that she had embraced as her life choice (10): “Porque Medeia, a funda, a poderosa, enfraqueceu com a maternidade”22 (for Medea, the deep, the powerful, became weaker with maternity). Every decisive step in Medea’s life journey rekindles the conflict between her origin and the fate to which love seems to have condemned her. It happened when her passion first awoke, leading to rupture and flight, and it happens again at the moment when love culminates in maternity. Hélia Correia emphasizes this phase of Medea’s experience through expressions that signal her effort to adapt, or even her belief that she had adapted well to her new life: (10): “… entrou no gineceu como a mais comezinha das mulheres” (she entered the women’s quarters as the commonest of women); “A bondade injectou-se-lhe nas veias e ela tinha as crianças na barriga como qualquer mulher: cosendo, e olhando o fio do horizonte, com um sorriso e as pálpebras inchadas por uma melancólica alegria” (kindness was injected into her veins and she carried the babies in her belly like any other woman: sewing and looking at the thread of the horizon with a smile and her lids swollen with melancholy joy). Despite her seeming contentment, her traumatic labor brings to light the conflict between the wild animal she had once been and the tame being she has become. Instead of happening in the mountains, in harmony with nature and marked by primal animality, her labour was socialized and classified as “íntimo” (10) (intimate), taking place in the women’s quarters and supervised by older women. Medea’s body responds almost unconsciously to this conflict between physis and nomos by refusing to open up (“não se queria abrir”, 10), devoid of the stimulating presence of nature and almost as if it were able to foresee the societal threat posed by those new beings vis-à-vis the homeless and unloved mother that she was. If Medea’s condition had been for the most part that of a countryless person, this is the moment where the fact that she has been abandoned by her lover 22  This motif of the supposed debilitating element of maternity is also present in Anouilh. For Medea, it takes the form of a painful memory, with her Nurse’s sympathetic intervention as a decisive factor to help her overcome its difficulties; in her hour, Medea’s usual strength failed her and turned her into a helpless being. As if it had become an indelible trauma, she feels her imminent repudiation by Jason as a new ‘pain of delivery’ which no one can alleviate. See above p. 70.


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and husband Jason strikes her with increasing clarity.23 For the Argonaut, their relationship had been nothing but a mere sexual encounter, which time had divested of its initial exuberance and which he would now choose to replace to his advantage with “pactos matrimoniais com princesas mais jovens, e do sul” (10) (matrimonial pacts with younger princesses, and from the South). Her lover’s new spousal is like a revelation of Medea’s fate; differently from Euripidean Medea, for whom separation from Jason meant an absence of social protection as well as exile, in this contemporary version she is not abandoned as a heroine, or as a foreigner, but rather as a woman who becomes “comum” (11) (common), “emparedada” (walled up) like her female companions, and like them condemned “à sentença do seu sexo” (11) (to the sentence of her sex). Her reaction to the fact of having been left for another woman, which in the ancient tragedy is one of anger and vehement protest, is reduced to apathetic acquiescence in Hélia Correia, being expressed in a succession of different expressions (11): “… empalidecendo, sentada no seu banco de arenito, submissa à amizade feminina que noutros tempos tanto desprezara” (… growing pale, sitting on her sandstone bench, submissive to the female friendship she had so strongly despised in the past). Medea’s languishing process extends to her children, made worse even by her acknowledged inability to look after them. Giving up her sickly children to the care of the Hera priestesses so that they might be revitalized also represents a radical expression of surrendering one’s personality; it is as if Medea had erased her past and the former sorceress had become “a mais crente das mulheres” (11) (the most faithful of women). The fact that the children had a barbarian mother and a Greek father is seen as a condition of hybridity that cannot ensure their vitality,24 that being the reason why they are not properly taken care of in the temple. Even the healing power of snakes, as beings of the earth – which Asclepius chose as his therapeutic symbol – failed at the inability of the children to 23  In Desmesura, Hélia Correia provides an occasion for a meeting between Medea and Jason to take place. This meeting is imagined by Medea as ‘romantic’ and she exquisitely prepares for it with seductive sophistication; for the Argonaut, however, the meeting is just an occasion on which to declare his definitive rupture, now that other marriage plans feed his dreams and his interests. That is the reason why he prefers to meet in the kitchen, a kind of domestic agora, instead of in the bedroom, which bespeaks a degree of intimacy that no longer exists between them. 24  This physical weakness is a metaphor for the more traditional social fragility that the child of a hybrid couple would face in a Greek city, and especially so in Athens. For Euripides, this was a living issue in his city’s politics after 451 BC, when Pericles had further demoted their status by carrying a law that removed the possibility of the offspring of foreign mothers acquiring Athenian citizenship.

Hélia Correia ’ s A de Cólquida ( The Woman From Colchis )


understand it, like the true stateless aliens that they were;25 instead, they felt that the animals were hunting them. The image of death which came with the new day signals a condition of destitution and social disqualification. For the Corinthians the mother, perhaps because she was a foreigner, was the one to blame for the children’s death. For the narrator, however, as becomes clear from the expressions “correu voz de que os filhos lhe morreram” (rumor had it that her children had died), now echoed as “Então correu a voz pela cidade” (Then rumor went around in the city), this is but a rumor, and the mother may be guilty of imprudence, or carelessness, but she cannot be accused of a deliberate intention to kill. 4 Conclusion The final moment of the text brings some unexpected developments. Up to the end, led by the narrator’s imagination, we have followed Medea’s journey from her origins, with her primeval connection to the green, to the North,26 to a wild, untamed nature, a Colchis still steeped in the twilight of ages, culminating in the major step that marked her life: blind obedience to a traditional female fate, touched by love. By following Jason, she betrayed her own people and came to an alien Greece, where, yielding to passion, she embraced her domestic fate of self-annihilation.27 What made Hélia Correia choose to portray this passive, common, trivialized Medea, so utterly devoid of any trace of heroism? The author is clearly familiar with the different historical variants of the myth. Following the path 25  In fact, Medea’s children seemed to be alien to the feeling of the earth’s power which was validated in their mother’s native land and was represented by the snakes; neither were they able to grasp the healing intervention of those beings as practiced in Greece. 26  In Desmesura, Hélia Correia explores the subject of climate more consistently as a factor of the clash of cultures and identities between Greeks and barbarians. Using Abar, the Nubian slave, as a counterpoint to Medea, the Colchian, she approaches the difference in climates and landscapes in more depth, illustrating the contrasts between the woman from the North and the woman who comes from a South that is more extreme even than Greece. See below p. 170. 27  This life path is also present in Anouilh’s Medea. In spite of the fact that the character is still portrayed as violent, in her traditional role as a filicidal woman, the French author offers a first image of his protagonist as a fragile woman who must depend on the sympathetic support of her old Nurse and who still seems to entertain a vague, inspiriting hope of a future with Jason. Her seclusion in silence is a shield against the imminence of the calamitous news that will lead to her terrible metamorphosis, since the definiteness of their separation is what brings back her ferocity. See above pp. 66–7.


Hörster and Silva

of Euripides – who abandons the versions that exempted Medea from the act of filicide and makes her responsible for the atrocity of her vengeance – Hélia Correia has the same design in mind in her sequence of the two different portraits of the foreign woman that she produces: A de Cólquida and Desmesura. The author herself states it quite explicitly (A de Cólquida, 11): Esta é a história como a recebi. A história de uma mãe nervosa e exausta. Esta é a história que deixei cair para que se desfaça em mil pedaços e a grande, a bruxa, seja levantada pela minha versão. Esta Medeia, a doce e a vencida, dará lugar a outra, uma outra que pensa e concebe a magnífica vingança. (This is the story how I received it. The story of a broken down, exhausted mother. This is the story I let fall so it may break into a thousand pieces and the great one, the witch, may be raised by my version. This Medea, the sweet and subdued one, will give way to another, an other who thinks and plans her magnificent vengeance.) As can be inferred from these words, Hélia Correia intends to resume the theme privileging Euripides’ innovative option; and she offers her explicit judgement on her two competing versions. With the opposition between “dei­ xar cair” (let fall) and “levantar” (rise), it becomes clear that she condemns the first, wishing that it would fall into pieces. What might then be the intention behind her creation of a week, submissive and conformable Medea? The narrator’s words express it quite clearly: the text is offered as an exemplum, a warning against the dangers of women choosing a traditional family life, relinquishing their intellectual, creative potential, even if they do it for love’s sake (11): “Cale-se essa voz e faça-se ouvir esta para que a lição do amor nos seja horrível”28 (Let that voice be silent and hear this one instead so that the lesson of love may seem horrible to us). Hélia Correia prefers the murderous ferocity 28  This same rejection of the rules that her female condition imposes is the basis of Hélia Correia’s version of Antigone (vide Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 265–84). In the play Perdição. Exercício sobre Antígona, Creon is certainly not the true opponent of Oedipus’ daughter, nor is he the reason that condemns her to death. In this rewrite, the king is weak, being more open to the concept of saving Antigone from the punishment for her disobedience rather than ready to condemn her. What does in fact annihilate the young woman is the image of a woman’s life curriculum she gradually develops. Disappointed with those around her for their lack of affection and condemned to the disheartening routine that drains female vitality in marriage, death is the only possible solution for this Antigone. Her motive for persisting in this early annihilation is nothing but herself and her frustration as a woman.

Hélia Correia ’ s A de Cólquida ( The Woman From Colchis )


of the other woman to this subjection to a dangerous routine. Moreover, as the author clearly stresses, the intensity of her feelings and the extreme nature of her reactions give Euripidean Medea a potential for challenge and mystery that renders her eternal. Nothing about that Medea can be predicted or easily explained (11): “Tenha o despeito de uma feiticeira dimensão tal que nunca a compreendam e o arrepio dure uma eternidade” (May the contempt of a witch have such dimension as she never be understood).

chapter 10

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization: Hélia Correia’s Desmesura (Excess) Maria de Fátima Silva É1 a palavra um senhor poderoso que, com o seu corpo minúsculo e invisível, leva a cabo obras dignas de deuses. Sabe como fazer calar o medo, arredar a dor, provocar alegria, despertar compaixão. Górgias, Elogio de Helena 8

(Words are a powerful lord who, with his tiny, invisible body, accomplishes divine works. They can mute fear, banish grief, cause joy, awaken compassion. Gorgias, Eulogy of Helen 8)

∵ Within Hélia Correia’s2 production on classical themes, privileging great female figures, after Perdição. Exercício sobre Antígona (1991)3 and Rancor. Exercício sobre Helena (2000), we now have Desmesura. Exercício com Medeia (2006). 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Hélia Correia enjoys a prominent position in contemporary Portuguese literature as a novelist, poet, author of children’s literature, and playwright of works on Classical themes. This tendency in her choice of subject was less influenced by the coeval Portuguese political or social context than by Correia’s personal experience as an enthusiast of Greek culture. Recently, in 2015, the author and her work were awarded the most important prize dedicated to Portuguese language writers, the Prémio Camões (Camões Prize). See Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 265. 3  See Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 265–84.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_012

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


Following the general outlines of the Euripidean development of the myth, the Portuguese author highlights some of the characteristic elements of Medea’s Corinthian episode: the heroine’s conflict with her lover, who, although indebted to her for her loving dedication and connivance in his Golden Fleece adventure, now repudiates her because of his interest in a more promising alliance; the extremely sensitive discordance between her barbarian identity and the Greek world, where she remains a victim of all the pangs of exile; and the fear that her self-willed, violent, in a word, excessive (‘desmesurada’) nature, culminating in the atrocity of filicide, provokes in everyone around her. 1

The Construction of a Female World

As the author had done in Perdição, she entrusts the text’s first words to the Chorus, anticipating the events and introducing the basic topoi of this contemporary approach to the myth. This chant, which is not replicated in other songs, in contrast with Greek tragedy, where the Chorus songs interrupt the action, creating a specific rhythm, is defined as a single composition in the stage direction that announces it (13): “Nas mudanças de cena ou de ritmo, um coro entoará os hinos que se seguem” (When scenes, or rhythm, change, a Chorus will chant the following hymns). Thus, there are two ‘hymns’ in Desmesura: the first one, “Lamento pelos heróis” (Lament for the heroes) is chanted by a male chorus and followed by “Hino a Hécate” (Hymn to Hecate), performed by female voices. These two brief compositions announce the main outlines of the action that follow, in line with the author’s usual procedure in her plays inspired by classical themes. The chorus intervention takes the form of a kind of lyrical agon, including contrasting genders and the corresponding contrasting values. The masculine text deals with heroes’ values, in line with the old epic tradition, where the myth of the Argonauts, led by Jason, finds its roots. The female version includes topics inspired by Medea’s magic, as suggested by the mention of Hecate, the goddess of divination and a manipulator of dark forces.4 In a text that privileges domesticity, as will be discussed below, this mention of Hecate, in Segal’s words (1996) 27–8, “suddenly electrifies the verse. In place of the sheltered, interior space of the house, properly presided over by 4  After Hesiod had identified her as a daughter of Titans as well as a generous provider of blessings (Theogony 411–52), Hecate became a dark goddess, endowed with terrifying evil powers, in connection with Persephone and the world of the dead. She used to be worshipped at three-way crossroads, where she is represented in the ambiguity of her three faces, and associated with witchcraft. Euripides (Medea 395–8) also presents Hecate as the goddess who sponsors Medea’s charms.



the wife and mother, there emerges the chthonic realm and dark magic of the fearful goddess”. The Chorus emphasizes the instability of men, of which Jason is the sole representative in the play, describing how his irrepressible ambition launches him into bold projects, far away from the city whose security he neglects. Men are drawn to danger, to the unknown, which in the Greek world were identified with maritime routes, in a kind of obsessive frenzy (13): Ai do homem que deixa a cidade sem guarda e responde ao apelo ardiloso do mar. Que é a eternidade mais que uma sombra parda? Parda sombra o herói se irá também tornar. (Woe the man who leaves the city unguarded and responds to the cunning call of the sea. What is eternity but a mere grey shadow? A grey shadow the hero shall also be.) However, disillusionment is the only thing that he obtains from this adventure, after having suffered the wounds of battles, or a needless death in faraway parts “longe da paz / a que sempre quis mal” (far from peace / whom he had never loved) (14). But this is like a permanent fate of men which no voice, including that of a loving mother, can dispel. It is something inherent in the male condition which finds no applause or understanding among women (14): Ai do pobre mortal que nasceu masculino que do leite da mãe em vão se alimentou. Não pôde ela, falando, impedir-lhe o destino. Só aos homens ouviu só à glória escutou.

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


(Woe the poor mortal who was born a male who was fed in vain with his mother’s milk. With her words she could not free him from his fate. He only heard men only listened to glory.) Conversely, when the female dimension is embodied in a figure like Medea, its nature is represented by Hecate: like the Colchian woman, amidst tempests, the goddess causes the ruin of mortals (15): Fazedora de hecatombes tombas, Hécate, os mortais no desastre, astro de febre, no fulgor dos temporais. (Maker of hecatombs Hecate, you lead the mortals into disaster star of fever in the fulgor of storms.) However, underlying this recreation of Medea’s episode, read as a conflict between genders that can only lead to ruin, Hélia Correia enhances the effect, the power and the accuracy of words as catalysts of the different nuances of the story.5 With this choice, she evokes the relevance of the rhetorical element in her model, the Euripidean version of the myth. The Greek tragedian gave his 5  Writing on the verbal conflict between Medea and Jason, Williamson (1990) 24 emphasizes this resource in Euripides’ Medea: “In this scene (…), each protagonist uses language to assault the other, and the scene abounds in allusions to language as instrument and even as weapon” (and he mentions lines such as 523–5, 546, 585).



heroes and heroines the ability to reflect and to express themselves in consonance with the rhetorical codes then applicable. However, although in their two agones Jason and Medea prove to be skillful users of rhetorical resources, contrary to what might be expected, they are not successful when it comes to persuading their opponent. Might it be because, as Hélia Correia will lead us to conclude, they lack the precise words to describe the feelings that dominate them and be used as weapons? The choice of names is extremely pertinent in Desmesura, notably the names given to the new, non-conventional characters in this new version of the myth; in its traditional color-inspired nature, they are a particularly felicitous imitation of the old tradition of speaking names extensively explored in ancient theatre, especially in comedy.6 Given their different social status, the different tensions opposing masters and female slaves, Greek and barbarian women, or men and women in general are naturally expressed linguistically, language being also the tool that provides their solid, stable, and very apt characterization – as if, in their creation, the author had been primarily guided by orthoépeia, so deeply praised by the Sophist intellectuals who inspired much of Euripides’ aesthetic taste.7 Following the tendency that she had set in Perdição and in Rancor, the Portuguese author reinforces the female circle that surrounds the heroine, which forms the first nucleus of confrontation and tensions. While she reduces the number of male agents, leaving out Creon, Aegeus, and the Pedagogue, a minor character, she expands the female element, including a new circle of women slaves of contrasting ages, origins and looks: Melana and Éritra, mother and daughter, who are Greek slaves in the Corinthian court; and Abar, a young slave imported from Nubia.8 6  See, e.g., Duckworth (reprinted 1971) 345–50. 7  This concept is specifically associated with the name of Protagoras, with Prodicus as a follower, with his onomáton orthótes motto (cf. Plato, Euthydemus 277e, Phaedrus 267c, Protagoras 339a, Cratylus 384b, 391 a-c; Aristotle, Rhetoric 1407b, Poetics 1456b 15–8). Prodicus substituted the practice of differential analysis of the different terms, each in opposition to the others (diaíresis) for the mostly formal concept of orthoépeia, to guide his disciples in the precise usage of each word. On this, see Pfeiffer (1968) 32–56; Forbes (1933) 105–12; Segal (1970) 158–62. As Plebe (1979) 18 notes: “Psychological opportuneness, linguistic coherence, art of persuasion are therefore the three axes of the aesthetics of the early Sophists, who could legitimately claim the status of pioneers of aesthetics in Antiquity”. 8  In a way, this circle of women that surround Medea and engage in close interaction with her provides a picture of their reactions, angers, and sharing of experiences as women; as a group, they echo the role of the Corinthian women chorus in Euripides’ original. The indi­ vidual members of the group embody different nuances not included in the Greek play. These differences generate individuality, replacing the original solidarity found at the beginning of

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


As the king’s illegitimate daughter, Éritra is given a new role to perform: she is a kind of double of Glauce’s, Medea’s famous rival in Jason’s interests. An equivalent context is to some extent present in Euripides’ Medea, being represented, by opposition, by the close, solidary figure of the Nurse, who had a perfect knowledge of the danger that her mistress’ anger could pose,9 in contrast to the distant Glauce, Medea’s competitor as concerns Jason’s interests, although quite vulnerable in her ignorance of the true dimension of the wrath that had been triggered by her dream of love. Hélia Correia gives Jason’s bride a different personality; she is still a victim of her own fantasy, although she is aware of the fact that she is being trapped into falling for the Argonaut, an attraction which Medea’s fury will destroy through the powers of her lethal sorcerer’s potions. The only new emphasis lies on the powerful, self-aware seductiveness of the Corinthian princess. Nature gave her the most “belos olhos verdes” (beautiful green eyes, 29) coupled with the attractive fire of her red hair. However, her seductiveness is neither an involuntary nor an innocuous generosity of physis. This other Glauce is well aware of the power of these weapons and thus she cannot avoid smiling triumphantly when a slave sent by Medea gives her a most tempting present (29): “Fitou em mim seus belos olhos verdes (…) e não vi neles pureza nem bondade: vi a dona de um ardil que triunfou” (She stared at me with those beautiful green eyes […] and in them I saw neither purity nor kindness: I saw a woman who had been successful in her cunning). And as an answer to Medea’s anxious question on the immediate effectiveness of the vengeance she had triggered, the slave adds (29): “Há-de querer exibir o teu penhor, a bela prova de que te venceu e te neutralizou o coração” (She will be wanting to exhibit your token, the beautiful evidence that confirms she has defeated you and neutralized your heart). The same conspicuous, aggressive competition extends also to Medea’s closest circle. In Hélia Correia’s version, the sympathetic Nurse of the Hellenic play is replaced by a slave who is distinctly Greek, and therefore, a potential enemy of the barbarian princess; however, she is also someone who has endured many hardships, and this has fueled a feeling of revolt in her inmost self Euripides’ text by a variety of different reactions and feelings. As Segal (1996) 19 rightly emphasizes, “As Medea’s revenge crystallizes into the decision to kill the children, she moves from the sympathy that the Nurse, Paedagogus, and chorus feel for her as a wronged woman to isolation and moral ambiguity”. Before the filicide becomes the most prominent theme, in line with tradition, Hélia Correia delves deeper into these cultural divergencies, which enhances the topic of Medea’s exile in her text. In Desmesura, these differences are rooted in the variety of cultural backgrounds, signaling the confrontation between the characters’ various origins. 9  On the figure of the Nurse in Euripides’ drama, see Silva (2005) 178–81.



against her strange, foreign mistress, whom she was forced to serve. Living next to her is her daughter, a slave also, and a bitter example of how masters heartlessly abuse and rape the women who live and work in their houses, serving them.10 The author chose meaningful names for these two characters: Melana, ‘a negra’ (the black woman), and Éritra, ‘a ruiva’ (the redhead). Other data add to the meaning of these names. In the stage direction that introduces Part I (4), the name of Melana is explained in its most obvious terms, as being applicable to “uma mulher que ainda não fez quarenta anos, morena” (a woman not yet in her forties, brunette). Melana’s surroundings are in harmony with her character: inside the closed space of a kitchen, “olha para a porta, como quem espera” (she looks at the door like one who waits); the black strokes in her portrait include listlessness, apathy, disenchantment. But soon her mysterious, somber disposition, which hides her soul’s grief behind her silence, withdrawn in an effort to find some consolation for her excessive frustration, make Melana a kind of mirror image of her mistress, as Nurses in ancient tragedy usually are. That is exactly what Éritra, mad at her mother for wanting to check her eagerness, tells her (6): ‘És tal qual ela! Só escuridão. Merecem-se uma à outra’ (You’re just like her! Only darkness. You do deserve each other). This darkness is generated by means of silence, the absence of words gaining added meaning in a play that emphasizes the power of words. Melana seeks a protective shadow in silence because she fears the possibility of being wounded again; only a powerful stimulus will make her outgrow this gloomy disposition, as her daughter mercilessly remarks (15): “Ó mãe! Esqueceste por acaso essa prudência de que tanto te fartas de falar?” (O mother! You have apparently forgotten the prudence that you so often talk about!). The difference between Melana and Éritra is easily identifiable – besides belonging to different generations, there is a permanent contrast in their personalities and demeanor which the opposite colors signified by their respective names symbolize, serving as a background to their portrait – and this is representative of their impressionistic characterization. The same stage direction where Melana is described in her most obvious traits – which will be later developed – those of an aged, apathic brunette, contrasts her emphatically 10  This motif is dear to the Portuguese author, being repeatedly present in her female portraits, i.e.: the humiliation that renders servile the personal and social life of a woman who was unlucky enough to be born a slave or without money: cf. Perdição (34), where the Nurse acknowledges the fact that this is inevitable: “E todas as criadas jovens, uma a uma, passarão certa noite pelo corpo do senhor. Sem que nisso achem glória ou alegria. É serviço de escrava, como um outro qualquer” (And all the young female servants will one night serve the master’s body. And no glory or joy will they find in it. It is part of a slave’s work, just like any other); cf. also Rancor (101–2).

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


with “a jovem que entra, de cabelo ruivo, Éritra, com um alguidar cheio de farinha (…); vem sacudindo-se da chuva e despeja a farinha sobre a mesa” (4) (the red-haired young woman who comes in, Éritra, with a bowl full of flour […]; she shakes off the drips of rain and empties out the bowl onto the table). Active, coming from outside the house, fresh and nimble, the young woman that comes in from the penumbra of a rainy day into the shadowy, dimly-lit room is a ray of sunlight and life within the darkness in which she moves. This is acknowledged by Jason when he asks: (7): “E Éritra, onde está? Os seus cabelos são o único sol que aqui há dentro”11 (And Éritra, where is she? Her hair is the only sunshine in here). Her red hair is the core symbol of all that composes this figure.12 Affirming language as the most significant trait of a personality, bright, extrovert Éritra can assert the principle that (5): “É das ruivas! As ruivas falam muito” (It’s because I’m a redhead! Redheads are talkative). And she goes on, thinking about the specific case of Glauce, a redhead herself (6): “Nunca se cala: faz as perguntas, e responde, e ri-se” (She never stops talking: she asks questions, and answers them, and then laughs). Discreetly, as if by mere chance, a physical similarity is gradually established between the two young women which will eventually identify them as being sisters. But beneath the dazzling brightness of Éritra’s fiery hair there lies a deeper meaning. Her hair is the mark of her identity, which bespeaks a specific descent and may function as an identifying object.13 The secret that Melana, 11  The same motif is included again in the stage direction (14) that closes Part I: “Continua a chover, mas da taça onde as ervas do chá estão mergulhadas em água quente sai uma claridade. A cabeleira de Éritra também brilha” (It is still raining, but a brightness raises from the bowl where the tea herbs are dipped in hot water. Éritra’s hair also shines). 12  The concentration of fatal beauty in the hair as its irradiation point is modelled upon the inevitable figure of Helen of Troy. Homer mentions “Helen of the beautiful hair” (Iliad 3. 329) and gives the epithet of eúkomos to both goddesses and mortals (see, e.g., Iliad 1. 36, 2. 689, Odyssey 12. 389). Following the old epic motif, Euripides also portrays a coquette Helen with her traditional hair; after going back to Sparta when the war is over, and confronted with the misfortune and death that still haunt Greek homes when the heroes return, Helen makes sure that she only cuts a small end of hair as an offering for her dead sister Clytemnestra, without damaging its beauty (Orestes 128–9). Hélia Correia adheres to this tradition in Rancor (43–6), where Helen’s blonde hair represents the protagonist of a myth that still feeds the fantasy of young people but which was simply lost with the decadence of old legends; Helen’s new Spartan look includes an Egyptian wig, a token of her journey in the land of Pharaohs, covering her shaved head. This change in her hair might mean, more clearly in this case, an accessory that creates another character when worn on a shaved head. 13  This is also a well-known element of classical tradition to which Aristotle dedicated several chapters in his Poetics (1452a 30–1452b 8). Hair is also a critical motif in the reencounter of long parted siblings, as in the famous recognition of Orestes first in Stesichorus’ Oresteia (see fr. 181a 11–3 in Finglass [2014b]), and then in Aeschylus’ Choephoroe 168–200,



hiding behind her typical prudence, had been keeping on the subject of her daughter’s paternity is simply shouted and exposed by Éritra’s hair. Abar is a witness of the revelation (14): “Diz-lhe a verdade. O seu cabelo há muito que o disse a toda a gente!” (Tell her the truth. Her hair has long told it to everybody). And soon Jason adds a more precise element to this general disclosure: the specific identity of a relation (16): “Tão bela como Glauce. E tão parecida como sua irmã” (As beautiful as Glauce. And as alike as sisters). Éritra’s red hair had initially fascinated Jason in a sensual, almost unaware, and therefore genuine way. Instinctively, his hand reaches out to the young woman who “evolui alegremente em torno dele” (moves about him gaily) and, without being aware of it, “acaba por pôr-lha no cabelo, distraidamente” (he eventually touches her hair, distractedly). This attraction is reciprocal, as the Argonaut later (35) remarks: “Pensarás tu que não te olhava dia após dia? Que eu não via o modo como a cor do cabelo de repente te descia para o rosto, se eu passava?” (Do you think that I wasn’t looking at you day after day? That I didn’t notice the way the color of your hair would tinge your face if I happened to pass by?). And thus, Hélia Correia doubles and extends the threat against Medea’s feelings and security into the core of her own privacy, for, prior to looking at distant Glauce with desire – as well as with interest – Jason had surrendered to the seductiveness of Éritra, who was close by and made herself available. That is what he confesses candidly before the slave that serves him (22): “A culpa é tua. Foi a cor do teu cabelo o que atiçou o meu desejo pela tua irmã” (This is your fault. It was the color of your hair that aroused my desire for your sister). This fascination inspired him to accept Creon’s proposal and substitute the king’s legitimate daughter, and the heir to the throne, for the bastard (16). Without having to give up the charm of the hair that both sisters shared, he furthermore gained social status and political influence, conveniently combining desire and ambition. In the Portuguese text, the threat against Medea survives the destruction of Glauce, the promised bride; beyond her death, Éritra becomes the object of another marriage proposal (35): “Quanto a nós, Éritra, és agora a única descendente do rei. Ninguém duvida de que o seu sangue corre em ti, a ruiva cabeleira, esses olhos o confirmam. Passado o luto, ele te perfilhará. E reinaremos juntos em Corinto” (As for us, Éritra, you are now the king’s sole descendant. Nobody doubts that his blood runs in your veins, your red hair, those eyes of yours are proof enough. When his mourning is over, he 229–30, where Electra stresses the color of his hair as an element of similarity between them that can explain the natural affinity between her brother and herself. In Electra 513–31 Euripides critically echoes this passage by Aeschylus and again confronts Electra with a golden lock, inviting her to recognize the presence of her much-missed Orestes.

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


will acknowledge you as his daughter. And we shall reign together in Corinth). Jason’s personality is reinforced by means of this ability to fall in love, rather than simply engage in a mere relationship of convenience.14 And the siege becomes tighter around Medea, hidden within her own home. “É a cor do sangue” (It is the color of blood), as Abar describes it (22), that moves before the repudiated woman like an inspiration. Beside her servants, the figure of the mistress is paramount, the foreigner from Colchis who keeps her distance as regards domestic conviviality.15 In line with a ranking criterion defined according to each character’s relationship with language, Medea boasts a widely acknowleged influence, which places her at a higher level than mere mortals, enjoying the exceptional prerrogative of one who possesses the gift of magic. She is feared by those around her,16 who are convinced that the Colchian princess does not need to hear any words to divine their thoughts; the reservation, or the animosity, of her servants is obvious to her, even in the absence of words, since, as Éritra understands (4; cf. 9), “ela consegue ouvir-nos a pensar” (she can hear us think). Before the ambiguity of her most intimate friends and relations, ultimately including the man she loves, the father of her children, Medea is able to penetrate the deep thoughts that generate words, even before they are spoken (18): “Finge nada saber e no entanto já tudo adivinhou. É bruxa” (She pretends to know nothing and yet she 14  By mentioning names and engaging in psychological exploration, Hélia Correia also develops that which Anouilh had to some extent left unsaid: Jason’s extra-marital affairs. 15  Hélia Correia modulates Euripidean Medea’s ‘theorization’ on the nature of human relationships, notably as concerns those between Greeks – or citizens from a given country – and foreign exiles (214–24). In the Greek version, Medea, the Colchian exile, takes care to address a friendly word to the Corinthian women choreuts as well as to voice her belief on the subject of their social interaction: the natives should not make decisions based on prejudice, anticipating reservations or unfriendliness; the resident foreigners should make an effort to adapt and integrate themselves. 16  The topic of the fear that Medea causes on those around her, which goes back to Euripides, is developed by Jouan (1996) 87–97. This French scholar argues that some characters in Euripides’ Medea, such as Aegeus and Jason, are not afraid of her, either because they are not familiar with Medea’s reactions or because they have not paid them enough attention. In Jouan’s opinion, Jason (88) “does not pay much attention to her threats, seeing them merely as a jealous woman’s excesses”. This observation is quite interesting insofar as Hélia Correia develops exactly this element of Jason’s character in some detail. In her play, Jason is thoughtless, he does not respect Medea’s feeling, while simultaneously combining indifference with a kind of unconscious fear that leads him to avoid meeting her alone in the intimacy of their bedroom; instead, he prefers to meet in a neutral, common domestic territory: the kitchen. Another group of characters – such as the Nurse, or Creon – have a different approach to Medea; because they know how violent her soul can be, they fear her extreme reactions. In the Portuguese play, also her slaves, who share the same household as Medea, are afraid of their mistress.



has guessed it all. She is a witch). However, if a vestige of her famous ‘enchantments’ reinforces her ability to hear silence, the personality of the new Medea as a woman and a barbarian is built on the basis of the language in which she expresses herself. This is a particularly relevant aspect in Euripidean Medea, highlighting her exile’s solitary grief, far from home, diligent in her adaptation to an alien nomos which is unknown to her, and nonetheless a victim of disaffection and repulse in a world where she is truly unwelcome. Expressed through the ‘language distance’ that affects Medea, the character’s loneliness is also stressed in Hélia Correia’s play, starting with the heroine’s severance from everything she had belonged to, which she significantly confesses; before the imminence of losing her last connection with what makes her a social being – her alliance with the Argonaut – Medea protests (21): “Aquilo por que eu dei­ xei família, e pátria, e língua, e tudo o mais, a vida” (All that for which I left family, and motherland, and language, and all else, my life), recalling the fatal passion that had deprived her of the basic conditions for a normal, healthy existence. She had drawn a curtain of silence over her past, keeping to herself alone the image of Colchis– “Medeia nunca nos falou da Cólquida” (Medea never spoke to us about Colchis, 25) – which she decided to hide from the alien world of Corinth – “a minha história é só a minha história” (my story is my story alone, 25).17 However, Medea felt a very human need to try and reestablish the pillars of stability and routine in Greece. She committed herself to organize a new family, the basic nucleus of affection-based protection; she sought to adapt to a new homeland where her presence and her inclusion might be tolerated. But, as her ultimate weapon – and here resides a new element in Desmesura which is alien to tradition, though in line with Hélia Correia’s creation – she made an effort to transplant her own language, a structuring trait of her true identity, into her new world. To that effect, Medea tried to develop some closeness

17  This topic of the distance that separates the barbarian woman from the Greek community with whom she is now forced to interact is especially emphasized by the Portuguese author, who in this respect seems to have been inspired by Anouilh. In the case of his French Medea, her displacement is signaled by the fact that she lives outside Corinth; together with her Nurse, who is also from Colchis, she lives in a wagon in the outskirts of the city, where they can hear the sounds of popular festivities from a distance; they are excluded from this conviviality because it is only meant for the locals. These festivities, which are collective manifestations with a specific cultural nature imagined by Anouilh, are replaced in Hélia Correia by language and climate as identity traits. In both texts, however, a prologue establishes this incompatibility as a background for the events that will follow. See above, p. 66.

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


with Abar, the Nubian slave, who was also a foreign woman in Greek territory;18 she wished to build a degree of complicity through language by teaching her Colchian and thus erect a protective barrier between the two of them and the hostile outside world. But her attempt proved unsuccessful for she did not find a reflection of her own fiery and self-willed personality in the Nubian slave. This is the image that prevails in Medea’s portrait, implicitly enhancing the character’s most relevant characteristic: her expatriate condition. With no hope of ever being able to succeed in her efforts to teach the Nubian slave, who is quite a renitent pupil, Medea reacts with fury, which is both a characteristic of her ‘excessive’ nature and an obvious sign of the hopelessness and displacement that weigh on her more heavily than ever. The following stage direction is a summary of the arrival of the two women (9): “Medeia atira Abar sobre uma esteira com uma exclamação enfurecida. Fala-lhe em língua estranha; Abar responde primeiro na mesma língua, depois começa a falar em grego, obri­ gando Medeia a acompanhá-la” (Medea throws Abar onto a mat with a furious exclamation. She talks to her in a strange language; at first Abar answers in the same language but then she starts speaking in Greek, forcing Medea to pay attention to her). Fragile and unable to correspond to her mistress’ firmness of purpose – like Ismene with Antigone when Oedipus’ daughters face the need to defend their family’s prerogatives – Abar also has the function of, in contrast with Medea, a mirror that reflects different approaches to the same crisis. The poor Nubian, a sister to Medea insofar as they share the same condition of foreign women, does not hesitate to confess her frailty of mind and attitude – “Senhora, não me obrigues a falar na tua língua. Eu não consigo. Esqueço. Tenho a cabeça fraca” (My Lady, please do not make me speak your language. I cannot do it. I forget. My head is weak, 10) – as well as her inability to correspond to the drive that governs each gesture of her companion of exile and rebellion – “És a única com quem posso falar a língua dos meus pais e da feiticeira, minha tia. É o meu único consolo aqui. Vamos, fala-me em colco. Faz um esforço” (You are the only one I can talk to in the language of my parents and my aunt, the sorcerer. This is my sole consolation here. Come on, talk to me in Colchian. Make an effort). She is nonetheless genuinely sympathetic with Medea’s intimate pain, only she expresses it differently. Being also committed 18  This idea of having a character who shares a similar experience of exile interact with Medea – in this case, an entirely new figure, a Nubian slave, who comes from a different cultural environment – also seems to take Anouilh as a model. However, being more conservative, the French author ascribes this role to the Nurse. In his Médée, the Colchian identity of the old woman is quite distinctive, with her knowledge of both her mistress’ past and the customs of their common country. This is a characteristic which the Euripidean Nurse did not possess. See above, pp. 66–8.



to the search for her lost identity, her weapon is not the power of words, used in active protest; her more conformist nature advises her to be silent and to seek refuge under the rays of sunlight that remind her of her ancestors and where she is able to find consolation (10), abandoning herself to passivity or maybe even to the eternal asylum that death can generously provide. A cultural conflict is set between both women, and this makes their original incompatibility even more complex and more precise. Language and climate are two equally relevant factors that characterize the differences, and the distance, between two creatures that come from contrasting horizons. Medea’s presence did generate a reaction from the Hellenes from the very first moment; a deep incompatibility between ‘sunny’, Mediterranean Greece and the woman from the North added a tone of suspicion to the most banal, uncommitted conversations. A seemingly innocuous remark on the weather – “ah, como chove!…” (oh, how it rains!, 5) – which could be read as a codified way to express the traditional lack of understanding and suspicion that separates Greeks and barbarians (5): “Toda a gente em Corinto passa a vida a estra­nhar estas chuvas tão intensas. Eu própria me recordo como era tão cheia de sol esta cidade. E quente! Os Invernos passavam num instante. Desde que ela chegou, vivemos nisto …”19 (Everybody in Corinth always find these intense rains so unusual. I can remember quite well how this city used to be so sunny. And warm! Winters used to be quite short. But this is what we have since she has arrived …). But the two foreign women are equally incompatible, cold and warmth signaling an antipodal distance between the Colchian and the Nubian. As it becomes clear that Abar “morre de chuva e escuridão” (dies of rain and darkness), like a plant which is sadly transplanted from a warm soil to hostile weather, so is Medea threatened with an equivalent, albeit contrasting fate (12): “Mas sob o vosso sol morria eu” (But I would die under your sun). However, while Medea finds some comfort in hearing her own language spoken, Abar, who is less sensitive as regards language, accepts, alongside the different codes she has gradually assimilated, the homeless condition of a foreign slave; to her mother tongue she has eventually added Greek, or even Colchian, drifting, both in her words and in her life, at the mercy of an aimless destiny; within the instability of exile and servitude, for Abar, getting her language back is equivalent to closing a circle called life (20). She has lost control of a weapon which Medea ably manipulates, with visible effects. Beside Abar, who collapses for lack of warmth, a condition that she cannot control and which exposes her to hostility and extinction in an alien land, the Colchian 19  See 11, 17.

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


princess insists in uttering strange words, the affirmation of her origins, which sound to Greek ears like an uncomfortable reaction, though effective in their expression of revolt (17): “Para que insistes nisso? … Em falar essa língua com a núbia! Estás cheia de atitudes antipáticas!” (Why do you insist?… in talking in that language with the Nubian! You certainly have a most unfriendly attitude!). If language differences generate hostility between Greeks and barbarians, more importantly than making her allies in their reaction to the outside world, the community created between the two women exiles by the knowlege of the Colchian language has the power to unite them, revealing the hidden side of their nature, which can only be disclosed by means of the exact words. Gradually, almost involuntarily, Medea confided to Abar, her sole true interlocutor, the disciple to whom her own language became accessible, what she had hidden from all the Greeks around her, i.e., the intimacy of her Colchian history. That is why the Nubian recounts all of her mistress’s past crimes (11) and is able to claim the privileged perception of a confidante (27): “Ah Medeia, eu conheço-te tão bem … Não foi em vão que me ensinaste a língua em que te iniciaste nos feitiços. As palavras não são senão o espírito das coisas que nomeiam. Sim, não vi somente o teu país. Eu vi-te a alma tão negra como tu. De certo modo, há entre nós um esboço de irmandade” (Ah, Medea, I know you so well … It wasn’t in vain that you taught me the language in which you were initiated in witchcraft. Words are but the spirit of the things they name. Yes, I was able to see not just your country. I saw your soul, which is as dark as yourself. Somehow, there is an intimation of sisterhood between us). Besides this privileged, albeit difficult relationship with Abar, all the other human networks that Medea gradually develops in Corinth are marked by disharmony and conflict.20 Within a smaller circle, among women, keeping to the limits of the daily female routine in the home, Medea seeks to clearly 20  Easterling’s (1977) 179 view of the integration of Euripidean Medea into Corinth may be useful as a basis for interpreting Hélia Correia’s choices in this respect: “So Euripides with fine sleight-of-hand contrives to imply that Medea’s status at Corinth is one of some dignity, but without explaining why; later it becomes clear that she has a reputation as a wise woman, but the picture that is very lightly sketched in (…) is as close to that of a respectable religious authority as to that of an outlandish witch”. This remark fits quite well with the Portuguese author’s choice insofar as, by virtue of her magician’s powers, her Medeia is able to command fearful respect. As a woman, however, in her domestic context, she is far from enjoying the same authority. In fact, trying to conquer that authority is exactly what leads to her tumultuous relationship with the female circle that gravitates around her.



demarcate her status as mistress of the house and her authority over the women slaves who serve her. In Hélia Correia’s text, this facet of Medea’s personality is equally expressed on the basis of the social power of language. Establishing a social hierarchy entails a process that ultimately rests on wordplay, whose correspondence with reality is precarious. In the social unit of a household where the identity of each element proves to be dubious or mask-like, words, like charcoal, compose the clear captions that tell the truth about each figure. That is exactly the issue discussed in the first dialogue of the play, between the two slaves, Melana, the mother, and Éritra, the daughter. In the midst of the household chores that identify them as servants, a reflection emerges on the behavior befitting their condition. Each reaction, even the most legitimately human – are not dreams at least a human being’s natural right, as well as a glimpse of freedom? – is reflected as a deprivation on the status of a servant. For Melana, raising Éritra is an exercise in combating nature’s spontaneity, according to a well-advised methodology whereby words and silence are judiciously used. Repression entails silencing even the most spontaneous remarks, since they may all hide something dangerous or reckless. Taming is obtained through the repetition of words that have the power of substituting the dominating power of the nomos for natural instinct (4): “Éritra – Estás sempre a recordar-me. – Melana – Que tu és uma escrava? Realmente parece que te esqueces muita vez. Olha, desta barriga é que nasceste. Uma filha de escrava escrava é” (Éritra – You keep reminding me. – Melana – That you are a slave? Indeed, you seem to forget it too often. Look, you came out of this belly. A slave’s daughter is a slave). Then, the parent imprints the marks of an identity upon the natural canvas, integrating each creature in their successive social nuclei, family and community. Here too, the linguistic construction of a ‘birth certificate’ competes with an advantage over the true work of nature. Doubt itself seems to require the permanent commitment of a convincing rhetoric21 (5): 21  Among the Sophists, the nomos/physis dichotomy has to do with Protagoras and it raises the famous issue of individuality as the opposite of practices or knowledge accepted by the whole community. Besides what is empirical and therefore does not require the city’s deliberation or opinion, there are values, which are situated in the areas of justice, morals, social convention on which human beings decide, not individually but as a group, and they are expressed through language. Thus, words must scrupulously fit the concepts they stand for. It is the role of education to disseminate this knowledge, which has the power to change the instinctual dispositions of each individual, transforming him/her into a true citizen. This process is carried out through discourse, or, in other words, it is through language that each person is educated or formed as a full-fledged member of a given culture. See Dupréel (1948) 22–30; Kerferd (1981) chap. X; Guthrie (1971) chap. IV.

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


Éritra – E o meu pai? Melana – Já to disse e repeti. Éritra – Um escravo trácio que morreu nas minas. Melana – Exactamente. Um escravo trácio. E então? Éritra – E como era o seu nome? Melana – E tu insistes! Éritra – É que já me contaste tanta história  … E em nenhuma delas acredito. (Éritra – What about my father? Melana – I’ve told you more than once. Éritra – A Thracian slave who died in the mines. Melana – Exactly. A Thracian slave. What else? Éritra – And what was his name? Melana – You’re insistent! Éritra – You have told so many stories before … and none of them do I believe.) Nature itself will undertake to claim its own rights. In the red hair that exuberantly screams Éritra’s name, as if physis was making its protesting voice heard in an agon against nomos, its perpetual opponent. However, under the skin, at a hidden but equally sensitive level, Medea’s insightful mind senses another natural scream, which responds to the doubt of one who seeks a conformity between truth and appearance (12): “Éritra – E poderás dizer-me aquilo que minha mãe me tem calado? Meu pai quem foi? – Medeia – Que queres que te responda? O que o teu sangue já adivinhou?” (Éritra – And can you tell me what my mother has been keeping silence about? Who was my father? – Medeia – What do you want me to tell you? That which your blood has already guessed?). After the genetic chain has been defined comes conduct, gradually molded by paideia in a long process of correction and repression. To shape the profile of a slave who is the child of slaves is to make an extreme choice between the two terms of another famous dichotomy that seems to radically affect the way people behave within a society: word / action. For slaves, speaking is a weapon, a protesting tool that enables them to shake off their shackles, to think and express themselves as autonomous, free beings, to overcome the coersive limits of the humiliation which society imposes on them. Because they are incompatible with the subservience they are expected to show, words are a forbidden luxury and silence a quality they must learn in the difficult process of



conforming to an imposed identity. With the passing of time, Melana was able to assimilate that imposition, keeping to herself, in prudent, discrete silence, the story of one who became a slave22 (9); with the blood she bequeathed her daughter, she wished to pass on the secret of how to ‘behave’ like a slave. The lesson is plain and simple, even if painful and contra naturam (9): “Eu ensineite a temer as palavras. São um luxo a que os Gregos se entregam por prazer como o vinho e os jogos. Para nós, é como alimentarmos a serpente dentro da própria boca. Quem espreitar para dentro de uma casa poderá distinguir os escravos pelo silêncio” (I have taught you to fear words. They are a luxury to which the Greeks abandon themselves, like wine or the games. For us, it is like nurturing the serpent inside our own mouth. If you peep into a house, you’ll be able to identify slaves by their silence). Excluded from the use of language – which puts them on a par with objects, or property, in a society where the grandeur of democratic co-habitation founded on free expression was invented – action is what is expected of slaves, which, in their case, also carries a stigma of humiliation and servility. Silently carrying out the household routine tasks is the natural emblem of a slave. To dream, to speak are forbidden luxuries when a slave’s duty is to knead the bread dough (4, 13). Only nature has the right to give them back what human society has prevented them from having (13): “A morte, mais piedosa que tu, estendendo a mão, compra-me sem moedas. Como todos, mudo por fim de dona” (Death, more merciful than you, reaches out his hand and buys me with no coins. Like all the others, I finally change owners). To be free and the object of an acknowledged timē includes the power to speak, or rather, to give orders and be obeyed with no hesitations. This is the way of a society where power speaks through the mouth of those who dwell in palaces, even if nature seems to inhibit them from it. Glauce is a woman, young, immature and deprived of authority. But she is a princess, and this status, which is conferred by the nomos, gives her an active voice, and therefore she can impose herself with no reluctance; those she summons come to her because, after all, (6) “É a princesa. Manda mais do que tu. Mais que Jasão” (She is the princess. She is more powerful than you. More powerful than Jason), as Éritra recognizes, to the displeasure of her mother, who is a mere slave; even being disobeyed, Melana continues to ponder the issue, using the same line of thinking (6): “Menos que o rei. Se o rei te proibir …” (Less than the king. If the king forbids you to …). At the bottom of this social scale are slaves who, if made to break the silence that identifies them, express 22  “Éritra – Quem te escravizou, mãe? – Melana – É história antiga. – Éritra – Que nunca me contaste” (Éritra – Who made you a slave, mother? – Melana – It’s an old story. – Éritra – Which you have never told me).

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


the limits imposed by their slave condition by submissively answering the questions they are asked (6): “Isso é resposta que uma escrava dê?” (Is that an answer fit for a slave girl?). The circumstances in which Medea finds herself are again ambiguous. Because of her barbarian origins, she is excluded from the hierarchy that governs the society where she is still considered a stranger, although she has the vague status of a hero’s wife, ‘the mistress of the house’. But the fragile nature of this concession, coming from someone who still identifies a foreigner with an intruder, becomes immediately obvious in this female territory, where Greek women assert their authority. Medea is compelled to claim the certification of a status that is reestablished by the word ‘mistress’. In a slave’s mouth, her own name – Medea – sounds inappropriate, almost insulting, trivializing her princess rank (12): “Senhora! Assim se trata uma princesa. Esqueces? Julgas tu que, por me encontrar longe do meu reino, fiquei desprotegida?” (Mistress! That is how you address a princess. Have you forgotten? Do you think that because I am far away from my kingdom, I am unprotected?). But contrary to her words, her barbarian condition only stresses her vulnerability and isolation, both in Euripides and in Hélia Correia. This protest, made for the sake of stability and safety, falls apart when all her prerogatives are simply withdrawn as a consequence of Jason’s infidelity. Vilified by her servants (13), Medea loses the title of ‘mistress’ to which she clung as a drowning person clings to a lifebuoy (18). The word ‘mistress’ may serve as a means to try and recover a fraction of the authority she had lost by choosing exile, but it is not enough to soothe Medea’s sense of solitude and lack of affection. She herself recognizes that the authority of a Mistress must be acknowledged through fear, but friendship is a gift not compatible with it, and thus it must be excluded (12). Medea painfully learns this when, after so much grief, she seeks in those who call her ‘mistress’ the understanding that nature allows among women, but which social hierarchies do preclude (24): Medeia – Somos todas mulheres. Quem me humilhar a vós humilha! Não sofremos nós com as mesmas bebedeiras dos senhores, com a posse brutal e com os partos? Melana – Nunca tiveste essa conversa. Foste sempre tão arrogante, tão temível. Perder Jasão tornou-te humilde, foi? (Medeia – We are all women. Whoever humiliates me humiliates you! Do we all not endure the same abuse by our drunken masters, the same brutal possession, and childbirth? Melana – You never spoke like this. You have always been so arrogant, so fearsome. Losing Jason has made you humble, right?)



However, as concerns her rights and her feelings, Medea’s most important agon, according to the old Euripidean tradition, is fought between herself and Jason, her lover and the father of her sons, who is nonetheless a traitor. Like the Euripidean Nurse, who ‘scented’ and announced the proximity of a serious crisis, confirmed by Medea’s furious expression, so can the new female servants, her counterparts in the oikos of the Portuguese heroine, capture the effect of the tensions that shake a broken household (6): “Éritra – Nesta casa o melhor é fingir que somos mudos. – Melana – Ora aí tens! De um mudo não resulta desastre algum”23 (Éritra – The best thing to do in this house is to pretend you’re mute. – Melana – You are right there! No disaster can come from a mute). 2

Medea’s Eternal Conflict with Jason

Jason and Medea’s reencounter happens only in Part II of Correia’s text, after the protest against the authority of the mistress of the house has been carefully designed. The entrance of the Argonaut triggers a number of negative signs (14): “tem um ar desconfortável, preocupado” (he looks uncomfortable, concerned), he immediately asks for Medea as if she were the focus of his obsession, and he barely notices Éritra’s seduction game, which is rather uncharacteristic of him. And thus, the old-time lover approaches the woman he had once seduced, whom, despite their long parting process, had groomed her hair and dressed herself up with the same care as if she had been preparing for a romantic meeting.24 But before the Colchian woman appears before him, performing her now exhausted attempt at seduction, Jason reacts to the presence of Abar who brings his life’s nightmare to his mind through the most unwelcome of sounds (14): “Novamente terei de ouvir falar aquela língua que é um ultraje à Grécia?” (Do I have to hear them again speak that language which is an insult to Greece?). Closed in on himself and his intimate torments, Jason does not overcome his traditional hesitant behavior, or perhaps even cowardice. 23  As a whole, these first scenes in which H. Correia describes in detail the current context of Medea’s life in its two main aspects – her foreign origin and her ambiguous status in Corinth – echo Anouilh’s two long scenes between Medea and her Nurse. In both cases the two crises that plague Medea’s life are gradually defined: the cultural one, of which she is aware, and the personal one, which is imminent: Medea and Jason’s breakup. 24  Again, this detail of the preparation for a love meeting seems to refer back to Anouilh. In the French author’s play, where Jason and Medea’s physical relationship is the justification for their rapprochement (see above, pp. 73–4, 81, 84), this episode of the Portuguese play likewise replicates Medea’s preparation for their love encounters of former days (Anouilh [1953] 22).

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


This trait had been clearly demonstrated in the supreme campaign of his life – without Medea’s help he would not have succeeded in defeating the dragon that kept his much-desired Golden Fleece – and he never hid it when confron­ ted with the fierce will of his companion, who turned his life into a permanent adventure. His fear of Medea’s anger is so deep that he cannot bring himself to recognize this. Besides his hero’s qualms, he feels also humiliated as a husband at the thought of the female power he cannot free himself from. To express these feelings in words, to ‘confess’ the fear that afflicts him is also something which this man is simply unable to do. That is why a slave’s fearless exposure of his weak soul, which she feels free to express after having known him for so many years, sounds to him like an ‘insult’ (15), despite the fact that it is a mere acknowledgement of an incontrovertible truth.25 Since Jason is expecting a tremendous agon to take place, he carefully choses both the setting and the occasion26 that seem to be the most convenient in view of his self-acknowledged fragility; contrary to the usually intimate nature of a confrontation between husband and wife during a marriage crisis, Jason prefers to meet Medea in the kitchen, the open heart of the home,27 and to have the witnessing presence of the servants, like a weak leader whose success is dependent on the support of his wife’s female companions, on whose alliance against the Colchian he seems to count (16–7). The same impotence expressed in Jason’s choice of their meeting place is also present in his accusations against Medea, which he does not dare to own, hiding behind the supposedly anonymous voice of ‘everybody in Corinth’, conveniently shifting to others his own repulse, which is gradually becoming hate (17–8): “Em Corinto todos se afastaram de mim por tua causa” (In Corinth 25  In Greek tradition, Jason is portrayed as a decadent, depraved hero. From a conqueror and the leader of a daring enterprise, he gradually became a common, selfish man, focused on his own material and social well-being, so cowardly and dependent on others for the management of his daily affairs as he had been in the conquest of the famous treasure. 26  The concept of kairos, the opportuneness that ensures success to a speech in terms of its timing and the tenor of its arguments, is associated with Protagoras by Diogenes Laertius (9. 52); the same concept was later adopted by Gorgias. See Plebe (1979) 14–5, 18; Untersteiner (1967) 18–9. 27  The significance of the setting that frames the events and its relevant contribution to character design is also mentioned in Euripides; in Medea 141–3, the Nurse explains that her mistress is in the couple’s bedroom, which is both a setting that corresponds to the marriage crisis context and a symbol of solitude and intimacy. Segal (1996) 27, on the other hand, stresses the Euripidean nature of the contrast between “domestic realism” and “the imaginative reaches of myth”, which introduce the fantastic. In the Portuguese text, the setting, which includes both the bedroom and the kitchen, entails a rearrangement of the conventional proportion, favoring the domestic, which is also the human or the personal.



everybody has turned away from me because of you); “todos te culpam pela chuva que não cessa de cair” (everybody is blaming you for this endless rain).28 In this atypical speech Medea can recognize the faint-hearted hero whom she had helped in Colchis in the past. Jason is ultimately unable to take advantage of the servants’ recriminating voices against Medea, exposing his weakness as a man engulfed by female chattering (19). A victim of a wrong sense of kairos as a result of his lack of courage, Jason must now face the terrible trial of ‘finding the right words’ to articulate his feelings and his arguments behind his ‘everybody in Corinth’ mask – and what is more, in a female space which he does not master. Medea encourages him to speak, she anticipates questions in order to obtain the revelations that she seeks. But she too, the magician who is famous for her ability to listen to other people’s thoughts, fails; caught unawares by the news of Jason’s betrothal to Glauce, she finds herself at a loss for words. This silence, which is a retreat upon her own self and a denial of a last condescendence, brings an upsurge in Medea’s wrath and violence. Jason guesses it intuitively and he tries to hide behind endless arguments (19–20); but he goes even further: in a terrified gesture, the traitor asks Abar to speak Colchian, so that the sweetness of Medea’s mother tongue might mitigate his ruthless confession. But Medea accuses him bluntly (20):29 “Cobarde. Não te escondas atrás dela. Já te não servem as palavras gregas, tens medo de as sujar com a pestilência de um coração traidor?” (You, coward. Do not try to hide yourself behind her. Are Greek words not good for you anymore; are you afraid to defile them with the pestilence of your traitor’s heart?). Jason advances new arguments inspired by his model’s; from explanation, he goes on to lying, claiming that their children’s interests are his sole concern (20; see Medea 549–50, 562–4), and that the alliance between himself and Glauce is nothing but a mere agreement (21). But, like Euripides’ Jason, the only response he obtains is the aggressiveness of a relentless opponent (21–2): “Não fales dos meus filhos! Não os uses como argumento para o teu desejo de te deitares com Glauce! Não transformes o instinto animal numa estratégia!” (Don’t you dare speak of my 28  Euripides’ Jason avails himself of other arguments, in a somewhat parallel scene: the generalized animosity against the Colchian, which is mostly grounded on her status as a foreigner, is explained by Jason as a result of Medea’s manifest aggressiveness towards the king, who responds with irritation (Euripides, Medea 453–8). This more ‘political’ tone of the Greek tragedy is less developed in Hélia Correia, who chooses to favor the cultural nuances of the topic. 29  On Medea’s censuring, or even insulting tone, see below, note 32. Conversely, from his perspective, Jason tries to use a more conciliatory tone, and goes so far as allowing the use of a foreign language, which had been so distasteful to him on other occasions. The same difference in tones can also be found in Euripides’ agon.

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


children! Don’t use them as an argument to indulge your desire to sleep with Glauce! Don’t make animal instinct a strategy!). Again, through her heroine’s irate, though lucid voice, Hélia Correia indicates that now, more than ever before, the tension behind this conflict has to do with physis, which claims its rights under the carefully-wrought guise of nomos. Words of accusation are exchanged, bringing to light the truth behind appearances, and the couple’s break becomes final; the last thread that had connected their two lives is now irremediably broken. Adding to Medea’s stateless condition, which had been the result of her violent actions against her own people and family, now Jason erects another wall that separates her from the world of humanity and affections (22): “Nem vosso Zeus podia fazer voltar o tempo àquele instante em que ainda não tinhas dito nada. O mundo acabou. Começou outro”30 (Not even your Zeus would be able to make time go back to that instant when you had not said anything. The world has ended. Another one has begun). All the steps that had shaped their common life course were thus left behind, contrasting, in the outcome that was sealed by these bitter words, with the time when there was genuine harmony between Jason and Medea’s souls, a concord that did not require words to express itself. At that time, there was nothing the Argonaut needed to ask or explain to ensure the princess’s concurrence, despite the fact that, socially, they were enemies. Back then, in their inmost hearts, nature sang hymns of love and empathy (33). Their deep, genuine feelings for each other needed no words – words might even have misrepresented and disturbed it. Now, hypocrisy and hidden interests do require words, elaborate, false, persuasive words. Wrought between obscure feelings, intentions, and objectives, dictated by the contradictory impulses of the human soul, the story of Jason and Medea must be assessed through the difficult accuracy of words. Orthoépeia, ‘the rigor of expression’, is a concept to which Hélia Correia returns. Finding the exact name for the fluidity of emotional reactions influences the soul and affects the

30  This notion according to which words – both the ones that make up a legend and those that antagonize human creatures – can be a propelling element in collective or individual life is a topic repeatedly present in Hélia Correia’s texts; Rancor, 56: “Helena – Sempre a mesma conversa! Haja paciência! Já era altura de mudar de assunto. Etra – Como se fosse um passo de magia. Como se cada um abrisse os olhos e regressasse ao tempo antes de Helena” (Helena – They keep talking about the same thing! I can’t stand it anymore! High time to change the subject. Etra – As if by magic. As if each person could open their eyes and go back to the time before Helena.) In Euripides, Medea’s Nurse makes a similar remark (1–13), saying that she wishes that the past might be undone, so that life could go back to its starting point.



narrative. Is ‘love’ the right name for the experience of the Colchian woman and the captain of the Argos?31 One must, first of all, define ‘love’. Experienced Melana declares (8): “Não se chama de amor um sentimento que existe só durante a escuridão” (You don’t call love a sentiment that exists only during darkness), meaning a sporadic, gratuitous, inconsequential relationship like the one between a master and an attractive slave. But things are quite different between spouses; in this case, anything that entails seduction or stimulates sexual impulse is deemed unfitting and condemned to erosion by a kind of social conventionalism (14): “Melana – Ela está à tua espera. Vestiu-se, penteou-se para ti. Decerto se estendeu no vosso leito. – Jasão – Pareces uma velha alcoviteira. Isso não são maneiras de falar para esposos com filhos” (Melana – She is awaiting you. She has dressed herself and groomed her hair for you. I am sure she is lying in your bed. – Jasão – You sound like an old whoremonger. That is not how you should talk to spouses who have children). But this couple is experiencing the moment when tedium is shaken by the threat of a breakdown. Medea reacts to the idea of having a rival for Jason’s attentions, and in her protest her vibrancy comes from “o orgulho, não o amor” (22) (pride rather than love). The way she judges his treason is proportionate to the natural excess of her character; therefore, there is no right word for Medea’s extreme revolt (25): “Melana – E deveremos chamar amor a coisa tão medonha? – Medeia – Decerto não, eu bem procurei essa palavra nova. Não existe. Se houvesse uma palavra, eu poderia talvez achar conforto, convertê-la num sentimento que me consolasse” (Melana – And should such a thing be called love? – Medeia – Probably not, I really did seek that new word. It does not exist. If there was a word, maybe I could find some comfort, turn it into a feeling that could afford me some consolation). Because her thirst for revenge is not quenched by the annihilation of her rival and the inevitable impact it would have on Jason, she goes even further, using her children as an instrument of retaliation, and taking advantage of the children’s innocence as a shield to protect herself against any suspicion. Surely pragmatism is not the only reason why she chose this strategy. By involving their sons in the tragedy, she aims to utterly destroy both the home she had built and her own self. The excessiveness of her actions bewilders those who 31  Defining the type of relationship that drew the princess to the Argonaut is one of the most unstable motifs in the whole tradition of the Medea myth. The need to find the right word for it is an exercise whose model can be found also in Anouilh; incidentally, “desvario” (madness) is a term equally used by Anouilh and Hélia Correia; see above, p. 76. See López and Pociña (2002).

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


witness them. Melana and Abar, two women who are close to Medea, still try to understand, that is, to name the turmoil in her soul (28): “Abar – A pobre! Causaria compaixão se se chamasse angústia aquilo que sente. Mas em ne­ nhuma língua eu sei dar nome à coisa sem medida que a possui. – Melana – Tu não conheces a palavra, Abar? Nunca a pronunciaste? É o ciúme. – Abar – Isto é mais que ciúme. É desvario” (Abar – The poor thing! It would be a cause for compassion if what she feels could be called distress. But in no language can I find a word to name the excessive thing that possesses her. – Melana – Don’t you know the word, Abar? Have you never said it? It is jealousy. – Abar – This is more than jealousy. It is madness). This love, which desertion had transformed into jealousy to then become madness, is justified before the angry Argonaut, now deprived of a bride who represented to him the conquest of a new treasure. Led again by the hand of a love-sick maiden, the hero intended to conquer a prestigious position of leadership among his people. Anger makes Jason, whom we know as a fearful, cowardly character, loquacious and excessive in his words; his confessions are free from subterfuge and deception, though not necessarily appropriate or subtle. He does not scream out his repentance for having once given in to the temptation of what Medea meant in terms of his immediate interests: the conquest of a treasure and a hero’s crown that might redeem him from human mediocrity. In his anger, he utters the word ‘gratitude’ as an insult where ‘love’ was the word that was expected (32). Then, confronted with Medea’s perplexity before the evidence of what had hitherto been but a mere suspicion, he re-formulates it, ignoring orthoépeia, a weapon that ensures success in an agon as in life: “Amor. Talvez. São precisões desnecessárias, essas” (Love. Maybe. Those are unnecessary niceties). 3

Medea’s Revenge

This awkward, albeit candid, confession is probably what triggers Medea into planning the last of her crimes. She had indeed committed many crimes for the sake of her lover’s ambition – and this is the moment to note it – to the extent that ‘love’ became synonymous with ‘death and violence’. Jason is not wrong in his remark (32): “Dá-se o nome de amor a muita coisa. Até a uma força que destrói” (Many things are called love. Even a force that destroys), at the precise moment when a noise announces that the children are approaching. In a last effort to save them, Medea still tries to lure Jason into fleeing from Corinth, the limit of her dreams, and go back to Colchis, which means returning to the place



where her adventure had begun.32 But Jason has his own future plans, and he dreams of a new odyssey for himself, which includes his children and young Éritra’s red hair, under the bright, warm Corinthian light; in order to be perfect, his dream must also include power and the throne, two seductive goals which Jason cannot reach through Glauce, the legitimate heir, although he might still be able to accede to them through the love of the king’s illegitimate child, Éritra, whom old Creon will surely acknowledge. But, being repudiated one more time, Medea is no less coherent in her predisposition to commit another crime, following the pattern of her extreme responses when faced with serious obstacles. As in Euripides, the monologue where Medea assesses her own state of mind when the time comes for her to commit filicide is significantly long. Suspending the gesture that strikes everyone – Jason, the unfaithful, their children, and her inmost soul, she can still find a word that affords her a last measure of courage (37): “Essa palavra que os designa – mortais – não significa que tarde ou cedo hão-de morrer?” (The word that names them – mortals – doesn’t it mean that sooner or later they are going to die?). This is the end of Medea’s story and the beginning of a whole culture that gave shape – and a voice – to both her feelings and her life. Telling the myth of the Argonauts will forever mean beholding a culture which regarded the seductiveness of words as one amongst its supreme pleasures (9). A different notion of society was built upon words, endowing each individual citizen with freedom, including the right to speak without fear or limitation, which, as is generally recognized, is the ultimate privilege (9). To enjoy the prerogative of being Greek, and thereby gaining access to a clear, higher world, in contrast with the barbarian world, is principally to speak the Greek language but also to aspire to glory that lasts beyond life, immortalized by the voices of the poets (13): “Glória alguma equivale à de reinar numa terra cantada pelos poetas. O que não é narrado, não existe” (No glory is equivalent to the glory of ruling a land sung by poets. What is not narrated does not exist). This is the glory Medea wished for her children: being full-fledged Greeks, both in their lifetime and in the eternal memory that survives death itself. But then Jason’s impudent, though unfortunately true words made her aware of the fact that hers was an illusory dream (20). After all, ‘os filhos da estrangeira’ 32  In this respect, it seems appropriate to recall the commentaries that value Euripidean Medea’s ability to utter words that are more akin to those of heroic morals, placing the values of the soul and affection before material interests. This is perhaps the facet emphasized by H. Correia when her heroine tries to awaken the ideals of love and dignity in Jason, the decadent hero. The lack of empathy of his response to her proposal leaves her isolated, like a Sophoclean hero/ine, betrayed, humiliated, but still resilient and unbroken. On this, see Knox (1977) 193–225; Bongie (1977) 27–56.

Language, Barbarism, and Civilization


(the foreign woman’s sons) are not Greek, nor are they by right the heirs to their father’s throne. Therefore, they become an object of manipulation caught in the midst of their parents’ mutual hostility: ‘argumento de desejo’ (an argument of desire) for Jason, ‘poção’ (a potion) in Medea’s vengeful witchcraft. Torn between two conflicting forces, they are thus dismembered between life and death. This is Medea’s supreme decision (37): “Meus filhos vão comigo para casa. Levarei deles o que de mim descende, a metade divina. Quanto aos corpos ofereço-os, estendidos, a seu pai” (My children are coming home with me. From them I shall take what descends from me, their divine half. As for their bodies, I make a gift of them, lying down, to their father). Such is the end of Medea’s story, which, in parallel with the sentiments at play in this episode, is admittedly unusual, unknown, unspeakable. Those who witnessed it and those who participated in it felt aghast. The same way as those to whom the eternal enigma of this story is presented will be struck with amazement. That is the challenge issued by Hélia Correia in her Medea’s final request (38): “Cidadãos gregos, tudo o que vos cabe é somente ir contando a minha história até que um de entre vós a compreenda!” (Greek citizens, your only duty is to keep telling my story until one of you can understand it). It is, after all, only a question of orthoépeia drawing a precise portrait of something fluid and unfathomable: the deep, dark meanders of the human soul.

chapter 11

Measure in Hélia Correia’s Desmesura: an Exercise in Recreating Classical Rhythm Carlos Morais A1 palavra é, numa só unidade, três coisas distintas – o sentido que tem, os sentidos que evoca, e o ritmo que envolve esse sentido e estes sentidos. Pessoa (1994) 79

(The word is three different things in one unit – its meaning, the meanings it evokes, and the rhythm that envelops that meaning and these meanings)

∵ In the Colloquium Ofícios do Livro, held at the University of Aveiro in 2007, Hélia Correia returned to “sua casa”2 (her home), Greece, from where today’s literature still draws inspiration, in a paper titled “Dois ofícios chamados literatura”3 (Two crafts called literature): A língua grega era muito inflexível, isto é, o criador não era livre de escrever unicamente para transmitir um conteúdo, como no romancezinho barato […]. Os Gregos não podiam escrever assim. Tinham de escrever respeitando o valor do som e da medida de cada palavra, porque em todo o texto literário grego […] o que quer que se quisesse escrever tinha de respeitar o som, a forma, a música. Cada palavra tinha uma organização interna em sílabas longas e breves e a sua escolha dependia essencialmente do esquema métrico a usar. O acento não era o nosso acento tónico, era um acento musical, 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Correia (2007). 3  Correia (2007) 15.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_013

Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura


subia uma oitava, e portanto havia música dentro da palavra, dentro da frase. Cada palavra era uma valiosa peça de puzzle com um determinado recorte e submetida a rigorosas regras de encaixe. De modo algum podia considerar-se um utensílio, uma coisa que servia para dizer outra coisa. Não, era a matéria primordial e essa própria matéria, pelas suas exigências de forma, determinava aquilo que seria dito. Nós lemos Antígona e louvamos merecidamente a sua beleza, mas nunca pensamos que Sófocles teve de a conceber ao milímetro, porque cada fragmento a preencher tinha o seu molde obrigatório […]. A palavra era quase material, ocupava um lugar físico, impunha-se. Esse domínio e a sua aceitação criaram as obras mais belas da humanidade. (The Greek language was very inflexible, that is, the creator was not free to write just to convey a meaning, as in cheap novels […]. The Greeks could not write like that. They had to observe the value of the sound and the meter in each word, for in any Greek literary texts […] whatever one wished to write had to be observant of sound, form, music. Each word had an internal organisation, divided into long and short syllables, and the choice depended mostly on the metrical pattern to be used. Stress was not what our stress is now, it was a musical stress, it went an octave higher, and therefore there was music inside the words, inside the sentences. Each word was a valuable, specifically cut piece of a puzzle and it was subject to strict fitting rules. It could by no means be considered a tool, something that was used to mean something else. No, it was the primordial matter and, given its formal requirements, that same matter did determine what could be said. We read Antigone and rightfully praise its beauty, but we never stop to think about how Sophocles had to design it to a millimetre, for each fragment to be filled had its required mould […]. The word was almost material, it occupied a physical place, it imposed itself. That imposition and the act of yielding to it did create the most beautiful of human works.) While illustrating the author’s profound knowledge on the subject, this long and detailed reference to Greek rhythm also justifies her choices in Desmesura. Exercício com Medeia (Excess. An Exercise with Medea) (2006). Indeed, differently from Perdição. Exercício sobre Antígona (Perdition. An Exercise on Antigone), (1991) and Rancor. Exercício sobre Helena (Rancour. An Exercise on Helen) (2000), Hélia Correia’s well-known fascination with Greek authors – whose texts she reads slowly and carefully so as to study their words, a ritual



which “é uma missa” (is a mass),4 more than a reading – included also their metre in the last of the three plays that form this triad of dramatic mythologies written “in the feminine”. Besides reinventing the fundamental theme of Euripides’ Medea, in Desmesura the author also sought to recreate the rhythm of the dialogues and the lyric parts of the play, as I will demonstrate. 1

The Rhythm of the Dialogues

Being simultaneously a “slave” of thought, as Ricardo Reis5 defines it (1987) 158, and a “master” as concerns the strict structuring and composition of the lines, the rhythm of Greek poetry was principally based on the alternation between long and short syllables, in a relationship of ½ duration roughly equivalent to that of a crotchet and a quaver in musical compositions. Therefore, as in Hélia Correia’s description, each word was “uma valiosa peça de puzzle com um determinado recorte e submetida a rigorosas regras de encaixe” (Each word was a valuable, specifically cut piece of a puzzle and it was subject to strict fitting rules) in the different metrical patterns, which had different degrees of flexibility and variation. In tragic dialogues, the almost exclusive rhythm was iambic trimeter, the reason being that, according to Aristotle,6 it was naturally the most fitting metrical medium for representing the cadence and the tone of informal, everyday language. In the 5th century this metrical structure, which Archilochus endowed with literary dignity, was composed of three metra. Each metron (x – ⋃ –) was constituted by two iambic feet (iamb: ⋃ –), of which the first unit was occupied by an anceps (represented by an x), which means that the 1st, 5th, and 9th positions of the trimeter can be occupied by a short or a long syllable, and the same is true for the last syllable of the sequence, called ἀδιάφορος. From this short description, we can conclude that the iambic trimeter is a line with a 12-syllable based structure, with two major caesuras – the penthemimeral (after the fifth half-foot) and the hephthemimeral (after the seventh half-foot):7

4  Words transcribed from an interview by Hélia Correia to Notícias Magazine, on 22nd June 2008. See Moura (2008) 64. 5  Ricardo Reis is one of the heteronyms of the most important Portuguese poet of the 20th century, Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935). 6  Po. 1449a 22–8, 1459a 11–2. 7  On the iambic trimeter, see Descroix (1931); Korzeniewski (1968) 44–63; Prato et al. (1975); Schein (1979); Philippides (1981); Snell (1982) 19–22; West (1982) 81–8; D’Angelo (1983); Sicking (1993) 88–101; Martinelli (1995) 77–104; Baechle (2007), and Morais (2010).


Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura 1st metron

2nd metron

3rd metron

1st foot

2nd foot

3rd foot

4th foot

5th foot

6th foot

1 x

3 ⋃

5 x

7 ⋃

9 x

11 ⋃

2 –

4 –

6 –

8 –

10 –

12 x

To be in harmony with the cadence of dramatic dialogues, which have a variety of emotional and rhythmical intensities, the trimeter can extend to the next line (enjambement),8 it can be broken into different speeches (antilabē),9 or it can correspond to a single intervention which alternates sequentially with another one of a similar length, in a perfectly symmetrical pattern that accentuates the contrasts of the language of dialogue (stichomythia).10 Whereas the run-on line process allows the logical concatenation of thought when it extends beyond the line limits, the last two are used in moments of marked agitation, heightened emotion, or dramatic intensity, stressing pathos. This happens, for instance, in the final, tense dialogue between Jason and the protagonist in Euripides’ Medea (1363–6, 1393–8): Ια. ὦ τέκνα, μητρὸς ὡς κακῆς ἐκύρσατε. Μη. ὦ παῖδες, ὡς ὤλεσθε πατρώιαι νόσωι. Ια. οὔτοι νιν ἡμὴ δεξιά γ᾿ ἀπώλεσεν. Μη. ἀλλ᾿ ὕβρις οἵ τε σοὶ νεοδμῆτες γάμοι. (…) Ια. φεῦ φεῦ, μυσαρὰ καὶ παιδολέτορ. Μη. στεῖχε πρὸς οἴκους καὶ θάπτ᾿ ἄλοχον. Ια. στείχω, δισσῶν γ᾿ ἄμορος τέκνων. Μη. οὔπω θρηνεῖς· μένε καὶ γῆρας. Ια. ὤ τέκνα φίλτατα. Μη. μητρὶ γε, σοὶ δ᾿ οὔ. Ια. κἄπειτ᾿ ἔκανες; Μη. σέ γε πημαίνουσ᾿. Jason – Children, what an evil mother you got! Medea – Children, how you have perished by your father’s fault! Jason – It was not my hand, you know, that killed them. 8  On enjambement in Greek tragedians, see Prato (1970) 349–55. 9  On antilabē, see Bonaria (1980) 173–88. 10  On stichomythia in Greek tragedy, see Collard (1980) 77–85.



Medea – No: it was the outrage of your new marriage. (…) Jason – Pah! Unclean wretch! Child-murderer! Medea – Go home! Bury your wife! Jason – Yes – bereft of my two sons – I go. Medea – Your mourning has yet to begin. Wait until you are old! Jason – O children most dear! Medea – Yes, to their mother, not to you. Jason – And so you killed them? Medea – Yes, to cause you grief.11 Beginning with a stichomythia, this agōn develops into a final melodramatic dialogue, fragmented by short, excited anapaestic antilabaí.12 This crescendo structuring of the speech translates the spiral of tension and emotion that results from the fact that Jason is alone, deprived of his king’s bed and of his sons after the Colchian sorcerer carries out her horrendous plan. Moreover, the hero also feels impotent, unable to take revenge from the “execranda infanticida” (despicable infanticide) (1406–7) who, far from his reach, on the supernatural level, departs, ex machina, in the Sun’s chariot. But the quality that gives the trimeter cadence the ability to adapt to the rhythm of dramatic speech is the possibility of resolving the long syllables, i.e., of replacing one long syllable with two shorts, which can occur in positions 2 (or 1), 4, 6, 8, and 10 (although more rarely): 1st metron

2nd metron

1st foot

2nd foot

1 ⋃ – ⋃ – ⋃⋃

3 ⋃

2 – – ⋃⋃ ⋃⋃ –

4 –

3rd foot

5 ⋃ – ⋃ ⋃⋃ ⋃ – (⋃⋃ –) (⋃⋃

6 – – ⋃⋃ ⋃⋃ –)

3rd metron 4th foot 7 ⋃ ⋃

8 –

5th foot

9 ⋃ – ⋃⋃ ⋃

(⋃⋃ –)

6th foot

10 11 – ⋃ – ⋃⋃

(⋃⋃ –)

12 x


11  The English translation of all the Medea excerpts quoted in this article is by D. Kovacs (1994). Euripides: Cyclops, Alcestis, Medea. Cambridge, MA-London: Harvard University Press. 12  There are not many antilabaí in Medea. Besides those two, there is a third one four lines below (1402), also in anapaests, and another one in line 1009, an iambic trimeter, both of them occurring in emotionally-laden moments. On this, see Bonaria (1980) 177.

Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura


Thanks to this metric licence, the verse may, in theory, extend to as much as 17 syllables and be organised into about 250 different structures.13 Resolution is thus a rhythm variation that formally enables the poet to use words or expressions with a two short-syllable sequence, which would not fit into an iambic trimeter if its structure were less flexible. However, by breaking the canonical twelve-syllable pattern of the trimeter, turning it into a more fluid and colourful meter, resolution can also function as a stylistic, rather than a merely met­ rical, process, since it introduces a significant rhythm oscillation with an iconic or a deictic function, or both.14 In the first case, the word, with its double short, being similar to its meaning, iconically suggests or imitates the event or idea described; in Medea, lines 496–509 are an example of this: the accumulation of shorts, as a result of six resolutions, in such a brief passage suggests the anger felt by the heroine, betrayed and lost, unable to determine what path to follow in her, and her children’s, life; and again, in lines 1347–8, where the resolved shorts, after a number of apostrophes, underscore the vehemence with which Jason swears at the infanticidal woman who flees in the mechanē.15 Since it draws attention to a meaning that is already present in the word or in the context in which it occurs, resolution can have a deictic value, as was explained above, which is the most productive of its functions. This is the case, for example, in Medea 324, 497, and 710.16 In these three lines, the rhythm variation, which stresses γονάτων (‘knee’, a word that, in this context, suggests a 13  Besides the possible alternation of the spondee and the iamb, in the odd feet, given the anceps nature of the first element in each metron, it can also happen that, with the resolution of the long syllable, the iamb (I: ⋃–) is replaced by the tribrach (T: ⋃⋃⋃), in the first five feet (less often in the 5th), and the spondee (S: – –) in the 1st and 3rd feet can be replaced by a dactyl (D: – ⋃⋃). In the 1st foot, with the resolution of the anceps, an anapaest (A: ⋃⋃ –) may be sporadically found, and it may also occur in the next four feet, in very specific circumstances. Therefore, considering the possibilities of substitution and resolution mentioned (five in the first foot, two in the second, four in the third, two in the fourth, and three in the fifth), it is theoretically possible to produce 240 iambic trimeter structures: eight with 12 syllables, 40 with 13 syllables, 78 with 14 syllables, 74 with 15 syllables, 34 with 16 syllables, and six with 17 syllables. On this, see Morais (2010) 93–102. 14  These two concepts are adapted from two of the three basic types of signs as defined by Pierce (1990) 74 sqq., as concerns the relationship between the signum and the signatum: the icon is a sign that resembles the object it represents; and the index is a sign that refers to the object denoted by virtue of being affected by it. 15  This play has 75 resolutions in about 1030 iambic trimeters, which corresponds to one resolution per 14 lines. Over 50% of these resolutions occur in position 6, less than 25% in position 8, and the rest occurs in position 2 and 4 or in position 1. Cf. Mastronarde (2002) 102–3. 16  The fact that, in this context of pleading, two of these lines (324 and 710) have a double resolution, accentuating the moment’s emotion, is particularly important. The third verse containing a double resolution (1322) describes the moment when, at the end of the play,



gesture of entreaty), highlights the importance of her position as a supplicant as a guarantee of an indissoluble bond of loyalty between the parties involved, which is broken by Jason. In the last of these examples (710), the deictic function of resolution is reinforced by the fact that this keyword in Euripides’ tragedy, in a context of repetition that is typical of a supplication, is also associated to ἱκεσία (pray, supplication), a word that belongs to the same semantic field and which has also a resolution (709–11):17 Μη. ἀλλ᾿ ἄντομαί σε τῆσδε πρὸς γενειάδος γονάτων τε τῶν σῶν ἱκεσία τε γίγνομαι, οἴκτιρον οἴκτιρόν με τὴν δυσδαίμονα… Medea – But I beg you by your beard and by your knees and I make myself your suppliant: have pity have pity on an unfortunate woman … Given that they are only slightly different, these two functions do sometimes overlap, as is the case in Medeia 1176, which is a run-on line:18 Αγ. εἶτ᾿ αντίμολπον ἧκεν ὀλολυγῆς μέγαν κωκυτόν. Messenger – Then indeed she raised a wail in answer to her former shout. In this context, the word ὀλολυγῆς (sharp cry), with a resolution that generates a trimeter, mimetises, through rhythm oscillation and alliteration, its own intrinsic meaning, i.e., according to the Messenger’s account, the shouting and the uproar produced by the news of Glauce’s horrendous death when it reached the palace. Aiming to imitate this twelve-syllable structure, which, as was mentioned above, fits the rhythm of tragic diction, Hélia Correia chose the ten-syllable line rather than the dodecasyllable, which at first sight might seem more

Medea is seen in the Sun’s chariot, the mēchanē provided by her father “como meio de defesa contra mãos inimigas” (as a means of defence against enemy hands). 17  By producing an anapaest and a dactyl [⋃⋃ – ⋃ – | – ⋃⋃ ⋃ – | ⋃ – ⋃ – (AI DI II)] in line 710, the resolutions introduce a meaningful rhythm variation into the trimeter. 18  By producing a tribrach [– – ⋃ – | ⋃ – ⋃⋃⋃ | – – ⋃ – (SI IT SI)], the resolution introduces a rhythm variation with a clear dramatic function into the trimeter.

Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura


logical; she thus followed in the footsteps of António Ferreira in his Castro.19 Like the first Portuguese tragedian, in the dialogue parts of Desmesura, Correia uses this decasyllabic rhythm, which was introduced in Portuguese poetry by Sá de Miranda, in both its heroic and Sapphic varieties, with stresses on the 6th and 10th syllables and on the 4th, 6th, and 10th syllables, respectively. Strong and solemn, suitable for dignified and serious subjects like this, the decasyllable is also, given it outstanding plasticity, adaptable (like the trimeter had been) to all emotional movements and to all rhythmic expressions, as befits a dramatic text in which emotion is “expressa em ritmo através do pensamento”20 (expressed in rhythm through thought). In her exercise of rhythm recreation, Hélia Correia would not be expected to reproduce resolutions, which have to do with a cadence based on syllable quantity and the permutability of longs and shorts, absent from the Portuguese metric system. However, in Portuguese poetry the poetic licences of compression, such as syncopation, apocopation, synaloepha, ecthlipsis, and synaeresis, often allow for the accumulation of syllables, which makes it possible for a line to be extended, like the Greek trimeter, to about 17 grammatical syllables. An extreme example of this amplitude is line 182 (p. 24), spoken by Abar, the Nubian woman whose speeches tend to use this syllable concentration, suggesting her difficulty in speaking other languages besides her mother tongue (181–5, p. 24): Abar – Perdoa. Eu lembro bem a minha língua De infância, a núbia. E o grego que aprendi Quando para cá, vendida, me trouxeram. Receio que teu colco já não tenha Encontrado terreno para raízes. (Abar – Forgive. I well remember my tongue From childhood, the Nubian. And the Greek I learned 19  António Ferreira (1528–1569), the Portuguese humanist, was the author of poetry works inspired by Latin and Italian models, and composed by sonnets, odes, epistles, eclogues, epigrams, and epitaphs. He was also a playwright, authoring two comedies (Comédia do Fanchono ou de Bristo and Comédia do Cioso), besides Castro, a tragedy printed in Lisbon in 1587 which is his most famous piece. Inspired by the classics and imitated by European dramatists, the play addresses the tragic fatality of the love affair between Infante Don Pedro and Don Inês de Castro, who was killed in 1355 by order of King Afonso IV, the Infante’s father, for reasons of state. 20  Pessoa (1994) 73. On the ethos of the (heroic and Sapphic) decasyllable, see Carvalho (1987) 46–55.



When hither, a sold woman, I was brought. I fear that your Colchian has been unable To find a soil for new roots) In this passage, beside the enjambement, which is common to many other, more or less extensive, speeches, we should note the way how the author arranges the words in articulation with the metrical design of the speeches. Central concepts, like her slave condition (“vendida” [sold]) and the different languages she has gradually learned (“grego” [Greek], “colco” [Colchian]), besides her childhood (“a núbia” [the Nubian]), are highlighted by the rhythmic stresses of the heroic decasyllable, on the 6th and the 10th syllables, as well as by one of the pauses, which coincides with the secondary stress on the 4th syllable, more typical of Sapphic decasyllables, which, although in a much smaller number (133 in 990 lines), are harmoniously articulated with the heroic ten-syllable lines throughout the text. However, by introducing rhythm variations and oscillations in the lines similar to those caused by the resolutions, many of which produce meaning, the compression licences may have also an iconic function, in the same way as the trimeter variations, when they translate emotional states or underscore scenic movements, as in lines 60–2, Part I (p. 19): Melana – Que sabes tu, tontinha? Tu que sabes? Éritra – Sei o bastante para … (Voz de Jasão, fora de cena, aproximando-se) Jasão – Ela onde está? Porque não se acha uma mulher em casa? (Melana – What do you know, silly girl? What do you know? Éritra – I know enough to … (Jasão’s voice, off-stage, drawing near) Jasão – Where is she? Why should a woman not be found at home?) Suddenly interrupted by Jasão’s arrival, who comes for Medeia, the last words in Éritra’s dialogue with her mother at the end of the first scene (“Sei o bastante para …” [I know enough to …]) are perfectly articulated, with all the syllables correctly spoken. Not even the preposition para (to), in conformity with the Sapphic stress on the 4th and the 8th syllables, is subject to any apocopation or syncopation, as is usual in normal Portuguese orality. Contrary to this more paced rhythm in Érita’s speech, Jasão’s short antilabē question (“Ela onde

Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura


está?” [Where is she?]) includes two syncopations and one aphaeresis that reduce the six grammatical syllables to three metrical syllables, thus introducing a prosodic acceleration at the end of the line and underscoring the anxious, rapid movement of the lord of the house. With Éritra hidden behind a curtain, the dialogue, which is rather fragmented and alternates undulating Sapphic lines with more ponderous heroic decasyllables, continues now between a not overly outspoken Melana and an authoritarian Jasão (lines 63–71, pp. 19–20): Jasão – Tua senhora onde é que está? Melana – Não sei. Jasão – Isso é resposta que uma escrava dê? Melana – Como queres que responda? Jasão – Por acaso Serás uma criança a quem eu tenha De ensinar a falar? Não to pergunto Pela segunda vez. Melana – Senhor, bem sabes … Jasão – Bem sei o quê, Melana? Melana – Onde ela foi. Jasão – Atrás da núbia? Melana – Sim. Jasão – Para muito longe? Melana – Como é costume. Até onde haja sol. ( Jasão – Your lady, where is she? Melana – I don’t know. Jasão – Is that an answer a slave should give? Melana – How do you want me to answer? Jasão – Are you perhaps a child whom I must teach how to talk? I shall not ask you A second time. Melana – My Lord, you know well … Jasão – What do I know well, Melana? Melana – Whither she went. Jasão – After the Nubian woman? Melana – Yes. Jasão – Very far? Melana – As usual. As far as where the sun shines.



Dry and suggestive of weariness, the slave’s interventions, with the exception of the last one, are always well demarcated by the caesuras that coincide with the stresses and are reduced to short stichic fragments, both at the end of the lines, after the masculine caesuras in the 8th and the 6th syllables (“Não sei” [I do not know]; “Senhor, bem sabes” [My Lord, you know well]; “Onde ela foi” [Whither she went]) at the beginning, in an hexasyllable, or “heróico quebrado” (a heroic alexandrine broken in half), as it is also called in Portuguese (“Como queres que responda?” [How do you want me to answer?]), and after the feminine caesura of the 5th syllable (“Sim” [Yes]). This disrespectful attitude on the part of the slave – who enjoyed a special status in the palace because she had shared the king’s bed – exasperates Jasão, who scolds her twice. In a clearly higher tone of voice, the second of these scoldings (ll. 65–8, p. 19), which is demarcated by the main stresses, begins and ends in the middle of the line, developing a melodic movement that flows out of the cadence of the metrical unit, since the thought conveyed is carried on, through an enjambement, from one line to the other, suggesting a harsh speech, delivered in almost one breath. In this passage, a small sample of Hélia Correia’s masterly skill as regards her management of rhythm in Desmesura, it becomes evident that the stress, which establishes short rhythmic pauses, is a structuring element of the sentence, very often serving as a pivot in stichomythic transitions and, especially, in antilabaí. Differently from Euripides, who, in line with older practices, uses the former technique of dialogic structuring (stichomythia) in his Medea, Hélia Correia prefers the latter (antilabē) as a means of conveying added tension and movement to dramatic confrontations. Thus, from two antilabaí lines in the 1030 iambic trimeters in Medea we now have 153 in the non-lyrical 990 lines of Desmesura. Of these, 129 have a double antilabē, 14 a triple antilabē, and two (464 and 510, pp. 34–5) are scattered through four different speeches. The first of these two lines (464), which coincide with the most extreme case of rhythm agitation in Desmesura, significantly belongs to the first, tense agōn between Medeia and Jasão, when the sorcerer, upon learning that the hero intended to marry Glauce, feels despised and betrayed and asks what will become of her who had left “família, e pátria, e língua / E tudo o mais, a vida” (her family, homeland, and language / And all else, her life) (vv. 473–4, p. 34) for the sake of love: Jasão – Trata-se de um acordo, uma aliança. Medeia – E eu? Jasão – Tu? Medeia – Eu.


Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura

Jasão –

De ti nada foi dito. Poderias talvez viver aqui … (lines 463–5, p. 34)

( Jasão – This is about an agreement, an alliance. Medeia – What about me? Jasão – You? Medeia – Me. Jasão – Nothing was said about you. Maybe you could live here …) Most of the antilabē lines in Correia’s play have a point of fracture in the caesura, which can be masculine or feminine, after the stresses on the 4th and the 8th syllables (47 cases), exactly the syllable where the decasyllable is broken into an “heróico quebrado” (hexasyllable) and a tetrasyllable. 2

The Rhythm of the Lyric Parts

It is precisely with the first of those two rhythmic patterns, which is quite flexible and has variable stresses (and therefore lends itself to a mournful, monotonous melopoea21) that, like António Ferreira in some of the Choruses of his Castro, Hélia Correia composes the first of two lyric texts, sung between Part I and Part II (pp. 13–4): Lamento pelos Heróis (Coro masculino)

1. Ai do homem que deixa A cidade sem guarda E responde ao apelo Ardiloso do mar. Que é a eternidade Mais que uma sombra parda? Parda sombra o herói Se irá também tornar.

3. Ai do homem que cai No fulgor da batalha E assiste ao festim Que é o seu funeral Morre longe de quem Lhe teceu a mortalha Morre longe da paz A que sempre quis mal.

21  On the ethos of the hexasyllable, or “heróico quebrado”, see Carvalho (1987) 48, 73–83, 110.


Morais 2. Mata, mata o guerreiro Entre o corpo e a lança Põe seu escudo de couro Põe a sua ambição Sobre o pó do terreiro Alguma coisa dança É o sangue a tombar Como folha no chão.

4. Ai do pobre mortal Que nasceu masculino Que do leite da mãe Em vão se alimentou. Não pôde ela, falando, Impedir-lhe o destino. Só aos homens ouviu Só à glória escutou.

Lament for the Heroes (Male chorus)

1. Woe the man who leaves The city unguarded And responds to the cunning Call of the sea. What is eternity But a mere grey shadow? A grey shadow the hero Shall also be.

3. Woe the man who falls In the fulgor of war And witnesses the feast Of his own funeral He dies far from the one Who had woven his shroud He dies far from the peace That he always did hate.

2. The warrior kills, he kills Between his body and his spear He places his leather shield Leaves his ambition Upon the dust of the ground Something is dancing It is blood that falls Like a leave to the ground.

4. Woe the poor mortal Who was born a male Who was fed in vain With his mother’s milk. With her words she could not Free him from his fate. He only heard men Only listened to glory.

In four octaves, with enclosed rhyme between the 2nd and the 6th, and the 4th and the 8th hexasyllables (“heróicos quebrados”), in a plangent song reminiscent of the Greek kommoi, the male chorus prepares Jasão’s entrance bearing the news that he is planning a marriage of convenience between himself and the young daughter of the Corinthian king, which exposes his unlimited ambition for power. Anticipating the reader-spectator’s judgement, the choristers express a veiled criticism of the hero. They complain about his attitude when he insensibly responds to the appeal of the sea, leaving the city unprotected. They complain about the male hero who, listening only to men, seeks glory and eternity on the battlefield, forgetting that he is nothing but a grey shadow, a leaf that falls to the ground and dies far from the one who wove his shroud, far from the peace he had never loved.


Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura

The second lyric text, now for a female chorus, is a hymn to Hécate, the goddess of magic arts and crossroads, and a relative of Medeia’s22 (pp. 14–5):

A serpente Que desliza É o jorro De uma ferida Sangra a terra Da barriga Lua negra Que ilumina A paisagem Da chacina

Hino a Hécate (Coro feminino) 3 (1) + 3 3 (1) + 3 3 (1) + 3 3 (1) + 3 3 (1) + 3

A senhora Das três caras Dona das Encruzilhadas Das três vias Aziagas Com as três Cadelas bravas Solta a sua Gargalhada.

3 (1) + 3 1 (2) + 4 3 (1) + 3 3+4 3 (1) + 3

Fazedora 3 (1) + 3 De hecatombes Tombas, Hécate, 3 (1) + 3 Os mortais No desastre, 3 + 4 Astro da febre, No fulgor 3 + 4 Dos temporais. Leva as armas 3 (1) + 3 Para a cova Herói macho, 3 + 4 Herói perdido. Que ao luar 3 + 4 A mulher dança Sobre a tumba 3 (1) + 3 Do marido.

22  In Correia’s play Hécate is sometimes the mother of Circe, who is Medeia’s aunt, and sometimes she is Medeia’s own mother. In the Euripidean original, Medea also invokes Hecate, in the monologue where she plans her vengeance (E. Med. 397).



The serpent That glides Is the gush Of a wound The earth bleeds From the womb Black moon That lightens The landscape Of slaughter

Hymn to Hecate (Female chorus)

The three faced Lady Mistress of The crossroads Of the three ways Ill-omened With the three Wild bitches Laughs out Loud.

Maker of Hecatombs Tombs, Hecate, The mortals In disaster Star of fever In the fulgor Of storms Take your weapons To the grave Male hero, Lost hero. For in the moonlight The woman dances On her husband’s Tomb)

Fittingly opening Part 3, this Hymn prepares the audience for the implementation of the protagonist’s vengeance plan, which includes using poisons. However, if the song’s place is appropriate, its agitated cadence, suggestive of a Greek dochmiac, is no less so. In a structure that seeks to reconstruct the Greek triadic composition, with a ten-line strophe and antistrophe and a 16line epode, the short rhythmic segments that constitute it are irregular, ranging between the monosyllable (1 case) and the tetrasyllable (6 cases), and the trisyllable, which is the dominant pattern (29 cases). However, if paired up, these lines form regular, although rhythmically quite flexible, heptasyllables, since they have an erratic periodicity [3 (1)+3; 3+4; 1(2)+4], with caesuras coinciding

Measure in Hélia Correia ’ s Desmesura


sometimes with the unstressed and sometimes with the stressed syllables, and unstressed ranges of three to five syllables.23 Thus patterned, these sequences suggest quick circular motions, marked by the vowel rhymes, or assonances, of the decastiches and the consonant rhymes of the final stanza, which highlight the serpent’s sly gliding, the fulgor of the storms with which Hecate kills the mortals, and, in a clear allusion to the play’s concluding scene, the woman dancing on her husband’s tomb. It may be concluded from this analysis that the rhythm of the lyric and recited parts of this play is, as Pessoa wrote, “preso aos sentidos que a palavra comporta ou sugere”24 (bound to the meanings that the word includes or suggests). Indeed, by measuring her Desmesura, in an exercise of rhythmic re-creation of Euripides’ Medea, and with refined technical quality, Hélia Correia endowed the words in her tragedy with not only the “sentido que [têm e] os sentidos que evoca[m]” (meaning they have and the meanings they evoke), but also with “o ritmo que envolve esse sentido e estes sentidos”25 (the rhythm that enfolds that meaning and these meanings).

23  The general range of unstressed is three syllables, except for the 5 syllables in lines 13–4. On the heptasyllable, see A. Carvalho (1987) 67–72. 24  Pessoa (1994) 80. 25  Pessoa (1994) 79, text quoted in the epigraph.

chapter 12

Medea in the Society of Entertainment: a Reading of Mário Cláudio’s Medeia Maria António Hörster and Maria de Fátima Silva SRD1 – Eu situo-o sempre num tempo que é pretérito e menos apontado para o futuro. MC – Por uma razão muito simples: vou à procura de mitos. E não há mitos no futuro. Os mitos estão todos ligados ao passado. Na contemporaneidade haverá mitos, mas estão ainda em formação, não os encontro. [O meu tempo é] o presente e o passado. O passado lido à luz do presente.2 (I always associate you with a time past and not so much directed at the future) (For a very simple reason: I seek myths. And there are no myths in the future. Myths are all connected with the past. There are perhaps myths in our days, but they are still being formed, I cannot find them. [My time is] the present and the past. The past read in the light of the present.)

∵ 1 Introduction These words by Mário Cláudio, an excerpt of an interview given by the author to Selecções Reader’s Digest when he was awarded the Prémio Pessoa (2004), provides a key to the work discussed in this chapter: his play Medeia, premièred 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Mário Cláudio: «O desafio seria inventar uma autobiografia» (“The challenge would be to invent an autobiography”). http://www.seleccoes.pt/m%C3%A1rio_cl%C3%A1udio_%C2%ABo_ desafio_seria_inventar_uma_autobiografia: [active on March 2, 2014]. © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_014

Medea in the Society of Entertainment


on March 2nd 2007 by Teatro Experimental de Cascais.3 Because there are no modern myths, or because the author cannot find them, as he explains in the quotation above, he resorts to a traditional myth – that of Euripides – to which he brings a convergence of two time dimensions that illuminate each other dialectically, the past and the present. Mário Cláudio further wrote in the advertising programme for the performance: A cada Medeia, entendida pelas variáveis da história, ou da geografia, sobra em desvario quanto lhe escasseia em argúcia. Não que a inteligência se lhe distinga da paixão, iluminada como vai pela chama da fúria, mas é pela ruína que investe, cega aos gestos que lhe permitem a edificação de si, e a prossecução dos seus planos. A mulher que evolui à nossa vista maniacamente destruirá, conforme à heroína que abraça, os filhos, que nela engendrou o amante traidor. E até a casa de teatro, na qual um palco vazio, corroído pelo interminável tempo de um país pequeníssimo, parecia esperar por ela, até essa acabará por ir sendo lentamente demolida. Ninguém recupera um mito, este ou um qualquer, sem que se lhe queimem os dedos na incomodidade da empresa. Pode no entanto perdoar-se a tentativa de o insuflar de um resíduo de sentimentos fingidamente novos, o da angústia que trucida a mãe presa do terror de vir a ser devorada pelos que pariu, o da catástrofe que a nossa suicidária tendência não deixa de provocar nos outros, ou o da substituição da estratégia política pela táctica da informação. (Seen through the variables of history, or of geography, each Medea lacks in wit what she possesses in excess of madness. Not that, in her, intelligence can be distinguished from passion, illuminated as she is by the flame of anger, but she invests rather in ruin, blind to the gestures that would enable her to construct herself and to carry out her plans. In conformity with the heroine she embraces, the woman that manically develops before our eyes will annihilate the children whom her disloyal lover had engendered in her. And the theatre house itself, corroded by the

3  This production signalled the 41 years of activity of the Teatro Experimental de Cascais company, under the direction of Carlos Avilez. The text’s single role was played by actress Anna Paula, whose age and maturity certainly emphasised her identification with the character she was supposed to portray. Mário Cláudio’s Medeia (2008) will henceforth be referred to as “Cláudio a” followed by the relevant page number(s).


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endless time of a tiny little country, even that hous e will end up being slowly demolished.) (No one can recuperate a myth, this one or any other myth, without his/ her fingers burning from the uncomfortable nature of the deed. However, he/she can be forgiven for the attempt to breath into it a residue of feignedly new sentiments, the anguish that mutilates the mother terrified at the possibility of eventually being devoured by those she bred; the catastrophe that our suicidal tendency necessarily causes in others; or the substitution of information tactics for political strategy.) This statement by the author can be approached as a kind of ‘letter of intent’ which will guide us in this reflection. Among the different facets through which his reading of the Medea myth is defined, what we are mostly interested in here is the dialogue between different epochs and contexts, a topic that will be emphasised in this chapter. Born in Porto in 1941, Mário Cláudio4 has published an extensive and diverse body of work that includes such different literary forms as poetry, drama, essay, and narrative fiction (including such genres as the novel, the novella, and the short-story).5 His indefatigable literary activity also includes translation. However, his major field of work is narrative fiction, which is perhaps where the author feels more comfortable. Some of his best-known novels, like Amadeo, Guilhermina e Rosa, a novel tryptich later re-titled Trilogia da Mão (Trilogy of the Hand), immediately indicate one of Mário Cláudio’s most obvious preferences: the cultivation of biographical fiction. Mário Cláudio interprets the figures of a diverse range of Portuguese artists, from modernist painter Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso (1887–1918) and internationally acclaimed cellist Guilhermina Suggia (1885–1950) to the humble representative of popular Portuguese pottery Rosa Ramalho (1888–1977).6 Besides their extremely 4  Rui Manuel Pinto Barbot Costa’s nom de plume. 5  Among other distinctions, the author has received the following awards: Grande Prémio de Romance e Novela da Associação Portuguesa de Escritores (Portuguese Writers’ Association Grand Prix for Novel and Novella) (1984) for Amadeo; in 1997, the Portuguese PEN Club fiction award; Prémio Pessoa award (2004); Prémio Clube Literário do Porto (2005); “Chevalier de L’ordre des Arts et des Lettres”, awarded by the French Ministry of Culture in 2006; Prémio – Personalidade do Ano – Categoria: Literatura | Gala: The Best of Porto (Personality of the Year Award – Category: Literature) (2006); Prémio Vergílio Ferreira award (2008); Grande Prémio de Romance e Novela da Associação Portuguesa de Escritores (Portuguese Writers’ Association Grand Prix for Novel and Novella) (2014), for Retrato de rapaz (Portrait of a Boy). 6  A world-class painter of high-calibre, Souza-Cardoso was a member of the first generation of Portuguese modernist painters. His work dialogues with the avant-garde movements of

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different artistic expressions, these figures also represent very diverse strata of the Portuguese social fabric. The historic novel has also been for Mário Cláudio a means to gain access to the personality of the Portuguese people as a collective. The initial motivation that triggers much of his novelistic production may be a true historical event narrated by a Portuguese chronicler, such as Fernão Lopes (1380–1390? – ca. 1460), or the sculpture details found by the author in a tomb, which caused him to approach a major national myth like that of Pedro and Inês.7 An important part of his production concerns the city of Porto, Cláudio’s birthplace, circumscribing a more restricted, regional identity. In short, this author has chosen many different literary forms to interpret and disseminate his Portuguese historical, cultural, and literary heritage. Thus, the fact that topics like “portugalidade” (portugueseness) or “lusita­ nismo” (lusitanism)8 are found in the bibliography dedicated to our author does not really come as a surprise. The decisive impulse behind a substantial his time, such as Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism. Guilhermina Suggia showed exceptional music skills from very early in her childhood; she lived and worked in Paris with Pablo Casales and the pair were considered to be the major cellists of their time. Rosa Ramalho, who worked only in Portugal, was a woman of humble origins; although she had been familiar with clay work techniques from an early age, only at 68 years of age did she start to produce the fanciful dramatic statuettes inspired by popular and religious culture that made her famous. 7  Inês de Castro is the protagonist of a Portuguese ‘myth’ of love and death. From Galicia, this lady of the Castilian court came to Portugal in the entourage of Dona Constança, who was betrothed to the heir of the Portuguese throne, the future Don Pedro I (1320–1367). However, between Pedro and Inês there developed an incontrollable love that produced four children. For political reasons, this love led to her assassination upon the orders of Don Afonso IV, the reigning monarch. Don Pedro’s vengeance was horrendous: he had her assassins killed and, according to tradition, organised a funeral cortege from Coimbra to Alcobaça, and demanded that the nobility acknowledged dead Inês as queen. He commissioned two magnificent tombs for Inês and himself at the Monastery of Alcobaça. Luís de Camões wrote about these events in The Lusiads (stanza 118), his national epic, where the poet famously describes Inês as “aquela que depois de morta foi rainha” (“the queen who was crowned after death”). Besides Camões, this episode from Portuguese history, with its romantic potential, has been converted into a veritable national myth, giving rise to many artistic and literary versions, including tragedies such as A Castro, by António Ferreira (1587), A nova Castro (The New Castro), by the Neoclassicist João Baptista Gomes Júnior (late 18th century) and Pedro, o Cru (Pedro, the Cruel), by António Patrício (1913); and novels such as A paixão de Pedro o Cru (The Passion of Pedro, the Cruel), by Afonso Lopes Vieira (1940), Adivinhas de Pedro e Inês (The Riddles of Pedro and Inês), by Agustina Bessa-Luis (1983), Memórias de Inês de Castro (Memories of Inês de Castro), by António Cândido Franco (1990), and Inês de Portugal (Inês of Portugal), by João Aguiar (1997). 8  Cf. Carla Sofia Gomes Xavier Luís, Língua e Estilo: um Estudo da Obra Narrativa de Mário Cláudio, Centro de Estudos em Letras, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real, 2011.


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part of his production is indeed the will to interrogate, to explore, to try and understand who the Portuguese are, as a people, as a political, social, and cultural entity, to find their roots, to propose a meaning for the cultural manifestations of illustrious, and less illustrious, Portuguese, to dig up memories, to re-create historical periods, moments and facts that shed new light on both their past and their present. Within this inquiry into both the Portuguese historical and social reality and its imaginary which constitutes the mother ore of Mário Cláudio’s production, the presence of the Euripidean theme of Medea emerges at first sight as a random incursion into ancient Greek drama. However, far from being a departure from his exploration of what constitutes Portuguese identity, this play can be read as an interpretation of contemporary Portuguese society, with the myth of Medea being used to illuminate the present. 2

Sources for a New Medea

Cláudio’s play is composed of nine tableaux, with a prologue and an epilogue, and features a female character, Medeia, as protagonist. This lonely Portuguese woman who is entering her old age is an actress now at the end of her career who had always cherished an obsessive plan of performing Euripides’ Medea.9 The text is relatively short, guided by a principle of reduction, which becomes immediately obvious in its list of characters: from among all the classical myth’s dramatis personae, Medeia is the only one on stage in this Portuguese play. The same principle applies to the spaces where the action is set, which are limited to a throne hall, the actress’s dressing-room, and the living-room of the house where she lives by herself; in other cases, as in the epilogue, locations are not identified. The spectator is confronted with nearly bare settings, the only stage props being a throne;10 a dressing table, a mirror, a wig, and a strange, though evocative, sheep’s skull;11 a sofa, a telephone and a tape-recorder, some sheets of paper;12 a wheelchair.13 In their starkness, these props suggestively hint at the different phases of a lifetime.14 9  This specification and the recitations that the character will later perform convey a relevant piece of information, i.e., Euripides is Mário Cláudio’s only source in this play. 10  Cláudio a (2008) 9, 12. 11  Cláudio a (2008) 17, 18, 19, 24, 28, 33, 34, 35. 12  Cláudio a (2008) 19, 21, 22, 23. 13  Cláudio a (2008) 51. 14  In the Teatro Experimental de Cascais performance, the two dressing-room and livingroom settings occupied two opposite sides of the stage, with the actress moving from one to the other, shifting between the two basic realities of her life.

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The scenic effects consist mostly of a specific use of light and shadow15 and sound effects, such as the sound of waves, the telephone bell ringing, or the ringing of a stage bell, besides the insistent noise of sledgehammers, a child’s scream, the siren of an ambulance, or the shots of a gun. These sound effects have different functions and they may either be used as a Wagnerian-style ‘leitmotif’, associated with specific emotional states such as moments of recollection and daydreaming, or they can metonymically or metaphorically re-present past events or events happening offstage. The stage is repeatedly plunged into total darkness, with only Medeia’s face being lit, as happens in the first tableau and then again in the fifth and the eighth. As in Greek tragedy, Mario Cláudio establishes a relationship between the time of the action and dramatic time. According to Greek convention, although the action takes only a short time, preferably one day, there are expedients available to enable playwrights to re-dimension it, as concerns the past and the future. Besides the characters, who, by reason of their age, experience, or prophetic abilities, have the power of incarnating memory or foresight, the Chorus too has the role of recalling the past as an explanation of both the present and the future within the uninterrupted chain of events of human life. In the Portuguese text, where there is no Chorus, the passing of time is signalled by stage directions: at least twenty years have elapsed between the first and the last tableaux.16 Despite this long period of time, not much happens in terms of the plot; the life of this Portuguese Medea is also only minimally changed, since all the projects she had been entertaining for decades have successively failed to be accomplished. One might ask: Why Medea? What in Euripides’ play recommends its pro­ tagonist as a reflective light for an interpretation of Portuguese contemporan­ eity, which seems to be Cláudio’s major objective? First and foremost, Euripides’ Medea is a classical reference, a major creation focused on a female figure. Additionally, Medea is the paradigm of a passion that failed to work, of the pursuance of a project which not even all her excesses managed to materialise. 15  Besides the specific lighting effects within each tableau, the rule is that lights are turned off and/or on again alternating between them. For example, the stage directions for the first tableau read as follows: “Cena inteiramente às escuras, vendo-se iluminado apenas o rosto de MEDEIA” (The scene is in complete darkness with only MEDEIA’s face lit); or, immediately afterwards, “Apagam-se as luzes. Ouve-se um marulho de ondas que se espraiam nos seixos. Reacendem-se as luzes, a iluminar a partir de agora a inteira figura de MEDEIA, sentada no seu trono. Extingue-se gradualmente o marulho das ondas” (Lights are turned off. Splashing of waves spreading over the pebbles. As the lights are turned on again, the sound of waves is gradually suppressed. MEDEIA is standing). (Cláudio a (2008) 11, 12, 14). 16  The stage directions for the fourth and seventh tableaux both indicate that another ten years have passed (Cláudio a (2008) 25, 37).


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But Medea is also ‘the foreigner’, one who is misjudged and, despite all her best efforts, cannot adapt to the hostile world that surrounds her and rejects her. And, lastly, like the Colchian princess, the Portuguese Medea is not lacking in strength, the ability to fight for a dream, which she never gives up, even in the face of adversity. Cláudio’s Medeia reflects these features, although less incisively, for she has been conditioned by a society who has lost its notion of grandeur; because she never gave up her life project – to perform Euripides’ play – which appears increasingly unrealistic, this woman of the theatre becomes more and more lonely and alienated. The pressure becomes tighter around her till, unlike her Euripidean model, she ends up dying. But a second question is also in order: Why then give the name of Medea to this woman, a middle-class bourgeois with an unnotably, ordinary private life, hinted at in some family conversations as “uma grande actriz falhada” (a great failed artist)?17 At a more superficial level, this name obviously fits her insofar as her whole life had been dedicated to the project of embodying the Euripidean heroine. However, the name is explained mostly by the fact that this project stuck so tightly to her skin that this woman eventually began to assess and to lead her own life as a function of Greek drama, in a process of identification more mental than real. The opening sentences of her first speech show that she is well aware of this:18 “Eu ralho comigo mesma, ‘Como és doida, Medeia, teimas em te queixar, quando o que os outros pretendem é apenas levar a vida da melhor maneira possível, teimas em te queixar, erguendo-te contra o Rei e contra o teu próprio marido’” (I scold myself, ‘How crazy you are, Medea, you stubbornly complain when everybody else merely wishes to live their lives as best as possible, you stubbornly complain, raising against the King and your own husband’). The same dissonance between tragic grandeur and small daily gestures can be heard in the moments when Medeia becomes aware of the mediocrity of affections and of the absence of room for big gestures:19 “Bem mais felizes terão sido essas mulheres antigas, descidas de um reino de taças de veneno e de tronos derrubados, desgrenhando a cabeleira no ventre dos seus amantes. Pariam em sangue, em sangue assassinavam” (Certainly those ancient women must have been much happier, descending from a kingdom of cups of poison and overthrown thrones, dishevelling their hair in the belly of their lovers. In blood they delivered, in blood they murdered). While she envies the grandeur with which Greek tragedy redeems the unremarkableness of daily life, the 17  Cláudio a (2008) 24. 18  Cláudio a (2008) 11, s.n. 19  Cláudio a (2008) 28.

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Portuguese actress, who undergoes a process that might be understood as one of growing alienation, goes so far as to criticise Euripides for his absence of a stark representation of reality as it actually happens:20 “‘A chuva desta noite espalhou pela terra as azeitonas antes que amadurecessem’. O texto de Eurípides não contém, mas devia conter, uma fala assim” (‘Tonight the rain scattered the olives all over the earth before they could ripen’. Euripides’ text does not include a sentence like this, but it should). The actress’s interiorisation of the Greek play is not limited to the creation of a self-image as Medea: it also extends to everyone around her, which is the reason why she gives her husband the name of Jasão (Jason),21 all her rivals are seen as Glaucis,22 and the authority responsible for Culture is identified with Creon.23 But enhancing the incompatibility between the character’s name and the banality of her gestures and her language is reminiscent of an equivalent process in the development of Greek tragedy itself. Thus, while Aeschylus, the comic figure in Aristophanes’ Frogs (1058–61), advocates a similar practice to that of the tragedy of older times, i.e., a strict coherence between the characters’ status, the elevation of the situations they experience, the language and the gestures through which they are expressed, Euripides, who presents himself as a reformer of the genre in its decadent phase, is accused in the same comedy of preferring the oikeia prágmata (958, “domestic or daily, common or undignified matters”), which had kept only their mythical traditional names while using the language and adopting the behaviors of the lowest level of ordinary life. 3 Rewriting Medea in Contemporary Portugal Societies and groups return to myths – whether confined to a specific national space or, as happens with classical myths, with a wider dissemination and impact – to identify themselves, redefining or readjusting their world view. In the first decade of the 21st century, Portugal shares the features of contemporary western societies: a predominance of economic considerations and the resulting loss of values, deterioration of family and interpersonal bonds, mass-oriented entertainment and the devaluing of high culture. This is the background against which Cláudio designs a Medea figure who is self-willed like her model, 20  Cláudio a (2008) 28. 21  Cláudio a (2008) 17. 22  Cláudio a (2008) 40. 23  Cláudio a (2008) 37.


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but who is also resourceless and therefore unable to advance her projects, both professionally and as concerns her family. The adaptation of the myth to this new context must include a displacement of the action from the conventional aristocratic milieu of Greek tragedy – ­although Euripides did start an effort to bring it closer to the concerns of daily life – to a bourgeois environment where contemporary reality can be identified. Characters, situations, and language are confined to a general conventionality, which no one except Medeia can escape, even if only partially. For the author, rewriting Medea in contemporary Portugal means recreating, at least in part, the solemnity of its Greek matrix. The prologue (Cláudio a (2008) 9–10) signals exactly that she materialises the image of a classical text in her attitude, summing up the Medea theme – “Silenciosa, hieraticamente sentada no seu trono” (Silent, hieratically seated on her throne) – and becomes the expression of a certain theatrical rhythm, of the ostensible solemnity that is found in Greek tragedy. This is the character’s facet that is compatible with the extraordinary aim she pursues. However, another, contrasting, facet of hers is that, in spite of her dream, she adapts to the surrounding mediocrity, adopting the standards of behaviour and the language that are generally used. 3.1 The Two Faces of Medeia From the very first tableau Mário Cláudio’s rewriting of the Medea myth evinces a deviation that we believe is fundamental as concerns its meaning for contemporary Portugal. We might even say that this tableau functions as a kind of new prologue, aimed at establishing another meaning, the meaning the author has in mind for this Portuguese play. The tableau begins with the recitation of passages from Euripides concerning the experience of love, notably Medea’s first meeting with Jason, to end with the reading of a letter addressed to the minister of Culture where the Portuguese protagonist requests funding for staging the play in Portugal. The major difference here as regards Euripides becomes immediately clear in the design of the tableau, based as it is on these two aspects. Structurally, there are three nuclei, physically separated by a lighting effect.24 In the first, where Medea starts by introducing herself to the spectators while rehearsing some passages from Euripides (Cláudio a (2008) 11; Euripides, Medea 869–71), the character’s love and family dimensions prevail. Her meeting with her future husband, their burning passion, and the two boys who were born of that relationship are evoked in a poetic tone. 24  Successive stage directions, mentioning lights on or off, the noise or the silence of the sea, punctuate different dreams, evocation, experience, and disillusionment stages (Cláudio a (2008) 11, 12, 14, 15 passim).

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The second nucleus discloses the frustration of a woman who recalls the words of an anonymous voice25 denying that she has the necessary skills to perform the role of the great tragic character, assessing her abilities as being rather more compatible with a mediocre career in the circus. Although not identified, this voice can be ascribed to her husband – who may be read as a spokesperson for the community – both because of its inconsiderate and futile tone and for the fact that, immediately after this passage, Medea recites the lines of the Euripidean text where the heroine’s plans of revenge are described: “Mandarei um presente à tua mulher, o que de mais belo se consiga encontrar à face da Terra, e serão os meninos que lho hão-de levar” (Cláudio a (2008) 13; Euripides, Medea 947–50) (I shall send your wife a gift, the finest thing that can be found on the face of the Earth, and the boys will be the ones to take it). Here too this Portuguese Medea is aware of the gulf between her chosen emotional homeland, the world of Greek culture, and her own reality, since she comments to herself immediately after the Euripidean quotation: “Eu acho que posso dizer estas palavras sem parecer ridícula” (I believe I can say these words without sounding ridiculous).26 In other words, she, who had adhered to the heroic plan of the Greek heroine during her whole life, is aware of her mediocre stature, a projection of her surrounding context, while she seems to have interiorised the criticism that society, possibly through Jason’s words, directs at her. And last, an important element in the third nucleus is the recitation of the letter that Medeia addresses to the Ministry of Culture, which signals a major divergence vis-à-vis the Greek matrix. Throughout the actress’s life, her public intervention as an advocate of theatre is no less important than her private and emotional life.27 Medeia’s decadence is manifested at two parallel levels: to Jasão’s infidelities she responds with her own infidelities and by accommodating herself sentimentally, although she never reaches the dimension of tragedy; her public life gives her plenty of reasons for frustration, to which she 25  “Que disparate, menina! A Medeia não é para ti. Pede outro corpo, outra voz, outra maneira de estar. Tu não tens ancas, já viste? Nasceste para executar um número no arame, agarrada à sombrinha, até aos vinte anos.” (What nonsense, girl! Medea is not for you. Demands for a different body, a different voice, a different carriage. You’ve got no hips, have you noticed that? You were born to do tightrope walking, holding an umbrella, before your twenties) (Cláudio a (2008) 13). 26  Cláudio a (2008) 13; s.n. 27  When confronted with her husband’s treason, her comment shows that her career is more important to her than her family life (Cláudio a [2008] 18): “À noite recebi-o como se nada fosse, uma actriz perdoa tudo excepto o sucesso que visita as colegas (…)” (I welcomed him in the evening as if nothing had happened; an actress can forgive anything but her colleagues’ success […]).


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reacts with a mixture of defiance and powerlessness. Her great dream does not find the conditions for its fulfilment in a society that simply fails to understand her. There is a marked contrast between the declamation of the letter, with its purely bureaucratic register, and the daydreaming that follows. To express the indifferent silence with which her request is met Medeia transposes herself to a Greek world and resorts to mythological references to describe the passing of time.28 The pragmatic tenor of her letter and its interaction with Portuguese public life clashes with the visionary nature of our Medeia in her figurations of the classical world. The stage direction – “Irónica” (Ironically) – hints at the fact that, although Medeia’s immersion in the Greek world may be unrealistic and fantasy-driven, she does not lose sight of the reality that surrounds her and is aware of the difference between the two. 3.2 The Different Language Levels Mário Cláudio’s text, bringing Euripides to a new audience in a new conjuncture, in terms of both time and culture, includes the recitation of excerpts from the Greek tragedy, justified in the new context by the protagonist’s repeated rehearsals of the play. There tends to be some connection between the passages rehearsed by the Portuguese actress, especially those that express an attempt to appease a conflicting couple,29 and her own self and personal experiences. This explains the author’s effort to introduce some disjunction into the tone of the tragic heroine so as to make it more compatible with that of a common woman who tries, to no avail, to fit into her model’s shoes. Her misconstrued attempt at a dialogue with the Argonaut, which reveals a definite incompatibility between their souls and their life projects despite 28  Cláudio a (2008) 14–5. Note the fanciful tone with which, after reading the letter, Medea describes the passing of time: “A candidatura foi apresentada numa tarde de Primavera, numa dessas em que o vento arrebatava as primeiras folhas dos plátanos. (Irónica.) Decorreu a estação em que andavam os filhos de Perséfone, muito ligeiros, a ajudá-la a entretecer grinaldas de flores. Entrou o Verão, e veio Deméter dirigir a ceifa do trigo. Abriu o Outono, e apareceram Apolo e Ártemis (…)” (The application was submitted in a Spring afternoon, one of those afternoons where the wind would begin robbing plane-trees of their leaves. [Ironically]. The season went by as Persephone’s nimble children were helping her weave garlands of flowers. Summer arrived and Demeter came to supervise the wheat crop. Autumn ensued and Apollo and Artemis appeared […]). 29  Euripides, Medea 869–71 / Mário Cláudio (2008) 11; Euripides, Medea 873–6 / Mário Cláudio (2008) 11. This adaptation of the Greek matrix to the personal situation of the Portuguese heroine also includes a manipulation of the original sequence of the different Euripidean passages. Their order in the Portuguese text is dictated by their relevance visà-vis the emotional states of the character.

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all efforts to converge, alternates with an interior monologue in which Medeia recriminates herself, aware of the fact that she may naturally also share the blame for their having grown apart.30 In this transposition to the Portuguese context, the dialogue mostly takes the shape of an argument between an everyday couple, with the partners having, if not much else, the same name in common with their classical models. To achieve that effect, Mário Cláudio imprints this dialogue with a pathetic tone, alternating with the expression of a certain conventionality typical of many contemporary human relationships. The couple’s belligerence is intensified when their children are mentioned because their existence increases their mother’s feeling of inadequacy as a result of being rejected both by her family and by society. The topic of exile, which is central in the Euripidean character, involves two different cultural realities, the Greek and the barbarian, and its echoes can be heard in the Portuguese text, namely in the isolation of the protagonist within her own culture: on the one hand, this is a consequence of the reigning individualism, and on the other, of the fact that the project that drives her is generally not understood.31 When Medea is betrayed by her husband, an inner desire for revenge awakens in her, and this emphasises the difference between the spirit of the Greek heroine and the innate ineffectiveness of her Portuguese counterpart. Cláudio’s version nonetheless includes a certain high-flown style, a conventionally grandiose language that may signify an appeal for an attitude of grandeur that reality denies. Even if only through her words, the Portuguese Medeia seeks to ascend to the level of actual tragic vengeance.32 With the collapse of her private life comes also hopelessness at the failure of her proposal for a performance of Medea which she had submitted to the relevant public authorities. After rereading the letter sent to the Minister of Culture, which merited no answer from the addressee, Medeia recites some words addressed to Creon, the king of Corinth, in the Euripidean original. To express the greatest frustration of her life, in the translation that shapes her words, the Portuguese actress uses an elaborate, pathetic tone,33 which contrasts with the triviality of many of her other speeches. Recalling her husband’s treason, Medeia reads a letter which reproduces some Euripidean passages from the agon between Medea and Jason, where the latter expresses his great

30  Cláudio a (2008) 11. 31  Euripides, Medea 879–81 / Mário Cláudio (2008) 12. 32  Euripides, Medea 947–50 / Mário Cláudio (2008) 13. 33  Euripides, Medea 278–81 / Mário Cláudio (2008) 15.


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joy at the promise of reconciliation. The letter’s opening words are a quotation from Euripides, imbued with the feelings of the Portuguese protagonist.34 With the passing of time, the recitation of Euripides’ passages loses its connection with the flow of life, repeating itself as a symptom of the protagonist’s mental and emotional immobilisation.35 The more or less immediate expression of her experiences is gradually replaced by an obsessive repetition of the same passages, which serve as a summary of her own existence:36 “Eu teimo em decorar as minhas linhas” (I stubbornly go on learning my lines by heart). Also as concerns her language, Medeia emerges as a creature who wavers between two worlds, the ideal Greek world and her contemporary Portuguese society, and this breach is also present in her innermost self. Elevation alternates with triviality, and the fact that she increasingly adheres to the elevated tone of the original play can be read as a sign of her growing distance vis-à-vis the reality that surrounds her. 3.3 Medeia’s Social Environment This loss of the Greek model’s tragic nature also happens as regards Medeia’s social environment. Relationships become trivial and superficial both within her family and in the public arena. People’s contacts, even among relatives, are conducted via stereotyped letters and telephone calls.37 Medeia’s husband and children, whose voice is mediated by her, are figures dominated by the conventionality of their attitudes and behaviour, ultimately inspired in Portuguese contemporary reality. Jason, a business man with no very specific traits, emerges as a banal Don Juan, “amante de Glaucis horizontais” (a lover of horizontal ‘Glaucises’), as he is described by Medeia (Cláudio a (2008) 40), lacking in ambition and dignity; his language, which is echoed only through his wife, is itself an expression of that same mediocrity. The oldest son represents a model of subservient integration in a consumerist society whose major interest is the displaying of signs of wealth; a paradigm for the contemporary executive, he lives from airport to airport, absorbed in his reports and indulging in occasional relationships (34, 49). Medeia accuses him principally of hating the theatre and what it stands for, i.e., life and genuine emotions (23). The younger, to whom she granted the satisfaction of all whims – courses, clothes, travelling (47–8) – embodies a process of marginalisation and deviation that is a 34  Euripides, Medea 909–13 / Mário Cláudio (2008) 18. 35  Euripides, Medea 230–1, Cláudio a (2008) 31, 41; Euripides, Medea 873–6, Cláudio a (2008) 11, 25. 36  Cláudio a (2008) 34; s.n. 37  For the conventional character of the language used in the family’s telephone calls cf. Cláudio a (2008) 21, 22–3, 26–7.

Medea in the Society of Entertainment


consequence of his inability to define a direction for his life. Medeia’s realistic analysis of her relatives echoes her clear-sighted analysis of the overall environment (38): “É o intervalo do almoço. Aí vão eles para as suas bifanas e as suas cervejas. (…) São os artesãos do fim, a desfibrar o casulo da minha fantasia. (…) Cumprem rigorosamente a sua tarefa de desmantelar a magia” (It’s lunch break. Off they go to their beef sandwiches and their pints. […] They are artisans of the end, unfibering the cocoon of my fantasy. […] They rigorously carry out their task of dismembering magic). However, more significant even than her family members are the public figures of the successive Ministers of Culture. As the addressee of a letter recited in its entirety in the first tableau (Cláudio a (2008) 14), this sort of “Creonte engravatado” (pretentious dressed up Creon) (37) begins by setting up a barrier of silence and indifference against Medeia’s dream. Ten years later (29–30), Medeia again recites the same letter, in her eighth attempt “submetida à consideração do décimo segundo ministro, um pequenino de quem já ninguém recorda o nome” (submitted for consideration to the twelfth minister, a small man whose name no one remembers anymore). Silence is now replaced by cynicism. The incumbent minister hides behind the alleged incompetence of his previous colleagues, praises the ‘greatness’ of the actress’s career in the highest terms and formally takes his leave – but the petition still remains unanswered. Her growing confrontations with the Ministry eventually reveal an increasing lack of responsiveness to any proposal for an elite theatrical performance. As the actress had foreseen back in the Eighth Tableau (Cláudio a (2008) 35), “inventarão uma Medeia vendedora de fruta, outra casada com um fabricante de armamento, uma terceira toxicodependente à beira do fim” (they shall invent a fruitmonger Medea, a Medea married to a weapon manufacturer plus a third, substance-addicted Medea who is about to die). The climax of this continued rejection is found in the Eighth Tableau, when the minister in office, instead of prolonging his predecessors’ silence, comes up with a tailor-made counterproposal to satisfy the expectations of a new audience (45): “Mas não entende, minha senhora”, explica o Ministro, “que vamos oferecer-lhe um teatrinho de bolso, e num grande centro comercial onde desagua nos seus períodos de lazer a nossa população, e não concorda comigo que é necessário trazer o teatro à rua, e ligá-lo à educação, distribuindo pelas escolas a história da nossa Medeia em banda desenhada, e não acha que em pouco diverge afinal a grande tragédia grega do futebol de qualidade, e que o nosso ditador Creonte acusa muito da idiossincrasia do dirigente desportivo, e que o nosso Jasão bem pode ser encarado como um craque? Então, minha senhora, não está de acordo comigo? ”


Hörster and Silva

(Do you not understand, Madam, the Minister explains, that we are going to offer you a little ‘pocket theatre’, in a big shopping centre wherein our population flows in their leisure periods, and do you not agree with me if I say that it is necessary to bring theatre out onto the streets, connect it to education, disseminating the story of our Medea in a comic strip format, and don’t you think that ultimately quality football is not really as different from Greek tragedy as that, and that our dictator Creon shows many signs of the idiosyncrasies of a football club manager, and that our Jason could be seen as a football star? Well then, Madam, don’t you agree with me?) With outstanding concision, realism, and sarcasm, Mário Cláudio portrays the panorama of our contemporary society, described by Mario Vargas Llosa (2012) as “La civilización del espectáculo” (the civilization of entertainment).38 In the Minister’s words quoted above past and present illuminate each other dialectically, allowing us to conclude that Euripides’ Medea works like a metonymy of elite culture, which has lost not only the prestige it had enjoyed throughout the centuries but also the ability to affirm itself in the mass-oriented societies of the present.39 This cultural annihilation is materialised in the allegorical process of the physical disassembling of the building that hosts the actresses’ performances. As early as the Fifth Tableau, a stage direction indicates: “começa a ouvir-se ao longe o ruído do camartelo que procede à demolição do teatro” (Cláudio a (2008) 30) (from far away, the noise of the sledgehammer that is demolishing the theatre begins to be heard) and with it the eviction of the tragic figure of Medeia becomes imminent. This is a long process, because ten years later the sledgehammers can still be heard (37, 39, 41, 44, 46, 48), reaching a climax at the end of the final Tableau (50): “Atingem o auge as pancadas do camartelo. Percebe-se o fragor da derrocada do teatro. Ouve-se na distância a sirene de uma ambulância” (The strokes of the sledgehammer reach their climax. One 38  This is the title of an essay where Vargas Llosa reports the end of high culture in our contemporary societies, explaining that the wide expansion of the concept of culture emptied it of its meaning. Mário Cláudio must have read Llosa’s essay before he wrote Medeia. 39  A similar structural design is used in another work by Mário Cláudio, published simultaneously with Medeia: Boa noite, Senhor Soares (Good Evening, Mr Soares) (Cláudio b [2008]). Here the foreigner / the stranger, a character of mythic grandeur against which the mediocrity of Portuguese society is to be read, is Senhor Soares, who is in fact Bernardo Soares, one of the heteronyms of the great Portuguese modernist poet Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935). The fictional figure of Bernardo Soares, the author of Livro do Desassossego (Book of Disquiet) and a paradigm of high poetic diction, leads a simple life as an assistant accountant in Lisbon.

Medea in the Society of Entertainment


can hear the roar of the theatre tumbling down. The siren of an ambulance can be heard in the distance). As a synecdochical representation of the death of elite theatre, the demolition of the building happens in parallel with the end of Medeia. Despite all the frustrations caused by her project, the play’s leitmotif, the Portuguese Medeia, despite having being defeated in all fronts, still has the same solemn pose she had at the beginning: “Silenciosa, hieraticamente sentada numa cadeira de rodas” (Silent, hieratically seated on a wheelchair), (Cláudio a (2008) 51). The substitution of a wheelchair for a throne is extremely efficient in dramatic terms, underscoring the decadence of the protagonist. At the end, three shots are heard – there is no need to emphasise the symbolic character of this number – and, when the lights are turned on again, Medeia falls dead. Even if alienated, Mário Cláudio’s protagonist is the only person who keeps the cause of drama as high art alive during the entire play. As a consequence of the segregation and the isolation to which she is condemned, she becomes an embodiment of the ‘foreigner’, which Greek Medea also was. Contrary to the Colchian heroine, Medeia does not kill her children or any of her rivals. The ambiguous ending creates a doubt as to whether she falls victim of the shot that is heard or whether she commits suicide (which seems less likely), or even if the shots are the scenic expression of the feelings of someone who simply dies when the major reason for her being ceases to exist. One thing is however certain: a crime does take place, and the victim is theatre in its highest expression.

chapter 13

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake) Susana Hora Marques 1 Introduction1 Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake) is the fourth of a set of five original plays by Carlos Jorge Pessoa,2 compiled under

1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Carlos Jorge Pessoa was born in Lisbon in 1966. He completed a degree in Theatre and Education at the Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema, Lisbon, where he now works as a Professor and is the pedagogic and artistic coordinator of the MA in Theatre. He also took a degree in Actor Training as well as a specialized degree in Theatre Direction at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa. He is the artistic director of Teatro da Garagem (Garage Theatre), of which he was cofounder in 1989 and for which he writes and stages plays to be exclusively performed by this specific Portuguese company. He has published extensively and is the recipient of a significant number of awards (e.g., Cyberkyoske99 award, 2000, for his play Desertos: evento didáctico seguido de um poema grátis [Deserts: A Didactic Event Followed by a Free Poem]; 2009 prize for best original Portuguese text in theatre guides, for his On the Road, or the Rainbow Hour). The author’s own words are the best way to describe his understanding of theatre: “o teatro é uma inteligibilidade do mundo, é um meio de conhecimento tão válido como a ciência – não vejo muita diferença do ponto de vista daquilo que conseguimos consolidar, registar, sedimentar acerca da nossa relação com o mundo, só que é feito por outras vias: não temos equações, não temos uma fórmula (…); a medida é outra, é uma medida não mensurável, do domínio do intangível” (theatre is an intelligibility of the world, a means of producing and communicating knowledge as valid as science – I don’t see much difference in terms of what we can consolidate, register, sediment about our relationship with the world, it is just done through other means: one doesn’t have equations, one doesn’t have a formula […]; it’s another measure, a measure that cannot be measured, which belongs to the realm of the intangible) (statement by Carlos Jorge Pessoa during an interview conducted by Fernando Matos Oliveira and Mickael de Oliveira, in 2014). Carlos Pessoa explains that his original productions, “sem influências sistemáticas” (with no systematic influences), are closely related to the present, and further adds that the text is of paramount importance, as is, consequently, the relevant role of actors and actresses. In the echoes of the classical world, which are recurrent and easily identifiable in Peregrinação – o fio de Ariadne (Peregrination – Ariadne’s Thread), Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake), O Pai (The Father), In(sub)missão (Peça teatral sobre a liberdade) (In(sub) © koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_015

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


the significant title of Pentateuco – Manual de sobrevivência para o ano 20003 (Pentateuch – A Survival Manual for the Year 2000). Although autonomous, these five texts do complement one another and are clearly intended to express a connection with the present since they encourage a reflection on critical topics in the West and, more specifically, in contemporary Portugal – “a fé, a Europa, Portugal, a família, o futuro”4 (faith, Europe, Portugal, family, the future). Compiling these texts in a volume, under a common title, reflects the urgent need for reflection and debate on the eve of the new millennium; that was the reason why the Teatro de Garagem 1998 program comprised a performance that included the five plays, as a corollary of a two-year project within which each of the plays was staged separately in different venues. The biblical name Pentateuco (Pentateuch) emphasizes the notion of a thematic sequence, as is the case with the first five books of the Old Testament, which deal with the origins of the people of Israel and their journey from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land, led by Moses. The idea of a quest, an urgent journey that had to be travelled in search of our own selves in the last decade of the 20th mission (A Play on Freedom)) tradition is subject to a re-reading that stimulates change in the present.    Producing theatre “que marque uma originalidade” (that distinguishes itself for its originality), the director of Teatro da Garagem defines the major guidelines of this company, which boasts an important number of productions (cf. Performance program for Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia: 14–16): “entender a vida portuguesa pós-revolução; procurar um sentido, não apenas estético, mas ético (o teatro como meio de reflexão sobre uma jovem democracia num país velho de oito séculos)” (to understand Portuguese life after the 1974 revolution; to seek a meaning, not just an aesthetic, but an ethical meaning [theater as a form of reflection on a young democracy in an eight centuries-old country]. Teatro da Garagem has been the Teatro Taborda resident company, in Lisbon, since 2005. 3  The Pentateuco cycle includes the following plays: O homem que ressuscitou: epifania em 20 estações (The Man Who Resurrected: An Epiphany in 20 Stations); Desertos: evento didáctico seguido de um poema grátis (Deserts: A Didactic Event Followed by a Free Poem); Peregrinação: o fio de Ariadne (Peregrination: Ariadne’s Thread); Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake); and A menina que foi avó: peça teatral em jeito de conto de fadas (The Girl Who Became a Grandmother: A Fairytale-Style Drama), all of them staged between 1997 and 1998, sometimes separately and sometimes as a set of plays (the five plays were successively performed at Festival de Teatro de Montemor-o-Velho – CITEMOR (Montemoro-Velho Theatre Festival) in July 1998). Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia premièred at Teatro Rivoli, Porto, in 1998, and it was performed again in that year in both Portugal (Centro Cultural de Belém – Lisboa; Festival de Teatro CITEMOR – Montemor-o-Velho) and Brazil (“Navegar é preciso” – São Paulo; “Porto Alegre em cena” – Porto Alegre). 4  In Programa do espetáculo: 22. A series of deaths that marked the author’s personal life had also an impact on Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s Manual de sobrevivência para o ano 2000 (Survival Manual for the Year 2000), instigating him to use theatre as a means to express his feelings, emotions and doubts, like “um reduto de sobrevivência” (a safe haven) (cf. statement by Carlos Jorge Pessoa in the interview he gave to Fernando Matos Oliveira and Mickael de Oliveira in 2014).



century, marked by seeming abundance and complacency, is what lies behind this 5-play cycle written by Carlos Jorge Pessoa. Pentateuco takes us back to the past and, although it seems to suggest a diachronic conflict vis-à-vis the idea of the new millennium, it urges us to establish a relationship between problems affecting different ages – History goes on, incessantly, retrieving and rewriting characters, behaviors, situations, life-paths. In this sense of a continuity between past, present, and future, the title Escrita da água (Water Writing) is certainly not without symbolism: water, the primordial element which flows permanently, is the image of the uninterrupted flow that binds the physis of different generations, in all families and societies, simultaneously amniotic water and mortal water (cf. Escrita da Água 277).5 Writing on water, although impossible, further highlights the power of words, of the ability to use language, of narrative art, while, on the other hand, it reinforces the meaning of the subtitle, following Euripides’ Medea. Indeed, writing on volatile water results in something blurred and unclear; however, following Medea’s track allows the Portuguese author to attach less importance to the traditional plot and give only secondary attention to the heroine, with common elements like the children’s death and the family tragedy being preserved, although in quite different terms from the Euripidean original. These elements are now articulated with contemporary western and, more specifically, Portuguese reality, characterized by a crisis of values, affections, the family, as well as by overrated economic considerations. The classical myth becomes mostly a pretext for a reflection on common moments and situations of the present. Medea represents the story of the woman-mother associated with the family tragedy, a reality that links it to “histórias de todos os dias que podem ser lidas nos jornais” (everyday stories that can be read in the newspapers) (Escrita da água 237). 2

Dialoguing with Euripides’ Medea

What are the reasons that lead Carlos Jorge Pessoa to bring Medea to the present? First, like the Classics in general, Medea is a key reference that continues to make sense in the present, allowing writers to approach such critical issues as human relationships, power, love, and death. Furthermore, as in Euripides, Medea is a wife and the mother of a family destroyed by death – in Escrita da água only the father survives, and goes mad, preserving the memory of his old family nucleus: the wife had died first, during surgery, to be followed by 5  Cf. Heraclitus’ conception of reality, understood as a continuous flow (cf. fr. 12 Diels-Kranz).

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


their two children, a boy and a girl, drowned in the swimming pool of an hotel where they were spending their holidays in an attempt to cope with the grief of having lost their mother. The husband’s unfaithfulness – the character is generically named Pai (Father) in the 1998 text – is yet another common motif in both plays: Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s and the classical Euripidean version, although no political reasons are now adduced to explain the betrayal. Neither does the betrayed wife find stratagems to exact her revenge on her partner for his extramarital affairs, although she knows about them; might this symbolize the submissive compliance, and perhaps also the weariness, of some women/mothers of modern families who overemphasize the importance of their social role as a parent and prefer to keep up appearances, in detriment of the couple’s love relationship? Like Creusa/Glauce in the ancient myth, Amiga (Female Friend), one of the characters in Carlos Pessoa’s play, evokes the figure of one of Medea’s rivals; in a production that convenes the living and the dead on the stage, thereby giving the play added theatricality and an opportunity to ask questions, the dead mother, Mãe, addresses Amiga, without any apparent ill will or animosity, in the following, meaningful words: “Eu sei, eu sempre soube que amavas o paizinho …” (I know, I have always known that you loved daddy …, Escrita da água 263). As one of the three characters of the movie fiction produced within the play itself, the other two being Homem do Cinema (The Movie Man) and Voz-Off (Voice-off) (= Director), the figure of Amiga, an actress in the film that is being shot based on the family tragedy6 (“Sou uma amiga que testemunhou alguns momentos decisivos desta história” [I am a friend who has witnessed some decisive moments in this story], Escrita da água 232) is suggestive of one of the elements of the love triangle of the myth’s classical tradition. This enables the author to put in dialogue different times, past and present, and different arts, theatre and cinema, whose interweaving suggests the repetition of situations which uninterruptedly affect human beings in general, notwithstanding their social status, their country of origin, their times. Dialogue is therefore the form of expression par excellence of Escrita da água. A paradigm of family disintegration, the myth of Medea lends itself to a vision of the crisis that has struck many families in contemporary western societies – it is thus natural that, in contrast with its Euripidean model, this new Medea does not have the grandeur of the ancient barbarian princess, but

6  Cf. in this volume, Silva and Hörster on Mário Cláudio’s Medeia, where an actress who has during her whole life dreamt of playing the part of Medea seeks to understand the Euripidean heroine, as well as her own life.



appears rather as a common woman, in the context of the banality of today’s western world, marked by the loss of family ties. The echoes of classical tragedy can also be heard in the opening words of the Teatro da Garagem performance, which are a kind of prologue spoken during the only intervention of a two-element Chorus in the whole play – in a tone that foreshadows tragedy, important topics are briefly mentioned to then be developed in the following scene, such as the fragility of human life, the inevitability of fate, children’s naivety and innocence, and death. However, to reflect on “a natureza do ‘sentimento trágico da vida’”7 (the nature of the “tragic sentiment of life”), Carlos Jorge Pessoa just wishes to ‘follow in Medea’s wake’, with different choices in terms of theme and form underscoring the distance between the Euripidean version and his own, whose potential meanings are enriched by a previous reading of the 5th century BC text as well as by a knowledge of the general outlines of the myth. O rasto de Medeia representa uma espécie de negativo do retrato clássico; nesta peça, a mãe e os filhos são espíritos cujo verbo inspira os vivos a retomarem a vida .8 (Medea’s wake represents a kind of negative of classical portraiture; in this play the mother and her children are the spirits whose word inspires the living to pursue life .) Carlos Pessoa’s purposes lead him to change the original list of characters, which affords a preponderant role to the family in general, omitting the names of all the four members and replacing them instead with the references ‘Mãe’ (Mother), ‘Pai’ (Father), ‘Criança 1’ (Child 1), ‘Criança 2’ (Child 2); this suggests that the family addressed in the text is only an example of yet “um caso entre tantos outros” (one among many other cases, Escrita da água 246) that disrupt any family nucleus. For the same reason, and besides Amiga, the play’s characters also include other figures suggestive of the author’s personal taste for the cinema and which update ancient drama, with tokens of modernity – Homem do Cinema and Voz-Off, as mentioned above. Besides providing technical indications in regard to the shooting, Homem do Cinema offers comments on the tragic events that befall the family whose story is being filmed and compares them with his own life story, his reflections on it suggesting the chorus of a Greek tragedy as in, for example: “Mas afinal quem foram eles? Quem somos 7  Programa do espetáculo (Program of the performance): 6. 8  Programa do espetáculo (Program of the performance): 6.

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


nós? Qual a sua diferença? Qual a nossa diferença? Estará a diferença apenas no destino? Seremos apenas marionetas do destino?” (But, after all, who were they? Who are we? What is their difference? What is our difference? Might difference be only in fate? Are we merely the puppets of fate?, Escrita da água 238). In this confrontation between the past and the present, facilitated by the voices of both Homem do Cinema and Amiga, two characters that complement the traditional role ascribed to the Chorus, the perception of higher powers that seem to continuously control human will underscores the notion of existential fragility. The text, written in prose, is divided into four tableaux preceded by the above-mentioned prologue and subdivided into different scenes, which are separated by the clapboard and include an epilogue. The tableaux, which suggest the episodes of the classical Euripidean Medea, rather than focusing on the development of a specific plot, are centered upon a contemporary reflection inspired by the tragic story of a family whose members are characters in the film (cf. the following words spoken by Amiga: “são as crianças que vão morrer, será que não entendem como é terrível, e horrível (…)? Como podem morrer, com dois erres, as crianças, duas, como podem ser sacrificadas, repito, com r, sacrificadas, os inocentes, oh deuses, porquê?” (it is the children who are going to die, don’t you understand how terrible, and horrible, that is […]? How can the children die, with a d, an i, and an e, be sacrificed, I repeat, with an r, sacrificed, the innocents, o gods, why?, Escrita da água 256). 3

“Antes de começar” (Before we start) – the Chorus

From the twelve or fifteen traditional choreuts of Attic tragedy, in Escrita da água the Chorus is composed of only two elements who make some comments on the action – as well as on the human condition at large – in compliance with its classical functions, creating a tragic atmosphere that lingers in the air and symbolizes the general tone of the production, as explained before. Their intervention, limited as it is to the opening of the performance and resembling a prologue, includes a description of winter weather, with cold and snow, in a “vale perdido entre montanhas” (valley lost between mountains, Escrita da água 229), invaded by ferocious hungry wolves who attack both other animals and human beings, indiscriminately – a young girl, whose dreams are interrupted, an old lonely and helpless shepherd, who is evoked in a speech formulated in the third and the first person, engaging the audience. The rough landscape provides the background for a number of violent deaths exposed before the spectators by means of synesthetic language and suggestive of the crudeness and terror of the scene – from the outset, the audience is presented



with a grim environment dominated by a series of powers which human beings try to deceive daily. The Chorus’ impressive words encourage the audience to recreate images which are not explicit in the scene but rather linguistically reproduced with such intensity as to leave no one indifferent.9 Moreover, an appeal is addressed to the spectators, inviting them to participate in the bloody performance, and thereby intensifying the tragic atmosphere.10 A significant trail of blood is clearly visible against the white snow, which can both preserve and kill. Estava destinado ser assim, ser de noite a descida dos lobos em alcateias silenciosas, degolando cordeiros e almas solitárias. Não havia fim na matança; o leite impetuoso das quedas de água tingia-se de sangue … Escrita da água 229

(It was destined to be so, in the night the wolves coming down in silent packs, beheading lambs and lonely souls. There was no end to slaughter; The impetuous milk of waterfalls was forever tinged with blood …) In line with the prologues or parodos of ancient tragedy, several questions relevant to the overall meaning of the play are raised by the Chorus to be then developed during the scene. Some examples are, as mentioned before, the water motif, which emerges in close connection with the life/death dichotomy, writing as a vehicle for gaining and disseminating knowledge, the fragility of human life, the inevitability of fate, the naivety and the innocence of children, all perpetual themes that allow for the articulation of different experiences and different epochs. 4

The Theater-Cinema Interaction

The film register within the play facilitates a dialogue between theatre and the movies, regardless of any specific drama conventions. Amiga provides the bridge between the two worlds. 9  On this dramatic effect and its ability to engage the audience, see Thalmann (1978) 93. 10  Using the Chorus at the beginning of the performance to announce the general outlines of the play’s major topics is a method used also by Hélia Correia in Perdição (Perdition) and Desmesura (Excess). On this, see above 159–61; Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 267–9.

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


Homem do Cinema and Voz-Off, converted into characters on the stage, evoke the parabasis strategy of ancient comedy, making the author’s voice heard from within the text. “É claro que nós estamos aqui para esclarecer dúvidas, para dar o enfoque crítico, a dimensão social, política e filosófica ao ‘caso’ do nosso homem” (Obviously we’re here to clarify any doubts, to provide a critical perspective, a social, political, and philosophical dimension to our man’s ‘case’ – Homem do Cinema, Escrita da água 246). On the other hand, they are reminiscent of Pirandello’s metatheatrical exploration, which allows for the expression of trans-theatrical figures, providing technical indications and also commenting on what happens on stage, thus combining illusion and reality, past and present.11 Words and expressions belonging to the language of filmmaking are naturally combined with the discourse of drama (cf. e.g. ‘zoom’ [Escrita da água 248], ‘acção!’ [action!], ‘Repete, mais pathos …’ [Repeat, more pathos …, Escrita da água 250], ‘uma panorâmica geral!’ [Panning shot!, Escrita da água 265]). The difference between these two artistic worlds and their model, a classical tragedy, is signaled by obvious divergences concerning traditional elements: the noble – and exceptional – status of the characters of classical tragedy, their extreme experiences or the solemn language in which they express themselves, all changes as a function of the production’s framework, which is compatible with both the reality of contemporary common people and Carlos Pessoa’s enthusiasm for cinema. A source of inspiration for the author, cinema is very much present in his work, allowing him to archive memory, select images, freeze them, reorder them, in contrast with drama performance, which is more volatile, like water, and also in contrast with life; cinema allows you to retrieve and store memories, questioning also the ‘here and now’. At the end of the performance, Homem do Cinema walks alone in the snow towards the audience, which suggests that through this meeting between actors/actresses and the spectators, drama seeks a possible answer concerning the issues that confront human beings today.

11  The idea of converting Homem do Cinema and Realizador into characters is similar to Anouilh’s and the Portuguese author António Pedro’s choice in their works on Antigone, along the lines of Pirandello’s drama (cf. chapters by Silva and Morais, in Hardwick, Morais, Silva (2017) 72–89, 175–91, on Anouilh and António Pedro, respectively).

224 5


Family: a Major Topic in Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s Version

The author’s words included in the program of the performance (6–7) are a reflection on how the author proposes to address the ‘family’ topic in his play Escrita da água: A família é entendida como célula agregadora em crise, crise de afectos, crise de valores, despoletada pelo acontecimento trágico; a questão principal tem a ver com duas posições distintas: ser fiel à memória e abstermo-nos da vida no sentido de abdicarmos da mesma, enveredando por um luto perene, ou a lealdade à memória, que não ignorando o passado o reescreve numa nova oportunidade, numa vida renovada, renascida. O objectivo da peça passa por uma reinvenção da Família, e esta constitui uma unidade possível de um processo de transformação social mais vasto, um processo em que a Cidade se revê, se rearticula. A Família na tragédia clássica é sempre o mote exemplar para uma reflexão mais ampla; neste aspecto fomos razoavelmente conservadores. (The family is understood as an aggregating cell in a crisis, a crisis of affections, a crisis of values, triggered by the tragic event; the main issue has to do with two different positions: being faithful to memory and abstaining from life in the sense of giving it up, choosing to mourn forever, or being loyal to memory, which, while not ignoring the past, rewrites it when a new opportunity emerges, in a renewed, reborn life. The purpose of this play entails reinventing the Family, and this is a possible unit in a wider process of social transformation, a process in which the City is reviewed, rearticulated. In classical tragedy, the Family is always the exemplary motto for a more comprehensive reflection; in this aspect, we were reasonably conservative.) The family, the first cell to influence us, is used as a starting point for a broader meditation concerning our western societies – Carlos Pessoa uses the myth of Medea mostly as a mirror through which his readers/audience gain access to the story of a contemporary family, constituted by a mother, a father and two children, which collapses due to a sudden tragedy that befalls them. In a world marked by the loss of values, by the decadence of the family concept, it is critical to reflect on the links that are severed by death, disturbing the living (cf. Escrita da água 269). The family, a center of affections, safety, and protection, is also a place of liberation, of respect for difference and individual anxieties, “um lugar sinónimo de cidadania” (a place synonymous with citizenship – Pai, Escrita da água 238),

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


where each member is entitled to have his/her own voice. Its breakdown, when death intervenes with no warning, selecting no specific age or social class, creates instability, desperation, madness. That is why in the 1998 play Pai is adrift, rudderless, hungry for his old affections and connections, overwhelmed with nostalgia, which is materialized in the wedding dress that he wears on stage because it reminds him of his companion and their past life together: “sou um fraco, sem força anímica para controlar o desespero; limito-me a enlouquecer” (I am weak, I have no strength to control my despair; I merely go mad, Escrita da água 237). The echoes of the Medea myth in this contemporary character can be perceived in such aspects as the breakdown of his family, with death striking his own children, or in his betrayal of his wife – the remaining aspects constitute a deviation vis-à-vis the Euripidean model, including the way Pai talks to his late wife: a loving tone replaces the rhetorical discourse of the classical play, since affection and the importance of family links are exactly the topics that the contemporary play aims to highlight as a paradigm. The loneliness and the grief experienced by the character after the death of his loved ones lead him to reflect critically on his past existence in his role as a family man in contemporary Portugal – and in the west in general. “A família, o emprego, o prestígio, a casa … eram essas as preocupações que dominavam a minha cabeça e no entanto sabia que faltava alguma coisa (…); neste mundo controlado, vigiado, eu tinha que inventar um lugar! (…) … eu sentia a teia de poderes que dominam o mundo, eu percebia como a individualidade se desvanece nessa teia (…). A minha família teria o seu lugar, um lugar que fosse sinónimo de libertação, sinónimo de respeito pelas nossas diferenças, pelas nossas inquietações, sinónimo de cidadania” (Escrita da água 237–8). (…) “… a minha lista de contactos é maior que um rolo de máquina registadora, isso é fundamental para uma pessoa que queira vencer na vida …” Escrita da água 252

(Family, job, prestige, the house … those were my major concerns, the ones that occupied my mind and nonetheless I knew that something was lacking […]; in this controlled, monitored world, I had to find a place! […]… I felt the web of powers that dominate the world, I understood how my individuality melts away in that web […]. My family would have its place, a place that would be synonymous with liberation, synonymous with respect for our differences, for our anxieties, synonymous with citizenship. […] … my contacts list is longer than a cash register roll, that is imperative if you want to be successful …)



Complying with the standards of a common family man, Pai had the usual concerns of a contemporary man,12 although he felt there was some disproportion between social requirements and the singularity that differentiates each individual family. His behavior after the death of his family seems to converge towards an ‘abstenção da vida’ (abstention from life): “– Ajudem-me a dar um tiro” (Help me shoot, Escrita da água 236), a cry that expresses his feeling of aimlessness. The importance of the family dimension in the play encourages the re-creation of past scenes in the domain of private life, suggestive of the feelings and emotions that are at the center of human relationships. Pai evokes the affection and patience with which he used to whistle lullabies to his babies at bedtime (cf. Escrita da água 261). Significantly, this also points to the fragility of the little ones (262), who need to be protected. And he repeatedly admits to having loved his late wife, illustrating the longing caused by physical absence (276), and in particular the appreciation that human beings usually feel towards those whom they have lost. The family portrait is completed with the perspective of Mãe, a voice that encourages the living to continue alive, to begin again, despite their memory of the tragedy and the breakdown of the family. Indeed, she addresses Pai and Amiga with the following words, which hint at her husband’s infidelity, a recurrent characteristic in Carlos Pessoa’s text, as mentioned above: “… oxalá sejam felizes os dois … (…) Vá lá, dêem as mãos, isso, assim é que vos quero ver, de mãos dadas!” (… I wish you two to be happy…. […] Come on, hold your hands, that’s it, now that’s how I like to see you, holding hands!, 263). Her speeches describe her experience of being a mother and a wife, two roles that the play stresses. Curiously, although Medea’s family life and her love life are here underscored, there is another intervention by Mãe that seems to allude to the classical heroine, notably her unbridled nature, which she makes an effort to control (266, 270), as well as her circumstances as a betrayed, unwanted wife (267). However, the image that stands out is mostly that of a loving mother, well-respected and affectionate (cf. “os meus pintainhos” (my little chicks, 264) / “Minha Menina (…), encho o teu corpo de beijos” (My Girl […], I cover your body with kisses, 265)/ “Eu quero-vos bem, meus filhos” (I love you, my children, 275)), an unusually shy and weary mother who had endured it all practically on her own – “dizem que as mães são a força estruturante” (they say that mothers are the structuring force, Escrita da água 266). She had raised her children the best way she knew, in compliance with social standards: “a 12  In Euripides’ tragedy, Jason has similar ambitions, for instance, his desire to become king or his marriage of convenience.

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


melhor alimentação, vestir, calçar, os melhores colégios (…) …‘melhor’ era o que eu acreditava que valia a pena, que era seguro …(…) … eu lutei por essa ordem que me parecia justa, fui pragmática, uma mãe pragmática” (The best food, clothes, shoes, the best schools […]… ‘the best’ was what I believed to be worthwhile, to be safe … […] … I fought for the order that seemed to me to be fair, I was pragmatic, a pragmatic mother, 271). As concerns the couple’s relationship, although Mãe abundantly criticizes her partner in his multiple roles – as a husband, a lover, and a man (267) – in their dialogue she reminisces about the day they had first met, ages ago, their passion, their excitement, in a very contemporary, ‘en route’ location – under the roof of a gas pump by the train station (278).13 Mãe and Pai had had two children, whom, unlike the Euripidean heroine, Medea does not kill, although, to some extent, they die because of her – their holidays, the swimming pool are a means of trying to ease the grief of losing their mother. According to tradition, being a child of Medea’s entails a specific ending: death. The presence of the little boy and the little girl evokes the world of childhood, something significant in a play in which the family takes center stage, and points to the power of joining syllables, forming words, and generating meaning, like children tend to do. Theatre, a space for reflection, questions the reasons for the terrible death of two innocent children (256); no answers are offered, though, only “vontade de entender o sentido da vida” (the will to understand the meaning of life – Homem do Cinema, 257). Living makes sense to the children, and their words may therefore be understood as an encouragement to start again, to look to a possible future (273): O meu vocabulário não pára de crescer, cada dia que passa acrescento novas palavras, cada uma com significados diferentes … antes de adormecer repito em voz alta cada palavra e delicio-me com o som de cada sílaba, com o modo como os sons se procuram, se fundem … (My vocabulary just goes on growing, each day that goes by I add new words to it, each one with different meanings … before I go to sleep I repeat each word aloud and I am delighted at the sound of each syllable, at the way the sounds seek one another and melt together …) The fact that the story of this family tragedy is recounted in the film that is being shot within the play gives Homem do Cinema an occasion to briefly recall his own late mother, a safe haven in his hours of grief (235) whom disease 13  Her fiery passion is one of the reasons why Medea acts as she does in Colchis.



had robbed him of. He keeps a picture of his mother with him, which makes her present (236), albeit showing that she has become a “fragmento sem unidade” (fragment devoid of unity, 236), a solitary – and now also a meaningless – part of the family, of society. “Não me apetece arranjar soluções” (I don’t feel like coming up with solutions, 247) or “… no fundo, quero aprender a morrer convosco …” (ultimately, what I want is to learn how to die with you, 265), or “ensina-me a morrer … sinto uma enorme descrença em tudo isto” (teach me how to die … I feel an immense disbelief in all this, 271) are confessions that seem to point to an ‘abstenção da vida’ (abstention from life) on the part of a man of the present who is distressed by the weight of memory. Living with memory, however, does not necessarily hinder him from inaugurating a new cycle, being re-born into a new life. In the epilogue, the words spoken by Homem do Cinema as the outcome of a reflection that he shares with the audience mention tragedy as being the “derradeiro testemunho de esperança” (the ultimate testimony of hope). O sentido trágico da vida talvez nos enobreça, porque não nos alimenta a vaidade; porque nos torna humildes: não, não se trata de rendição, mas antes de combate (…). A tragédia talvez seja um testemunho da nossa necessidade irreprimível de amarmos a vida em toda a sua plenitude. (The tragic meaning of life may make us nobler, because it does not feed our vanity; because it makes us humble: no, this is not about surrender, but rather about combat […]. Tragedy may be an evidence of our irrepressible need to love life in all its fullness.) Escrita da água 284–5


The Concept of Tragedy

Recalling a sad tale that wrings the heart but with which one must learn to live (cf. 250–1) is one of the purposes of the film shooting that brings the myth of Medea back on stage as an example. This tragic memory calls for reflection: one must pick up the pieces and carry on, take a step forward without getting entangled in the old plot, head towards a future: “Esta peça parece-me uma tragédia amniótica! (…) Significa que se renasce desta tragédia!” (This play seems to be an amniotic tragedy! […] It means that one is reborn from this tragedy!, 252), Amiga observes, illustrating how it is possible to preserve memory from a (re)constructive perspective, how it is possible to end a cycle and begin another. However, one of the children naturally refutes the comment of an adult,

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


pointing towards a common understanding of the concept of tragedy: “Mas numa tragédia morre-se!” (But people die in a tragedy!, 253). This tragedy, however, is associated with water, which flows and renews life: “esta é uma tragédia da água, vocês crianças vão morrer, mas a água é também a fonte de vida …” (this is a water tragedy, you children are going to die, but water is also the source of life – Amiga, 253). Even though it does not provide an answer, meditating on these issues enables us to express our deepest human emotions: “a tragédia, porque nomeia a condição humana, é sobretudo uma teia … teia de perguntas …” (because it names the human condition, tragedy is mostly a web … a web of questions … – Voz-Off, 256). “A tragédia, como forma e sentimento, é o resultado da vontade de entender o sentido da vida, é isso? (…) Se não quiséssemos entender, se não fizéssemos perguntas, doeria menos, não haveria tragédia?…” (Tragedy, as form and feeling, is the result of the will to understand the meaning of life, is that it? […] If we weren’t interested in understanding, if we didn’t ask questions, would we feel less pain, would there be no tragedy?… – Homem do Cinema, 257). Significantly, Voz-Off identifies the tragedy of Homem do Cinema, which is common to so many mortals in all eras and in all places: he does not have a life purpose (cf. 272). 7

The Importance of Words

Dialogue, the mode of expression par excellence of Escrita da água, as mentioned above, brings to the same stage different times and perspectives that mix together, interrupt each other, meddle and interfere with each other, promoting an analysis of the contemporary world and translating the topicality of the themes addressed. The same is true of Carlos Pessoa’s freedom of creation, which is not subject to literary rules. The primacy afforded to the words, from learning to join syllables to the construction of meaning, is highlighted in a number of interventions by one of the children: Quando era menino, que agora sou anjo, construía palavras difíceis (…) … usava advérbios quando queria dizer coisas importantes e inventava palavras quando se tratava de nomear o que não conhecia, por exemplo uma erva, chamava-lhe rititão … rititão … a erva que ri e faz comichão … (…) … delicio-me (…) com o modo como os sons se procuram (…), numa espécie de ladainha verbal … ladainha … (…) … agora lia, juntava sentidos (…) talvez conseguisse escrever o poema da vida: As palavras



como sementes aladas procuram a terra esclarecida.

Escrita da água 249, 273, 281–2

(When I was a little boy, for now I am an angel, I used to make up hard words […] … I used adverbs when I wanted to say important things and I invented words when I had to name things that I did not now, for example, an herb, I used to call it repeaches … repeaches, the herb that laughs and itches … […] … it’s delightful […] the way sounds seek one another […], in a kind of verbal litany … litany … […]… now I read, I collected meanings […] maybe I could write the poem of life: The words like winged seeds seek the enlightened earth.) More than remedies for the troubles of human life, words and writing stir reflections and raise concerns in contemporary mankind. The characters are not concerned with finding the right words to voice their feelings, their motives, their life stories, but rather express themselves with a naturalness that mirrors the reality of common men and women, dominated by existential angst. Complying with the routine that society expects them to follow is not enough for them: “arranjar um bom emprego, ganhar bom dinheiro, ter um filho, talvez um marido, comprar casa, carro (…) Mas o que é que aprendemos, os conceitos, as ferramentas para pensar o mundo e transformá-lo?” (find a good job, earn a lot of money, have a child, maybe a husband, buy a house, a car […] But what do we learn, the concepts, the tools to think about the world and transform it? – Amiga, Escrita da água 241–2). The theatre initiative is the “meeting space” par excellence, onde procuramos um acordo quanto à melhor maneira de vivermos uns com os outros; cada um de nós espera ser compreendido, cada um de nós espera ser capaz de dar um contributo positivo com o seu testemunho. No fundo os acidentes são apenas pretextos para reflectirmos sobre a nossa condição quotidiana (…) O rito teatral proporciona um infindável manancial de informações que impedem a formulação de uma resposta clara Amiga, Escrita da água 247–8

(where we seek to reach an agreement regarding the best way of living together; each one of us hopes to be understood, each one of us hopes to

Revisiting Medea – Carlos Jorge Pessoa ’ s Escrita da Água


give a positive contribution with our testimony. Ultimately, accidents are mere pretexts to make us think about our daily condition […] The theatre rite provides an inexhaustible source of information that prevents us from formulating a clear answer.) Theatre is thus a privileged place to express life experiences and daily issues pertaining to human interrelationships – it gives people a voice without necessarily providing them with illuminating answers. Bringing to the stage reference stories and figures of antiquity bears witness to the notion that they continue to be pertinent in the present, although even if only to illustrate common situations of our days which humanize the old heroes and heroines, converting them into just another example to be con­ sidered, alongside others, like Captain Scott and the tragic story of his journey back from the South Pole (235) “… esta peça relata circunstâncias decisivas na história de todos nós” (… this play gives an account of decisive circumstances in the life of all of us – Amiga, 323), like life and death. “Implacavelmente” (Implacably), “inexoravelmente” (inexorably) are examples of skillfully chosen adverbs which Criança I makes up in order to “dizer coisas importantes” (say important things) – implacable, inexorable define the fate that inevitably strikes old and young, poor and rich, regardless of their age and their status, in fiction as in the real world. The beginning of the play had included a warning according to which “estava destinado ser assim” (it was destined to be like this, 229). Articulating the fate motif with that of writing, it may be concluded that “mesmo antes de nascermos já fomos escritos” (we were already written even before we were born – Amiga, 280), showing how the human being’s fate is written in the gene pool that we share. This “espécie de escrita que nos conduz o destino” (kind of writing that conducts our fate) is “uma escrita de palavras vivas, uma escrita viva que cresce connosco” (writing made with living words, a living writing that grows with us – Amiga, 280), which expresses itself through words, which is not fiction but rather a consequence of nature itself, of what is written in our genetic code. That is why the human soul proves to be deaf to warnings (240), irremediably following the course of randomness, incapable of shunning it. The repeated allusions to some elements and excerpts from García Lorca’s poem “Romance de la Luna”, which Mãe is reading when she comes on stage, underscore the impression of an inevitable catastrophe14.

14  Other aspects besides the premonition of a tragic fate suggest a similarity between Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s play and the Spanish text, among them the merging of myth and reality or the presence of such topics as childhood and death.



8 Conclusion Following in Medea’s wake is a pretext to bring into the present civilizational myths that represent timeless values; it is a pretext to question not only the family, the basic, restricted nucleus where the self is molded, but also contemporary societies, dominated by economics-based, consumerist perspectives, where individualism gains primacy over traditional human values. In a world that is experiencing a crisis, the death of tragedy provides food for reflection and can lead to a reconstruction of our universe, provided we do not forget the past. The general outlines of the myth of Medea are not developed in Carlos Pessoa’s play, which mostly borrows a name – Medeia – that is closely associated with the ancient play, together with some motifs from the old heroine’s story – her condition as woman and mother, the death of her children because of the parent (though not by her), the children’s innocence, the father as the only survivor of a tragedy that strikes his family, the husband’s infidelity – besides other themes related to this myth, such as the fragility of human life or the breakdown of the family. This contemporary play only follows in the wake of Medea, toning down her ancient cruel traits, since the focus is now placed on family relationships, physically and painfully severed by their unexpected death – parents and children talk, bringing generations together through dialogue. Water remains, forever renovating the human physis.

chapter 14

The Art of Translating a Classic: Author’s and Translator’s Marks Maria de Fátima Silva 1 Introduction1 Translating Greek classical drama necessarily adds to the difficult task of translation new contingencies that are proper to the genre. There is no need to discuss the usual restrictions: the basic need to try and be faithful to the original meaning, to have a good knowledge of the source text’s subject matter as well as of its context, to produce a version that is aesthetically equivalent to the quality that identifies a true classic.2 When the source texts are universal references, distant from their receiver by millennia and by thousands of miles as concerns their original framework, all the requirements mentioned double the difficulties which all translators are quite familiar with. However, when the text to be translated is a drama, which means that, besides being read, it can also be performed, the whole issue of faithfulness as well as the form required by the receiver is even more complex and must be put differently.3 If the audience for whom the translation is intended is an audience of readers, then they can go over the text in the silence of a library, or re-read it so as to extract from it increasingly rich nuances of meaning, or they have the chance of re-analyzing its specific details if these are not immediately accessible. However, besides this reading audience, if the text is intended to be performed on stage, the translator must take into account the true dramatic function of the translation: offering, within the limited time 1  This research was developed under the project UID/ELT/00196/2013, Centre for Classical and Humanistic Studies, funded by the Portuguese FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology. 2  Being faithful to the original does not merely entail semantic rigor; it includes an observance of formal elements that are essential to both its meaning and its overall effect. 3  As a translator of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Sophia de Mello is perfectly aware of the particular difficulty of translating for the stage. She writes (1987: VI): “… é preciso dizer o que lá está, mas dizê-lo em termos de teatro. O que obriga a uma estreita tensão entre o significado e o espaço, o peso e a voz de cada palavra” (… you must say what is in there, but say it in theatrical terms. This entails a strict tension between each word’s meaning and space, weight and voice).

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_016



frame of a performance, an action that is supported by a text which, besides the features indispensable to the quality of a translation, is not only suited to the ideological and linguistic perception of its new audience but is also able to efficiently gain their emotional adherence. Besides the audience, the translator must also take into account the director’s intention and his interpretation of the main features of the text, as well as the agility of the words when articulated by the actors and actresses. And this makes the task even more complex. Even if our source text has been a reference for centuries and its subjectmatter is well known in its general outline, the translation of a Greek tragedy presupposes a number of choices that are decisive in terms of the final outcome. The translator will have to start by establishing a specific language level that corresponds to a genre which has been characterized from the beginning by an apparent solemnity. But are contemporary actors/actresses and audiences prepared to follow and adhere to a text marked by an elevated tone, laden with adjectives, permeated with compound words that need to be broken down into more or less long sentences, and which is clearly different from their daily language patterns? Or would it be legitimate to ignore the specific diction of the original and replace it with simple, straightforward sentences which, despite downgrading the overall tone, would facilitate the audience’s understanding of the text and their adherence to it? However, I am not talking about texts with fixed rhythmic patterns, but rather of poetic creations with contrasting rhythms in the speeches of the actors/actresses and in the choral interventions, which are more poetically elaborated and sophisticated. Now we must ask: is it enough to render the source texts into prose, where the contrast between the characters’ speeches and the choral songs is virtually erased? Finally, to discuss only the most obvious issues, there is the translation of words that bear cultural values, whose correspondence in the target language is extremely difficult to achieve; or the transposition of anthroponyms and toponyms, which in the written version of the translation require to be clarified through the use of footnotes. In this case, the impossibility of providing the spectator with this type of, more or less comprehensive, marginal information can generally be solved in one of two ways: a radical solution, which consists in simply suppressing the difficulties, that is, deleting the most difficult passages of the source text, or, as an alternative solution, skillfully introducing laconic information in the text instead of adding footnotes. Those who want to produce a quality translation for the stage must be aware of the difficulties and the requirements described above.

The Art of Translating a Classic



The Portuguese Translations of Euripides’ Medea

In Portugal, there are at present two reference translations of Euripides’ Medea, one by Maria Helena da Rocha Pereira,4 a scholar, and another by poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.5 Given the different personalities of the two translators, the nature of these two Portuguese versions is also quite different. This chapter is dedicated to the latter translation, and, bearing in mind the personality of the translator, Sophia de Mello, I will be focusing not only on the solutions she devised for the difficult cases that correspond to the ‘sore points’ of the art of translating summarized above, but also on the poet-translator’s imprint found in this version. We certainly agree with Lourenço’s words:6 “O tradutor ideal de uma tragédia grega terá de ser poeta: alguém que põe a essência da mensagem veiculada pelas palavras à frente da veiculação literal das palavras em si”7 (“The ideal Greek tragedy translator must be a poet: someone 4  (32005) Eurípides. Medeia. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. This is a revised and updated version of the 1955 text, which had been produced to be used in a performance by TEUC (Teatro dos Estudantes da Universidade de Coimbra – Coimbra University Students’ Theatre Company). A noted Hellenist, M. H. Rocha Pereira produced a translation which, despite being first intended to be used in this student company’s performance, also became a scholarly text studied by generations of history of culture or history of Greek drama students. The characteristics of Pereira’s translation include its rigor in terms of expression and the accurate philological analysis on which it was based, both supported by an impressive body of information, clear in both the introductory essay and the footnotes. 5  (2006) Lisboa: Caminho, being the posthumous publication of an unpublished text. Sophia de Mello’s translation was used in a 2006 performance at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II, in Lisbon, staged and directed by Fernanda Lapa. However, my analysis of Mello’s translation must include references to her poetical works, since this translation evinces two aspects of her intellectual and literary personality: her academic training as a classicist, which is a guarantee of a translation that is faithful to its original, and the clear mark of a specific poetic diction that characterizes Sophia de Mello as a poet. All references to Mello’s poetic works are from the 2015 edition of Obra poética. Lisboa: Assírio & Alvim. Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919–2004) is among the major names of 20th-century Portuguese poetry. Two awards have signaled her merit: Prémio Camões, the Camões literary prize for Portuguese language (1998) and the Premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana (2003). Her poetic production is characterized by the presence of a specific mark of classical culture, especially Greek culture, to be found in many of her poems – impressions caused by the Greek landscape, the evocation of places with cultural references (e.g., Delphos, Crete), mythical themes, reflections on poetic creation. 6  In his Introduction to the above-mentioned edition of Sophia de Mello’s translation (2006: 10). 7  Sophia de Mello expresses similar intentions when preparing to translate Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1987: VI): “Sou partidária de traduções fidelíssimas, mas onde a fidelidade inclui a exigência do próprio poema” (I am in favor of extremely faithful translations, where



who places the essence of the message conveyed by the words before the literal conveyance of the words themselves). 3

General Effects of Sophia de Mello’s Translation

Let us start by considering some of the general characteristics of Sophia de Mello’s version that justify, besides the translator’s specific tones that I will try to identify next, why the Portuguese Medea text she has given us may be called a ‘translation’. This Portuguese version corresponds to Euripides’ complete text, with all the lines translated and with no deletions or suppressions to disguise the problems encountered. Naturally, there are no footnote annotations and therefore the interpretation of the text depends only on the translator’s choices. Consequently, there was an effort to completely and expressively preserve the general meaning of the original in the translated version. As for language, to some extent it may be said to be observe the Euripidean gradation: the characters’ lines are given a more natural, or ‘everyday’ style, if I may so describe it, while a more elaborate poetic tone is reserved for the choral interventions. The translator also chose to alternate between prose and verse,8 although, contrary to what one might expect, there is no absolute division of these two forms of discourse between characters and the chorus; for example, the opening monologue, which is spoken by Medea’s Nurse, is translated in verse, as is the first rhesis where the heroine addresses the chorus, assessing the social reaction both to resident foreigners and to women, two fragile elements in the community (E. Med. 214–66); another example is Medea’s address to the Corinthian women where she announces her vengeance after having made sure, in the scene with Aegeus (764–810), that she would be welcome in Athens; or also Jason’s emotion-laden condemnation of filicidal Medea (1323–50). In a word, in Sophia de Mello’s interpretation, moments of great emotional tension justify her preference for a poetic rhythm, somewhat in line with the old Athenian tragedians’ progressive expansion of monody, the faithfulness nonetheless includes the requirements of the poem itself). Since the translator has written no specific considerations on her Medea version, her observations concerning her translation of Shakespeare are extremely useful here. 8  Also regarding her translation of Hamlet, Sophia de Mello addresses this new aspect as follows (1987: V): “O contraponto entre a prosa e o verso faz parte da estrutura da peça, do jogo do poeta, da eficácia teatral, do relevo e sentido de cada cena” (The contrast between verse and prose is an integral part of the play’s structure, of the poet’s game, of its efficiency as drama, of the importance and the meaning of each scene).

The Art of Translating a Classic


ode sung by a single actor aiming to enhance the powerful emotions of the characters – especially young or female characters.9 In the passages translated in verse form – and we must remember that the whole of the original was poetry – the tone obtained is not based on metrics, as in the Greek language; in Portuguese it is based instead on the rhythm of the words, which is a result of different poetic strategies. Let us underscore some of the most apparent rhythmic effects, which are also the most efficient. The use of meaning assonance – a kind of thematic rhyme – at the end of consecutive lines produces interesting results; for example, the first four lines of the Euripidean original, with their repeated mention of the Argonauts’ voyage to Colchis (E. Med. 1–4),10 Εἴθ᾽ ὤφελ᾽ Ἀργοῦς μὴ διαπτάσθαι σκάφος Κόλχων ἐς αἶαν κυανέας Συμπληγάδας, μηδ᾽ἐν νάπαισι Πηλίου πεσεῖν ποτε τμηθεῖσα πεύκη… O that the Argos ship might not have in her flight Towards the Colchian land crossed the somber blue Symplegades, Or that in the Pelion valleys ever fallen, The pine tree cut, (…)11 are translated by Sophia de Mello as (p. 19) Nunca os deuses tivessem consentido Que a proa de Argo ousasse atravessar O negro azul errante dos rochedos Para vir até Cólquis pelo mar.12 Nunca no vale do Pélion o machado Tivesse derrubado esse pinheiro.

9  On monodies and their poetic characteristics, see Barner (1971) 277–320; Pulquério (1969); Barlow (1971) 43–60. 10  Euripides is quoted from Mastronarde (2002). 11  Each of Euripides’ quotes is followed by an English translation, which seeks to be as literal as possible, so as to enable readers to compare the ‘original’ version with the innovative solutions chosen by Sophia de Mello Breyner. 12  Sophia de Mello leaves out the flight metaphor, which suggests the rowing movement, and she chooses to translate it by a much more linear “pelo mar” (“by sea”).



(Might the gods never have consented That the Argos prow would have dared to cross The black errant blue of the rocks To arrive at Colchis by sea. Might the axe in the Pelion valley Never have cut down that pine tree.) The translator does not seek to distribute the lines in the translation as they are distributed in the original.13 Another fragmentation of the text – usually in the Portuguese version the Euripidean lines are more often subdivided into shorter units – allows the multiplication of the privileged position of certain specific words, especially at the end of metrical units; in this case, the ending of each line includes a further note on the conditions of the voyage, associated, as in Euripides, with the mythical construction of the Argos and its inaugural navigation to Colchis. No less interesting are some rhymes, now also phonetic – unrelated to the aesthetics of the original, but used with moderation. A vowel rhyme repetition may emphasize an idea that the translator wishes to stress, such as, for example, Medea’s effort to integrate herself into Corinth and her new life as a wife. An example of this can be found in Sophia de Mello’s translation of Medea 11–3, p. 19: Neste solo de exílio procurou Ser amada por todos e tentou Em tudo a concordância de Jasão. (In this exile soil she sought To be loved by all and tried In all things to obtain Jason’s approval.) Another particularly significant case occurs in a choral intervention, right after the second meeting between Medea and Jason, in which she is able to feign repentance and pretend that she is prepared to give in, only to smooth the path for her vengeance. The Corinthian women are quite lucid as regards the true purpose of the deceitfully amiable words spoken by the betrayed wife, and are capable of seeing in Jason’s credulity a sign of the fulfillment of fate, which 13  Amado (2011) 90 notes a similar strategy in Mello’s translation of Hamlet.

The Art of Translating a Classic


must necessarily entail the danger of death. In Sophia de Mello’s translation of Euripides, Medea 991–4, the chorus says (p. 59): E. Med. 991–4 Σὺ δ᾽, ὦ τάλαν, ὦ κακόνυμφε κηδεμὼν τυράννων, παισὶν οὐ κατειδὼς ὄλεθρον βιοτᾷ προσάγεις ἀλόχῳ τε σᾷ στυγερὸν θάνατον. Δύστανε, μοίρας ὅσον παροίχῃ. You, wretched, unhappy husband, the son-in-law of kings, to your children, without knowing it, disgrace to their life you bring, and to your wife a terrible death. Miserable, how you divest yourself from fate! E tu homem da má sorte, Esposo traiçoeiro, genro dum rei, Tu, sem o saberes, Sobre os teus filhos chamas o desastre Ai de ti que és cego em frente à sorte! Sobre a tua mulher atrais a morte. Sophia, p. 59

(And you ill-fated man, A treacherous spouse, the son-in-law of a king, You, without knowing it, You summon disaster to bear upon your children Woe to you who are blind in the face of fate! You summon death to attend upon your wife.) Word repetition – suggested by the original or used with the purpose of creating the specific effects desired by the translator – is also effective in its interpretive underscoring of the words. In the Portuguese passage just quoted, the pronoun “tu” (“you”), which in Greek occurs only once with the emphatic power that the subject pronoun has in a language in which it can be identified by the verb alone, is enough in itself to identify Jason as author of a double initiative: his betrayal and the lack of understanding that is going to generate tremendous consequences. The different fragmentation of the metrical units,



associated with the rearrangement of the topics mentioned by the chorus facilitates the rhymes, focusing on two keywords: “sorte”14 (“fate”) and “morte” (“death”). Shortly afterwards, when announcing Medea’s imminent grief to the Paedagogus, who is unaware of the developments, Euripides’ Nurse is particularly terse; in one single line (60), she says: Ζηλῶ σ. ἐν ἀρχῇ πῆμα κοὐδέπω μεσοῖ. I envy you. She is only in the beginning of pain, she has not yet arrived at the middle. For this line, the translator produces a more elaborate translation, where the word ‘pain’, which is central in the Greek line and affects all its surrounding words, is highlighted through repetition; and although the text is rendered in prose format in the Portuguese version, the repeated ending of successive sentences leaves no doubt as to the centrality of the concept (p. 21): Invejo a tua ilusão. Ela vai no princípio da sua dor. Nem sequer chegou ao meio do caminho da sua dor. (I envy your illusion. She is in the beginning of her pain. She has not even arrived at the middle of the path of her pain.) 4

Some More Specific Translation Strategies

Since it would be impossible to offer a systematic analysis of the whole translation in the space of this chapter, I will now focus on some passages for which more expressive versions were produced in Portuguese: the opening monologue, which introduces the general tone of the play (E. Med. 1–48); Medea’s rhesis on the female condition, addressed to the chorus (230–66); and Medea’s rhesis, delivered before Creon, on the dangers of magic (292–315). In each of these I will try to highlight a number of solutions that make the translation effective, expressive, and beautiful.15 14  The repetition of “sorte” (“ill-luck/fate”) is obtained by means of the Greek adjective for “desgraçado” (“wretched”) (τάλαν) and the noun “destino” (“fate”) (μοίρας). 15  It may be interesting to also quote Amado (2011) 86–7, on the specific situation of a poet translating a fellow poet: “Um dos similes que Sophia propõe para o acto de traduzir é

The Art of Translating a Classic


Literality Supplemented with Detailing, Clarification, or Added Meaning Without necessarily forsaking the text’s literal meaning as such, translation can emphasize or autonomously interpret its intention by introducing clarifications or adding some elements.16 Let us start by considering the opening of Euripides’ text, knowing that a tragic poet would not begin writing a play using just any random words, but rather makes sure that the words chosen will have a decisive meaning as the action develops. As for Sophia de Mello, she does not hesitate to interpretatively clarify the play’s initial Greek words, as if announcing her choices as a translator. Where Euripides (Med. 1), writes his opening Εἴθ᾽ ὤφελ᾽ – simply, “I would that” –, the Portuguese translator produces a whole corresponding line “Nunca os deuses tivessem consentido” (Might the gods never have consented). This new line in the Portuguese translation underscores divine intervention, which is not as clearly stated in Euripides as the play opens, not even to support the actions to come, which are conducted principally by humans and their emotions. If divine presence is emphasized in this opening moment of the Portuguese version, a new intervention on the following lines, in this introductory and information-conveying stage of the opening monologue, anticipates the first reference to Jason’s name, which is explicitly mentioned in the next lines. The reason for this may be that the translator felt the need to clarify, or specify, right at the beginning that the source text 4.1

‘tornar-se outro’, que entendo como a tentativa de encontrar a verdade do outro. Abre-se, no entanto, aqui um paradoxo: a única maneira de ser fiel à verdade do outro é encontrarlhe a correspondência na sua própria verdade de poeta de um certo tempo e língua” (One of the similes that Sophia suggests as a description of the act of translating is ‘becoming another’, which I understand as an attempt to find someone else’s truth. However, there is a paradox in this insofar as the only way to be faithful to the other’s truth is to find its correspondence in one’s own truth as a poet who belongs to a specific time and a specific language). 16  Amado (2011) 85 makes a comment to that effect on de Mello’s translation of Hamlet, emphasizing the translator’s acuity in capturing what she calls Shakespeare’s “vibração e reverberação poéticas” (poetic vibration and reverberation): “As ideias e emoções que nelas transparecem deixaram marcas no texto traduzido, quer na escolha da palavra ade­ quada, quer na opção pela forma a dar aos versos. São marcas que nem sempre apontam na mesma direcção, e tanto podem favorecer o achado de uma equivalência exacta à expressão inglesa como conduzir o texto num ligeiro desvio, revelando mais da reacção da tradutora a estímulos presentes no discurso do que da intenção central do autor” (The ideas and emotions present in them have left their marks on the translated text, both in the choice of the right word and in the choice of the conformation of the lines. These marks do not always point to the same direction, and they can enhance the finding of an exact equivalence of the original English expression or signal a slight deviation of the text, thereby revealing more the translator’s reaction to stimuli that are present in the language of the text than author’s chief intention).



is referring, even if indirectly, to the leader of the Argonauts: for a Portuguese reader / spectator, the identity of a mythical hero may require some specification, while the same allusion would be completely obvious for the original Greek audience.17 Euripides continues (Med. 4–6): …, μηδ᾽ ἐρετμῶσαι χέρας ἀνδρῶν ἀρίστων οἳ τὸ πάγχρυσον δέρος Πελίᾳ μετῆλθον. …, nor had he armed with oars the hands of brave men who the golden fleece for Pelias did pursue. The translation reads (p. 19) Que foi talhado em remos quando Pélias Enviou os heróis que procuraram Guiados por Jasão o Tosão de Oiro. (Which was carved in oars when Pelias Sent the heroes who were seeking, Guided by Jason, the Golden Fleece.) In addition to attributing an identity, “heroes”, present in Euripides, the mention of Jason establishes a strong antithesis with the name of Medea that follows it in both texts. After reviewing the usual stages of the Colchian heroine’s life in accordance with the myth – her escape from her homeland, the murder of Pelias, and her settling in her new Corinthian home – the Nurse acknowledges Medea’s efforts to adapt to her new status and her new life project, and expresses the following view about the female condition (E. Med. 14–5): ἥπερ μεγίστη γίγνεται σωτηρία, ὅταν γυνὴ πρὸς ἄνδρα μὴ διχοστατῇ This is the greatest security there is, when the wife does not disagree with her husband. 17  Euripides delays his reference to Jason to a later line (Med. 8), where the mention of Jason’s name describes him not as the commander of valiant men, the Argonauts, but rather the object of Medea’s passion, “her heart bruised with love for Jason”.

The Art of Translating a Classic


As regards this aspect of conjugal harmony as seen by Greek society – a sensitive issue in a play like Medea, which the protagonist will later expand – the translator retouches the text discretely, introducing a more general reference to the submission of the ‘second sex’, not just within marriage but within society at large (p. 19). Pois só existe paz quando a mulher aceita e se submete. (Since there is only peace when the woman accepts and is submissive.) ‘The husband’ disappears from the translation, conveying the idea that the woman’s submission is more general, not exclusively domestic; accordingly, the words chosen to express submission are now doubled: “accepts and is submissive”. Let us now consider the case of the necessarily sensitive translation of ‘culture terms’, that is, words that convey concepts which tend to be subtle and transient throughout the history of the thought that guides a society. Finding a fair translation for them in the target language is a most challenging exercise. It may even be that the concept’s clarity or stability require more than a mere translation, eluding the constancy of its Greek meaning. Here, pure philologist translators will feel the need to add an explanatory note, whereas a poet-translator, on the other hand, will feel more comfortable devising the most fitting and expressive solution for each specific problem. This may be exemplified with the difficulties raised by the σοφός semantic family, with its multiple occurrences in the Greek original.18 Accused by Creon of skillfully manipulating drugs and poisons, thus representing a danger to those she regards as her enemies – at this stage in the play, the royal house of Corinth and Jason’s bride, the princess – Medea expounds on sophía and the evils that it brings (E. Med. 294–305),19 using different forms of the adjective σοφός: 294–5 Χρὴ δ᾽ οὔποθ᾽ ὅστις ἀρτίφρων πέφυκ᾽ ἀνὴρ παῖδας περισσῶς ἐκδιδάσκεσθαι σοφούς. 18  In his Introduction to the translation of Sophia de Mello, Lourenço (2006) 10 underscores the translation of this specific family of words and its interesting articulation with the translator’s name, Sophia. 19  Rocha Pereira (2005) 114 explains that one does not infrequently find Euripidean passages where the disadvantages of sophía are mentioned, and that this specific passage has been read as an instance of self-defense on the part of the poet.



Never should a man who is by nature sensible Excessively instruct his children and make them savants. 298–9 Σκαιοῖσι μὲν γὰρ καινὰ προσφέρων σοφὰ δόξεις ἀχρεῖος κοὐ σοφὸς πεφυκέναι. If, with innovation, knowledge is provided to the ignorant, One will appear that to be useless, not learned. 304–5 Σοφὴ γὰρ οὖσα, τοῖς μέν εἰμ᾽ ἐπίφθονος, τοῖς δ᾽αὖ προσάντης. εἰμὶ δ᾽οὐκ ἄγαν σοφή. Because I am knowlegeable, I’m envied by some, Others think I am hostile, and yet my knowledge is not that extensive. Sophia de Mello’s translation solutions are as follows: p. 31 Um homem sensato não deve dar aos seus filhos uma sabedoria que os torne superiores ao comum. (A sensible man should not give his children a degree of knowledge that makes them stand above the common man.) Se ensinas aos ignorantes uma sabedoria nova eles não dizem que és sábio, dizem que és inútil. (If you teach new knowledge to the ignorant they will not say that you are learned, they’ll say that you are useless) Por causa da minha ciência fui odiada por uns, desprezada por outros. Because of my science, I have been hated by some, despised by others. Despite the fact that the translator generally repeats the original – “sabedoria” (knowledge), “sábio” (learned) – she also resorts to the “ciência” (science) version, in the last occurrence, where the Greek word means not “sabedoria” (knowledge) in general, but rather Medea’s specific skill, magic, for which the word “ciência” (science) must have seemed to her to be more appropriate.

The Art of Translating a Classic


Later in the play, when Medea’s filicidal intentions become manifest, facilitated by the promise made by Aegeus, king of Athens, to welcome her in his city should she decide to flee from Corinth, the chorus sings the glories of the city of Pallas, and wonders how Athens, the perfect polis, could come to be the sanctuary of a woman tainted by the worst of crimes, the murder of helpless children, her own children. This time the idea of ‘sabedoria’ returns, now expressed by means of the noun sophía to refer not to the type of knowledge that some men have because they are wiser, or more sensible, but rather to the sheer excellence of wisdom that only divine touch can provide to the privileged ones, in this case a collective, the Athenian citizens. E. Med. 824–9 Ἐρεχθείδαι τὸ παλαιὸν ὄλβιοι καὶ θεῶν παῖδες μακάρων, ἱερᾶς χώρας ἀπορθήτου τ᾽ ἄπο, φερβόμενοι κλεινοτάταν σοφίαν, … The Erechtheus’ people have always been prosperous, children of the blessed gods and of a sacred, never conquered land, nourished with the most glorious wisdom.20 Which is translated by Sophia de Mello as follows: p. 53 Desde os tempos mais antigos o destino Protege os descendentes de Erecteu Filhos dos deuses radiosos, Filhos de um chão intacto e sagrado, 20  Rocha Pereira (2005) 120 writes in a note: “Aqui ‘Ciência’ traduz o grego Sophía, que designa o conhecimento das Letras e das Artes” (Here ‘Ciência’ [science] translates the Greek Sophía, which designates the knowledge of Letters and the Arts). Articulating this and the following passage (Med. 840–5) the same scholar adds: “Afirma-se nestes versos que Afrodite mandou os Amores, bem como a Ciência (Sophía), pois todos juntos levam à excelência na poesia, na música, na filosofia” (These lines state that Aphrodite send Eros, as well as Science [Sophía], because together they lead to excellence in poetry, in music, in philosophy). Mastronarde (2002) 308 tries to be even more specific: “Attic sophía includes the crafts sponsored by the patron gods Hephaestus and Athena (building, metalworking, sculpture, painting, weaving, seamanship) and poetry (…) and all the other intellectual pursuits that had gathered themselves by preference in Athens by the last third of the fifth century. The encomium is thus anachronistic, or rather timeless”.



Solo nunca invadido, Eles se alimentam da mais pura Inteligência das coisas  … (From the remotest times fate Has protected the descendants of Erechtheus Children of radiant gods, Children of an intact, sacred ground, A soil never invaded, They feed themselves upon the purest Intelligence of things.) In her version, the translator begins by emphasizing Athenian arete, including the notion of protective ‘destiny’, which the original does not include. Then come the ascendants, marked by the repetition of “filhos” (children), which gives Athenian citizens a dual affiliation: the gods – to which the translator adds “radiantes” (radiant), instead of a more literal “blessed”, thereby honoring the traditional luminosity of Athens21 – and the land, in a discreet reference to its famous claim to autochthony.22 But the really ‘daring’ translation of sophía is “a mais pura inteligência das coisas” (the purest intelligence of things), which possesses propriety and a suggestive elegance. In it we may find clear resonances of Sophia de Mello’s poetry.23

21  Full light is a constant feature in the image of Greece, both continental Greece and the Greek islands, as portrayed by Sophia de Mello; cf., e.g., Sophia (2015) 447, in Ressurgiremos, “na dura luz de Creta” (under the hard light of Crete), “na aguda luz de Creta” (under the acute light of Crete), “na luz limpa de Creta” (under the clean light of Crete), “na luz branca de Creta” (under the white light of Crete), 550, in Electra, “O sol espetou a sua lança nas planícies sem água” (The sun stuck his spear into the waterless plains), “Na claridade frontal do exterior / No duro sol dos pátios” (In the frontal brightness of the outside / Under the harsh sunlight of the courtyards), 626, in Em Hydra, evocando Fernando Pessoa, “Há na manhã de Hydra uma claridade” (There is a brightness about Hydra’s morning), 631, in O templo de Athena Aphaia, “O templo de Athena Aphaia é claro” (The Athena Aphaia’s temple is light), 651, in Cíclades, “A claridade frontal do lugar” (The frontal brightness of the place), 748, in Chipre, “clareza das ilhas” (clarity of the islands). 22  On the Athenians’ claim of autochthony as a token of their superiority vis-à-vis other Greek cities, see Rosivach (1987) 294–301; Loraux (1990) 168–206; Silva (2011) 89–103; Leão (2011) 105–22. 23  E.g., Sophia (2015) 550, in her poem Electra, “a insónia das coisas” (the insomnia of things), 595, in Delphica VII, “o respirar das coisas” (the breathing of things), 629, in O Minotauro, “a solenidade das coisas” (the solemnity of things), 635, in Os Gregos, “O estar-ser-inteiro inicial das coisas” (The initial being-whole of things), 860, in Arte poética, “a veemência

The Art of Translating a Classic


In the same ode, referring to the gifts with which Cypris also bestows upon Athens, Euripides insists: E. Med. 840–5 (…) Αἰεὶ δ᾽ ἐπιβαλλομέναν χαίταισιν εὐώδη ῥοδέων πλόκον ἀνθέων τᾷ Σοφίᾳ παρέδρους πέμπειν Ἔρωτας, παντοίας ἀρετᾶς ξυνεργούς. Always placing A fragrant garland of roses on the hair of Wisdom, for companions she sends the Loves, who sponsor all kinds of arts. Sophia de Mello, who does not insist in repeating the controversial term,24 translates as follows: p. 53 E aquela que sempre tem em seus cabelos Uma coroa de perfume e rosas, Cypris uniu e religou ali A lucidez que vê todas as coisas E o amor onde se funda A perfeição do homem.25 (And the one who always wears in her hair A garland of roses and perfume, There Cypris did unite and reconnect The clear-sightedness that can all things see And love, the foundation Of man’s perfection.) And last, confronted with Medea’s unwavering decision to kill her children when she learns that her rival for Jason’s attention, the princess, had received the poisoned gifts that she had sent, and she had only to wait for their intended das coisas” (the vehemence of things), 652, in Cíclades, “o azul-respiração das coisas” (the breath-blue of things). 24  See Lourenço (2006) 10. 25  Ἀρετή, another difficult word to translate, although there has been some consensus on choice of the Portuguese term “excelência” (excellence), is translated by Sophia de Mello as “perfeição” (perfection).



effect to be confirmed, the women in the chorus address the topic ‘as preocupações que ter ou não ter filhos representam para os mortais’ (E. Med. 1081–115) (the concerns that the fact of having or not having children bring to mortals). This discussion begins with a consideration on the ability of women to voice deep philosophical thought; here de Mello goes back to her previous translation of sophía as “a inteligência das coisas” (the intelligence of things): Πολλάκις ἤδη διὰ λεπτοτέρων μύθων ἔμολον καὶ πρὸς ἁμίλλας ἦλθον μείζους ἢ χρὴ γενεὰν θῆλυν ἐρευνᾶν. ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἔστιν μοῦσα καὶ ἡμῖν, ἣ προσομιλεῖ σοφίας ἕνεκεν. πάσαισι μὲν οὔ, παῦρον δὲ γένος (μίαν ἐν πολλαῖς εὕροις ἂν ἴσως) οὐκ ἀπόμουσον τὸ γυναικῶν. Many times before in subtle matters have I got involved and amid controversy have I progressed, more than is appropriate for the female sex to investigate. But a muse does exist for us as well, who deals with us with knowledge. Not with all, no. Rare are those (one, among many, may be found) who are conversant with the Muses. This time, being faithful to her own translation, Sophia de Mello repeats (p. 62–3): Muitas vezes tive discussões mais subtis e conversas mais graves do que é conveniente para uma mulher. Porque também nós temos uma Musa que nos ensina a inteligência das coisas e dos seres. Mas não todas nós. Entre muitas mulheres só existem algumas que não são estranhas às Musas. (Often have I held more subtle discussions and more serious conversations than is convenient for a woman. For we also have a Muse who teaches us the intelligence of things and beings. Though not all of us. Among many women there are only a few who are not strangers to the Muses).

The Art of Translating a Classic


4.2 The Absorbed Footnote One of the difficulties faced by translators – especially by directors aiming to stage a classical Greek tragedy – are the frequent references to mythological elements, as well as to anthroponyms or toponyms, which, from the his/her audience’s viewpoint, are decontextualized. Merely transcribing such references leads to misunderstandings, while suppressing them may hamper or simplify the meaning of the text; the ideal solution would be to include an explanation or an alternative that preserves something of the original motif. This is a strategy which Sophia de Mello successfully resorts to in her translation. An example of this occurs at the beginning of Euripides’ play (Med. 2), when mention is made of the crossing of “o território das negras Simplégades”26 (the territory of the black Symplegades) by the Argonauts. In her translation, Sophia de Mello mentions “O negro azul errante dos rochedos” (the rocks’ errant blue black) generically; instead of the name of the rocks, the Portuguese reference includes only their mythical identification as “errantes” (errant), reinforced by the color element, in character with the translator’s own usual descriptions of the sea environment.27 26  Ἐς αἶαν κυανέας Συμπληγάδας. The Symplegades, or clashing rocks, were, as their name implies, a barrier situated in the access to the Euxine, or Black Sea, a passage to the east, which moved and crushed the ships that tried to get through. According to the Odyssey 11. 69–70, the Argo was the first ship to successfully cross that point, defeating the magical power of the rocks, which never moved again (see Pindar, Pythian 4. 210–1). The myth has it that, by order of Pelias, king of Iolcos, Tessalia, Jason led a mission to those parts whose aim was to conquer the Golden Fleece, in Colchis.  Let us also consider the color element used by Euripides to describe the deep blue colour of the Mediterranean. Through the adjective κυανοῦς, the poet referred not only to the sea (Iphigenia in Tauris 392, 1501), but also the entire marine universe, with its gods (Andromache 1012–4), the living beings that inhabit it, the ships that cross it (Trojan Women 1094–5, Electra 435, Helen 1454–5), the rocky boundaries that circumscribe it (Medea 2). The same qualifier and its compounds had been used by Homer, applied to such different realities as animals’ skin, Zeus’ or Hera’s brow, sea motifs like Tethys’ veil, the ships’ prow, or the sand; see, e g., Il. 15. 693, 23. 878, Od. 3. 299, 9. 482, 12. 243, 13. 100, 148. 27  We can find in Sophia de Mello the same taste for color epithets and the projection of the ‘somber blue’ of the Mediterranean environment which impressed her poetic sensitivity so much. In Andresen’s (32005) 559 poem Ítaca (v. 10), we have “O sol rente ao mar te acordará no intenso azul” (the sun on a level with the sea will wake you up in the intense blue); 627, in Hydra, evocando Fernando Pessoa, “o desdobrado azul dos arquipélagos” (the unfolded blue of the archipelagos); 628–629, in O Minotauro (v. 21), “E o mar de Creta por dentro é todo azul” (And the Cretan sea is all blue inside); 633, in Ariane em Naxos (v. 2), “Junto de um mar inteiramente azul” (by an entirely blue sea), (v. 5), “Junto de um mar azul de rochas negras” (By a blue sea of black rocks); 862, in O búzio de Cós (v. 2), “Mas na mediterrânica noite azul e preta” (But in the black and blue Mediterranean night). Impressed by the expressive quality of adjectives in Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, Eduardo Prado Coelho (apud Ceccucci (2011) 18) writes: “Estes adjectivos (azul, verde, escura) não



Valorizing the Feminine: Effects of Punctuation and the Impact of the Translation of Adjectives A major topic in Euripides’ Medea – the female condition challenged by the curriculum that society, marriage, and having children have designed for women – merits a first reference early in the play, as the opening monologue portrays a mature woman’s reaction to the ill fate that has befallen her mistress. Medea’s Nurse is somewhat laconic when she introduces the topic of the Argonaut’s betrayal. E. Med. 16 4.3

Νῦν δ᾽ ἐχθρὰ πάντα, καὶ νοσεῖ τὰ φίλτατα. Now everything is hostile to her, and she suffers in her dearest affections. With a more punctuated line division, the Portuguese translator ennumerates, step by step, every painful stage of the betrayed wife’s tribulation. The final superlative in Euripides’ original – “her dearest affections” (τὰ φίλτατα) – occupies a whole line in the translated version (p. 19): (…) Porém tudo Lhe foi hostil. Ela foi magoada. Em todo o seu amor. (But everything Has been hostile to her. She has been hurt. In all her love.) But Euripides soon describes as extraordinary the fierce reaction of a strong, barbarian soul as is Medea’s when struck by misfortune (E. Med. 20–2): Μήδεια δ᾽ ἡ δύστηνος ἠτιμασμένη βοᾷ μὲν ὅρκους, ἀνακαλεῖ δὲ δεξιᾶς πίστιν μεγίστην…

adornam, informam; são verificações de uma experiência visual, um dizer exacto do que é.” (These adjectives [blue, green, dark] are not decorative, they are informative; they are verifications of a visual experience, an accurate telling of what is).

The Art of Translating a Classic


Poor, unhappy, outraged Medea shouts the oaths, invokes, of the right hands,28 the supreme commitment … Sophia, p. 20 E sob o peso do insulto Medeia Em alto pranto invoca o juramento, Invoca as mãos que foram reunidas No rito mais solene e mais sagrado. (And under the weight of insult, Medea In loud tears invokes the oath, She invokes the hands that were joined In the most solemn and most sacred rite.) Without changing the original meaning, the Portuguese translation reinforces the main elements of Medea’s reaction. ‘Ultrajada, grita’ (outraged … / shouts), a two word sequence in the Greek text (ἠτιμασμένη / βοᾷ), is expanded into a line and a half-line, “E sob o peso do insulto … em alto pranto” (And under the weight of insult … / In loud tears), separated by the name of Medea, to which both words refer. “Invoca” (invokes) is now repeated, connecting the oath and the handshake, two gestures witnessed both by the gods and by men. For the “supreme commitment” (πίστιν μεγίστην), expressed in Greek by a superlative that conveys the idea of size, the Portuguese translator chose to mention its “most solemn and most sacred” dimension, thus substituting meaning for measure. This topic, which Medea, who is now on the stage projecting all the suffering and anger previously announced by the Nurse in the opening monologue, will develop in her famous rhesis on the female condition – one of those moments that explain the interest recognized as a priority in Euripides by his coeval audiences and commentators. In the preamble to her speech, the Euripidean Medea had identified the ill fate that befalls ‘the female race’, using another superlative (Med. 230–1):

28  That is, the handshake that seals the marriage agreement between the kourios, the representative of the bride (her father or her guardian) and the bridegroom. In Medea’s case, since the conditions on which the marriage deal was based were rather irregular, it was the two interested parties, the bride and the groom, who shook hands.



Πάντων δ᾽ ὅσ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἔμψυχα καὶ γνώμην ἔχει γυναῖκές ἐσμεν ἀθλιώτατον φυτόν. Of everything there exists with life and thought We women are the most miserable being. As is often the case with Sophia de Mello, dividing the verse into smaller units, she follows her source text, introducing an element of novelty when translating the superlative (ἀθλιώτατον), a strategy that emphatically doubles its content; “Lost and sad” seems to highlight the inevitable relationship between the social abandonment to which women are condemned and their reaction as a group doomed to unhappiness (28): De tudo quanto sobre a terra existe Com vida e pensamento, nós, mulheres, Somos a raça mais perdida e triste. (Of everything there exists on earth With life and thought, we, women, Are the most lost and saddest race.) Starting from her arguments about the female condition, Medea reaches the climax by means of a comparison, mentioning the significant disparity of each genre’s specific arete: while men run the ultimate risk and are submitted to public scrutiny on the battlefield, women experience their maximum fulfillment in the pangs of childbirth (E. Med. 250–1): (…) ὡς τρὶς ἂν παρ᾽ἀσπίδα στῆναι θέλοιμ᾽ ἂν μᾶλλον ἢ τεκεῖν ἅπαξ. Thrice in the forefront of the battle Would I rather be posted than once give birth. In her translation, Sophia de Mello keeps the same arithmetical contrast: fighting three battles is preferable to experiencing one child delivery. However, she emphasizes both scenarios by means of the verbs, which express tough, intense actions. Euripides’ static reference (στῆναι), “postar-me” (being posted), entailing but a promise of war, becomes “combater” (fighting), in the Portuguese translation. Again, with the original “dar à luz” (τεκεῖν) being rendered as “uivar … a dor do parto” (howl … the pain of childbirth), the translation gains in aggressiveness when compared to the source text (p. 29):

The Art of Translating a Classic


(…) Antes combater Três vezes nas fileiras, com o escudo A proteger meu flanco, do que uivar Uma única vez a dor do parto. (I would rather fight Thrice in the ranks, with the shield Protecting my flank, than howl One single time the pain of childbirth.) Despite all the difficulties she is faced with as a woman, Medea shows an unprecedented capacity to endure – even to tolerate; only betrayal turns her into a fighter, as tough as the fiercest of heroes. This is also Medea’s path, permanently experienced with the acuteness that her fierce soul tends to intensify. While she continues to address the female condition generally, she seems to be uttering a specific threat when she says (E. Med. 263–6): (…) Γυνὴ γὰρ τἄλλα μὲν φόβου πλέα κακὴ τ᾽ ἐς ἀλκὴν καὶ σίδηρον εἰσορᾶν. ὅταν δ᾽ἐς εὐνὴν ἠδικημένη κυρῇ, οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλη φρὴν μιαιφονωτέρα. (A woman is generally given to fear, Cowardly, before the strength and the sight of iron. But when outrage strikes her bed, No spirit is more bloodthirsty than hers). This is rendered as (p. 30): Estremecer é próprio das mulheres A mulher teme o ferro, a lança, a luta Mas se a lei do seu leito for traída Ninguém deseja o sangue com mais sede. (Trembling pertains to women A woman fears the iron, the spear, the fight But if the law of her bed is betrayed Then no one is as thirsty for blood as she.) A text that conveys a threat – an as yet undefined threat, though one that will be lying at the core of the action and for which Medeia soon tries to gain the sympathetic



support of Corinthian women – is given added power in the translation by means of the substitution of action verbs for the Greek nouns and adjectives: “dada ao medo, cobarde” (given to fear, cowardly) is replaced by “estremecer … teme” (trembling … fears), “espírito mais sanguinário” (no spirit is more bloodthirsty) becomes “deseja o sangue com mais sede” (as thirsty for blood). This substitution produces a higher degree of concreteness; feelings and states of mind – fear, cowardice, a bloodthirsty spirit – are portrayed by means of their outward, manifest reactions – “estremecer” (trembling), “a sede de sangue” (bloodthirsty). This choice is in line with what several commentators have recognized as being a characteristic of Sophia de Mello’s poetic line of work; I agree with Ceccucci, who wrote an article significantly titled “Trazer o real para a luz. O olhar e o ouvido voltados para os seres e as coisas na poética de Sophia” (2011: 16) (Bringing the real into light. The eye and the ear turned towards beings and things in Sophia’s poetics): “De facto, podemos compreender que Sophia (…), referindo-se directamente à alta função cognitiva e pedagógica do olhar e do ouvido, e consequentemente, do “vivido”, da experiência, tenha querido reconduzir ao centro do seu dizer poético o mundo da realidade fenoménica (“da pura manhã da imanência”), como reencontro com a physis, com a forma e matéria das coisas” (I can indeed understand how Sophia […], referring directly to the high cognitive and pedagogical function of looking and listening and, consequently, of lived experience, may have wished to bring the world of phenomenical reality [“da pura manhã da imanência”] [“of the pure morning of immanence”] into the core of her poetic discourse, as a reencounter with physis, with the shape and the matter of things). 4.4 Describing the Sea, a Markedly Andresian Theme Last, a topic recognized as a characteristic of Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen’s poetry is her taste for the marine landscape, its colour shades, its movement, and its greatness. Actually, she shares this tendency with Euripides, the Salamian poet, whom the ancients imagined as living in a grotto overlooking the sea, writing his poems. Some examples where the sea and all things that are an integral part of its environment are mentioned in Euripides – as the description of the world travelled by the Argonauts or by Medea herself on her voyage to Greece, or as a metaphor for human relationships and feelings – are interestingly translated by Sophia de Mello, mirroring her own poetic style. Let us look at some examples, starting with the Nurse’s mention of the depressive isolation which is Medea’s response to her husband’s betrayal (E. Med. 28–9):29 29  Mastronarde (2002) 169 brings us back to Homer – exemplifying with the Iliad 16. 34–5, or the Odyssey 23. 103 – how cliffs and the sea are used as metaphors to express all that is “harsh, cruel, inflexible, or insensitive”.

The Art of Translating a Classic


(…) ὡς δὲ πέτρος ἢ θαλάσσιος κλύδων ἀκούει νουθετουμένη φίλων Like a rock or the sea wave she listens to the warnings of her friends These lines become particularly vibrant in the Portuguese translation (p. 20): Não ouve quem lhe fala não responde Ora parece imóvel um rochedo Ora se torce e volta como vaga. (She does not listen to those who talk to her does not answer Now she seems still like a rock Now she twists and comes back as a wave.) Medea’s anticipated estrangement is intensified by means of the repeated negative, which makes her silence deeper when her friends try to talk to her. Then comes the sea metaphor, highlighted by the final position of the words and more emphatic as a whole, adding to the mention of “rochedo” (rock) an explicit reference to its immobility, as happens with the contrasting “vaga” (wave) and its movement.30 An equally suggestive passage describes Medea’s reaction to being expelled from Corinth, which Creon, the king, comes to announce personally. Her scream of protest when faced with the violence of her enemies, which digs 30  Some examples of equivalent references to the sea in poems by Sophia de Mello Breyner: “Foi no mar que aprendi” (2005: 863): Foi no mar que aprendi o gosto da forma bela. Ao olhar sem fim o sucessivo. Inchar e desabar da vaga. A bela curva luzidia do seu dorso. O longo espraiar das mãos de espuma.

(At the sea I learned. It was at the sea that I learned the taste of beautiful form. When endlessly looking at the successive. Swelling and crumbling down of waves. The beautiful shiny curve of their back. The long flow of their hands of foam over the sand.).

And (2005: 299), in a poem dedicated to Eurydice (l. 2), “As ondas arqueadas como cisnes” (The waves arched like swans).



deeper into her feeling of helplessness and abandonment, is again expressed by means of a marine metaphor (E. Med. 278–9): Ἐχθροὶ γὰρ ἐξιᾶσι πάντα δὴ κάλων, κοὐκ ἔστιν ἄτης εὐπρόσοιστος ἔκβασις. (My enemies unfurl all their sails, No landing, for ruin, is left accessible to me). which the translator renders into Portuguese as (p. 30): Os inimigos abrem no vento as suas velas. Não tenho praia, nem porto, nem abrigo! (The enemies unfurl their sails in the wind. I have no beach, no harbour, and no shelter!) The ‘wind’ reference materializes the expanding movement of the sails. But it is mostly the copulative nexus that produces an impressionist portrait of the seascape, painted with successive brushstrokes, advancing towards a word – ἄτη, “ruína”31 (ruin) – which is omitted in the translation, although Sophia de Mello’s presence as a translator still remains implicit.

31  In order to note the difficulty of translating a concept such as ἄτη, I resort to Frederico Lourenço’s words in the introduction to his translation of the Iliad (2005. Lisboa, Cotovia: 11), when referring to Agamemnon’s offensive attitude before his rival Achilles, which serves as starting point for the whole poem: “E num momento que mais tarde Agamémnon qualificará de “desvario” ou “obnubilação” (utilizo, em desespero de causa, estas duas traduções da intraduzível palavra grega “áte”, consoante as exigências do contexto pendem mais para o campo semântico da insânia ou da cegueira), o chefe supremo do exército comete o erro de hostilizar o guerreiro supremo do mesmo …” (And at a moment which will later be described as a moment of “derangement” or of “obnubilation” (out of complete frustration I use these two renderings of the untranslatable Greek word “áte”, which depend on whether the context requirements are indicative of the insanity or the blindness semantic field, the army’s supreme commander makes the mistake of antagonizing the supreme warrior of the same army …). This problem is absent in Sophia de Mello’s translation of this Medea passage.

The Art of Translating a Classic


5 Conclusion As a classicist and a poet, Sophia de Mello was able to find the best solutions for the usual difficulties that translating entails. Without betraying the original, her solutions clarify it and provide a deeper understanding of the text, suited to contemporary audiences. All is said with felicitous emphases, with the rigorous skill of poetic diction, with a rhythm measured according to the emotional vibration behind the text. However, the staging of the translated version at Teatro Nacional – a test of its quality as a dramatic text – proved that Sophia de Mello’s version did fit the elocutionary naturalness of the actors and actresses and guaranteed the aesthetic appreciation of the performance by the audiences who invariably filled the room.

Conclusion Although less directly applicable to the reality of Portuguese life than other classical myths, such as the Antigone story, which best translated the experience of political repression and gave voice to the denunciation of dictatorship in Portugal, Medea’s myth had nonetheless a significant expansion in this country. Its attractiveness was the result of not only the general interest in themes of classical culture in contemporary Portuguese literature – chiefly those focusing on female figures – but also of the partial consonance between female issues and the social reform experienced in Portugal in the last fifty years. The fact that a significant number of the Portuguese rewritings of Medea was produced in Portugal in the late 20th century and the early 21st century is not without meaning: this was exactly the phase during which, after the dictatorship was abolished, the country underwent a more extensive transformation, involving a change of mentalities and, with it, a change of its social balance. In parallel with the social changes experienced internally, Portuguese literature was influenced by a wave of interest in the theme of Medea, which attracted Europe’s and even South America’s1 attention, after years of reservation about it, which can no doubt be explained by the violence involved in a crime such as filicide. Feminist movements that emerged to advance women’s rights, such as those that shook the United States in the last decades of the 20th century, generated a new wave of Medeas, and this, even if indirectly, did not fail to affect Portuguese literary sensibility. Chapter 2 extensively describes the important dissemination of the theme, especially in the 20th century, with emblematic Medeas being written in countries which have been traditionally influential on Portuguese culture, such as Germany, with Heiner Müller’s Medeamaterial (1982) or Christa Wolf’s Medea. Stimmen (Medea. Voices) (1996). Demonstrating the interest felt for these two German plays in Portugal is the fact that both were translated into Portuguese (Lisboa: Cotovia) and also, no less importantly, the fact that the former was performed in Portugal by a number of companies, both Portuguese and international (1988, 1989, 1996, 1999, 2015). One of these was a ballet performance, choreographed and danced by Ann Papoulis during the 1990 “Encontros Acarte”, at Fundação Calouste 1  The parallel with Brazilian rewritings of Medea, which had an inevitable influence on Portuguese Medeas, will be studied in a volume dedicated to the reception of Greek myth in Brazil which is being prepared. A salient case is Gota d’Água (Water drop), a text produced and set to music by Chico Buarque and Paulo Pontes (1975) and staged by the Porto theatre company “Seiva Trupe” in Lisbon and Porto in late 1989. Ulysses Cruz directed the performance with much success.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_017



Gulbenkian, Lisbon. However, in parallel with performances based on translations of the original Euripidean play – notably, those by Maria Helena da Rocha Pereira and, more recently, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (chapter 14) – other performances of foreign re-readings of the myth, especially in the 1980s and the 1990s, have equally contributed towards generating a great deal of interest in the figure of the Colchian sorceress in Portugal. Among others, Juan Morillo, Medeia. Rito e cerimónia sobre uma lenda imortal (Medea. Rite and Ceremony Around an Immortal Legend), an opera that combined different dramatic aesthetics, performed by Teatro Carrucel (Cadiz, Spain) at the FITEI Theatre Festival, in 1989; and the plays Medea, by Robinson Jeffers, performed at Palácio Nacional de Queluz, staged by Tomaz Ribas (1970); Médée, by Darius Milhaud, performed by the Teatro Nacional de S. Carlos Opera (1971); Medeia – O amor de uma mulher (Medea – A Woman’s Love), by Maricla Boglio, staged by the Porto theatre company “Seiva Trupe”, in 1984; Medea es un buen chico (Medea is a Good Boy), by Spanish playwright Luiz Riaza, staged by Fernanda Lapa and performed at “Teatro do Século” (Lisbon), in 1992; and Medeia Estrangeira (Foreign Medea), by Willy Kirklund, performed by Companhia de Teatro de Almada at the Festival Internacional de Teatro de Almada, in 1998. More recently, in the first decade of the 21st century, after Hélia Correia and Mário Cláudio wrote their plays inspired by the Medea myth, Oscar van Woensel, Kuno Bakker, and Manja Topper’s Medeia (2010) was performed on Portuguese stages, in a production that incorporated the lyrics of some British and American pop songs, presenting the tragedy of the Colchian sorceress from the point of view of the Chorus; Max Rouquette’s Médée, a contemporary tragedy on exile and belongingness, set in the Melilla and Lampedusa refugee camps (2010); and Queda Medea, a scenic essay on Seneca and Ovid, performed by the Company Skaenika Teatro de Granada (Spain), under the direction of and with staging by Carlos Jesus. Besides the chapters dedicated to the myth of the princess of Colchis in Apollonius of Rhodes (chapter 3) and in the long Latin tradition (chapter 4), as well as in 18th century Portuguese literature, with António José da Silva’s Os encantos de Medeia (Medea’s Charms; see chapter 5), a tragedy rendered as comedy not a few times staged in Portugal in the last quarter of the 20th century2, this volume pays special attention to Jean Anouilh’s Médée, as would be expected considering the traditional influence of French culture, and, specifically as regards drama, of Anouilh on Portuguese literary production. Hélia

2  At the end of this volume, “A Chronology of Recreations, Editions and Performances” mentions three performances in Portugal (1976, 1983, and 1991). See below, pp. 263–9.



Correia is a good example of that productive, well incorporated influence (chapter 6). Albeit discretely, almost all Portuguese rewritings of Medea discussed in this volume were either performed on stage or presented under the form of dramatic readings. Although the Euripidean theme was preserved in these re­ creations, its form underwent major changes and was also adapted to modern conventions. For example, in her novel Sob o olhar de Medeia (1998) (Under the Gaze of Medea), Fiama Pais Brandão explored the magical qualities of the heroine, endowing her with an almost divine power of transforming reality; in her essay A de Cólquida (2002) (The Woman from Colchis), Hélia Correia followed the Medea myth, approaching it from the perspective of women’s struggle, back from Minoan times, for affirmation and for the acknowledgment of their role in society. However, like all the other Portuguese authors who have re­created the myth, both Brandão and Correia also resorted to drama in order to explore other mythemes in the Euripidean tragedy. In Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw Epidaurus) (1985), Fiama Pais Brandão presents the Medea theme from within a diachronic view of world theatre, with Epidaurus as the stage where Shakespearean and Wagnerian characters converse with the Colchian sorceress. In Desmesura (Excess) (2006), besides recreating the rhythms of Greek tragedy, adapting them to Portuguese prosody, Hélia Correia constructs a play that explores the violent, vindictive facet of Medea, interacting with other foreign women who, like herself, experience the pain of exile. The three remaining re-readings of the myth of Medea studied in this volume were written for specific performances, having been published after their stage presentation. In 1992, under the direction of Adriano Luz, the Teatro da Cornucópia stages Eduarda Dionísio’s Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes), a commissioned piece of work, composed of four female speeches (by Juliet, Antigone, Castro, and Medea). It was named after “the title of the performance for which the speeches were written”3 and its structure is influenced by María Zambrano’s La tumba de Antígona (Antigone’s Tomb) (1967) and its monologic model.4 At the end of the play, alone on the stage, Medea interacts with Jason, with herself, and with the audience in her three short monologues, her words focused, as in the other speeches of the play, on the topics of violent love and death. The other two plays, Escrita da Água (no rasto de Medeia) (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake), by Carlos Jorge Pessoa, and Medeia, by Mário Cláudio, are more committed to contemporary reality and further distanced from the Euripidean 3  Dionísio (1992) 9. 4  See Hardwick, Morais & Silva (2017) 285–304.



archetype. The former, which was first performed by Teatro da Garagem in 1998, and directed by the author himself, is a reflection on the tragic flow of life (suggested by the title – “Escrita da Água”), around topoi such as family, society, faith, Europe, and Portugal. The latter play was first performed in March 2007, by Teatro Experimental de Cascais, being staged by Carlos Avilez.5 Here, Medeia is a Portuguese actress, a mature, solitary woman, defeated by a society that denies her both a sense of personal fulfilment and her affirmation both as a woman and as an actress. These Portuguese recreations of the myth of Medea, which incorporate different perspectives in accordance with the various sensitivities of their authors, reinterpret and update the topics present in the Euripidean original: the magic, violent and vengeful facets of the heroine, exile and the cultural uprootedness of foreigners, and, most importantly, women’s struggle for the acknowledgement of their role in society. Above all, however, they bespeak an undeniable preference for this eternal myth of classical culture, a preference that became even stronger after the end of the Estado Novo dictatorship in April 1974.

5  The company “Contacto – Companhia de Teatro Água Corrente de Ovar” performed this rewrite also in 2016 and 2017. See below, “A Chronology of Recreations, Editions, and Performances”, pp. 263–9.


A Chronology of Recreations, Editions, and Performances 1955 8–9.6.1955: directed by Paulo Quintela, TEUC, Teatro dos Estudantes da Universidade de Coimbra (University of Coimbra Students Theatre) performs Euripides’ Medea, based on the Portuguese translation by M. H. Rocha Pereira. The play would be performed again in July of the same year at Teatro D. Maria II, Lisbon; on September 4th, at the 4th International University Theatre Delphiad in Saarbrücken (Germany); and, on September 17th, at the Eleanora Duse Studio, in Rome. In the following year TEUC performs the play in the North of Portugal and in Mozambique (during the Summer). In 1958, when the play is staged for the last time at the 1st Festival da Primavera (Spring Festival), organized by the Agronomy Students Association (Lisbon), TEUC is granted the 1st International University Theatre Award. 1963 7.5.1963: directed by Dimitrius Rondiris and based on a translation by D. Sarros, Piraikon Theatron staged Euripides’ Medea at Cinema Tivoli (Lisbon). Aspassia Papathanassiou, the famous actress, played Medea, and was awarded the 1963 Festival de Teatro das Nações prize for best performance. 1968 The Portuguese translation of Euripides’ Medea, by Maria Helena da Rocha Pereira, is published (Coimbra: Atlântida). This translation had a significant number of editions. 1969 The dance company “Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal” performed the ballet Medea, choreographed by Brydon Paige on a score composed by George Savaria, at Coliseu de Lisboa, during the 13th Gulbenkian Music Festival. The leading role was performed by Margery Lambert, for whom this work had been expressly composed. This ballet had been broadcast by the Portuguese television channel, Rádio Televisão Portuguesa (RTP), on October 14th 1965. 1970 10.8.1970: Translated by Germana Tânger, who was also responsible for production and voice direction, and directed by Tomaz Ribas, Robinson Jeffers’ Medea was staged at Palácio Nacional de Queluz. 1971 The Opera Company of Teatro Nacional de S. Carlos (Lisbon) presented Darius Milhaud’s Médée, conducted by (maestro) Reynald Giovaninnetti. 1972 19–24.7.1972: Screening of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s motion picture Medea, included in the “Semana Internacional de Cinema da Figueira da Foz” (Figueira da Foz International Film Week), sponsored by Centro de Estudos e Animação

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019 | doi:10.1163/9789004383395_018



Cultural de Lisboa (Lisbon Center for Cultural Studies and Animation), under the patronage of the Municipality of Figueira da Foz, the Figueira da Foz Tourism Department, Centro Português de Cinema (the Portuguese Film Centre), and Sociedade Figueira-Praia. 1976 António José da Silva’s play Os Encantos de Medeia (Medea’s Charms) is staged by Casa da Comédia, under the direction of Norberto Barroca. 1980 21–23.11.1980: Teatro Carrucel (Cadiz, Spain) presented a performance of Juan Morillo’s “plastic opera” Medea. Rite and Ceremony Around an Immortal Legend at Auditório Nacional Carlos Alberto (Porto). Directed by Jesús Fuente and Miguel A. Butler, the performance was part of the 3rd Festival Internacional de Teatro de Expressão Ibérica (FITEI) (International Theatre Festival of Iberian Expression). This was an unconventional play which combined eastern drama techniques, such as Japanese Kabuki and Noh, with Wroclaw pantomime theatre and Lindsay Kemp’s theatre aesthetics. 1983 7.11.1983: Teatro Estúdio de Arte Realista (TEAR) presented a production of António José da Silva’s Os Encantos de Medeia (Medea’s Charms) at Auditório Nacional Carlos Alberto (Porto). Under the stage direction of Castro Guedes, the performance was included in the 6th Festival Internacional de Teatro de Expressão Ibérica (FITEI) (International Theatre Festival of Iberian Expression) and was presented some days later, between November 25th and 27th, at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (Lisbon). 1984 March 1984: directed by Júlio Cardoso, the “Seiva Trupe” Company, from Porto, performs Maricla Boggio’s Medeia – O amor de uma mulher (Medea – a Woman’s Love) at Cooperativa do Povo Portuense, in a Portuguese translation by Estrela Novais, who played the leading role. 1986  26.5.1986: directed by Atanasse Bahtchevanov, Euripides’ Medea is presented by the Youth Theatre Company of Gorna Oriahovítza (Bulgaria) at Auditório Nacional Carlos Alberto. This performance is included in the program of the 9th Festival Internacional de Teatro de Expressão Ibérica (FITEI) (International Theatre Festival of Iberian Expression). 1988 8–10.9.1988: performance of Heiner Müller’s Medeamaterial at Sala Polivalente do Centro de Arte Moderna of Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, based on a Portuguese translation (Material Medeia) by Maria Adélia Silva Melo and Jorge Silva Melo, who was also the director, in collaboration with Manuel Mozos. The production was part of “Encontros Acarte 89” (Acarte Meetings 89). 1989  The Madrid Company “La Tartana Teatro” presented Medea Material (Medeamaterial), by Heiner Müller, in Lisbon. The play was part of a trilogy that included Ribera Despojada (Verkommenes Ufer), the introductory play, and Paisage con Argonautas (Landschaft mit Argonauten), the closing piece. Directed by Carlos Marquerie, this trilogy was based on a translation by

A Chronology of Recreations, Editions, and Performances


Brigitte Aschwanden, adapted by Guillermo Heras, and was included in the program of “Encontros Acarte 89”. 26–29.10.1989: under the direction of Ulysses Cruz, the Porto company “Seiva Trupe” performs Gota d’Água (Water Drop), by Chico Buarque and Paulo Pontes at Teatro da Trindade (Lisbon). After this presentation, the play ran at Teatro Sá da Bandeira, Porto, until the end of the year. 1990 13–15.11.1990: Ann Papoulis presented the ballet Medea, inspired by the play Verkommenes Ufer / Medeamaterial / Landschaft mit Argonauten (Despoiled Shore / Medeamaterial / Landscape with Argonauts), by German playwright Heiner Müller, at Sala Polivalente do Centro de Arte Moderna of Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon. Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão, Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw Epidaurus). Lisbon: Fenda. 1991 11.4.1991: directed by Helena Vaz, the play Os Encantos de Medeia (Medea’s Charms), by António José da Silva, is performed by the “Marionetas de S. Lourenço” company at Teatro Académico de Gil Vicente (Coimbra). 1992 A performance of M.-A. Charpentier’s Médée is presented at Coliseu de Lisboa. Jorge Listopad is the stage-director. 13.3.1992: the Teatro da Cornucópia premières Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes), under the direction of Adriano Luz; the performance ran for a month, at Teatro do Bairro Alto, Lisbon. The fourth part of this drama is formed by three “Falas de Medeia” (Medea Speeches).  Eduarda Dionísio, Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes). Lisbon: Edições Cotovia. [pp. 57–66: “Falas de Medeia” (Medea Speeches)].  19.10.1992: the play Medea es un buen chico (Medea is a Good Boy), by Spanish playwright Luiz Riaza is staged at Teatro do Século (Lisbon). Directed by Fernanda Lapa, this modern representation of the myth of Medea was based on a translation by José Carlos González. 1993 13.7.1993: under the direction of Yolanda Alves, the Teatro de Papel company (Costa da Caparica) performed Euripides’ Medea, at the Sala Polivalente da Escola D. António da Costa (Almada). This performance was included in the program of the Festival Internacional de Teatro de Almada (Almada International Theatre Festival) (FITA 93). 1996 7.7.1996: during the Festival Internacional de Teatro de Almada (Almada International Theatre Festival) (FITA 96), the “Attis Theater” company (Athens) staged the play Medea, based on Medeamaterial by German playwright Heiner Müller. The performance was directed by Theodorus Terzopoulos and had the collaboration of Instituto Internacional de Teatro do Mediterrâneo (International Institute of Mediterranean Theatre). 15.10.1996: to mark the launch of the Portuguese translation of Christa Wolf’s Medea: Stimmen (Medeia. Vozes), by João Barrento (Lisbon: Cotovia), the



Goethe-Institut Lisbon organized a reading of this novel, which recreates the myth of Medea. Directed by João Canijo, this dramatized reading was performed by Associação Cultural Saldanha. 1997 2.1997: Euripides’ Medea was staged by Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema (Higher School of Theatre and Film) (Lisbon), under the direction of Fernanda Lapa. 1998 5.1998: A performance of Euripides’ Medea directed by Fernanda Lapa was presented by Academia Contemporânea do Espectáculo (Contemporary Performance Academy) (Porto) at Sala de Ensaios do Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (Lisbon). 15.1–22.2.1998: under the stage direction of Ricardo Carísio, who also authored the text, “Companhia Absurda” performed Jasão & Medeia, o pesadelo do amor (Jason and Medea, the Nightmare of Love) at Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon. Based on Euripides’ tragedy, the text, which depicts the conflict between Jason and Medea, is also influenced by Seneca, Ovid, Apollonius of Rhodes, António José da Silva, Wagner Salazar, Raul Brandão, and Oscar Wilde. This play was later presented at Teatro Académico de Gil Vicente, Coimbra, between February 27th and March 1st of the same year. 27.3–1.4.1998: a production of Carlos Jorge Pessoa’s Escrita da Água (no rasto de Medeia) (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake) was presented by “Teatro da Garagem” at Grande Auditório do Rivoli Teatro Municipal, Porto. Pessoa was also the stage director of this co-production which involved Teatro D. Maria II, Centro Cultural de Belém, Rivoli Teatro Municipal, and Expo ’98.  5.7.1998: The Companhia de Teatro de Almada group performs Willy Kirklund’s play Medea fran Mbongo (Foreign Medea), with Portuguese translation by António Pescada (Medeia Estrangeira), at Auditório Lopes Graça (Almada). Directed by Jorge Listopad, the play was included in the 15th edition of the Festival Internacional de Teatro de Almada (Almada International Theatre Festival) and was again staged at Teatro Municipal de Almada between September 23rd and October 4th of the same year. 7.7.1998: on the day dedicated to Greece in the Lisbon Expo ’98 fair, the National Theatre of Greece presented a performance of Euripides’ Medea, at Teatro Camões (Lisbon), with stage direction by Niketi Kondouri. 14.7.1998: the Omada Edafous Dance Theatre company (Greece) performed a contemporary ballet based on Euripides’ Medea with score by Vicenzo Bellini, at the Doca amphitheater of Expo ’98. Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão, Sob o olhar de Medeia (Under the Gaze of Medea). Lisbon: Relógio d’Água Editores. 1999 20.1.1999: under the direction of Karas, the company “Ninho de Víboras” (Almada) staged Heiner Müller’s Medeamaterial at Forum Municipal Romeu

A Chronology of Recreations, Editions, and Performances


Correia, in the ambit of the “III Mostra de Teatro de Almada”. This play, which is part of a trilogy that includes also Verkommenes Ufer (Despoiled Shore) and Landschaft mit Argonauten (Landscape with Argonauts), was later performed at the Palácio de Cristal Gardens (Porto) on May 7th, during the 18th edition of the Festival Internacional de Teatro “Fazer a Festa” (International Theatre Festival “Throwing the party”). It was also presented in Lisbon, at Teatro Taborda, between August 11th and 14th of that same year. 2000 16.6–23.7.2000: the Centro Cultural de Belém hosts a performance of Mónica Calle’s O bar da meia-noite (The Midnight Bar). This was an adaptation of Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw Epidaurus), a text by Portuguese poet Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão, to which excerpts from Euripides’ Medea, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and Chekhov’s Three Sisters were added. This production aimed to explore the history of drama, and it therefore included a number of references to Wagner, Pirandello, Artaud, and Beckett.  Carlos Jorge Pessoa, Pentateuco – Manual de sobrevivência para o ano 2000 (Pentateuch – a Survival Manual for the Year 2000). Lisbon: Cotovia [Escrita d’Água: no Rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake) is one of the five plays included in this volume.]. 2001 6–8.12.2001: with stage direction by Roberto Merino, DireitoàCena, the Grupo de Teatro da Faculdade de Direito da Universidade do Porto (University of Porto Law School Drama Group) presents a performance of Euripides’ Medea as translated by M. H. Rocha Pereira. This production was staged again on May 22nd 2002. 2002 21.6.2002: The Grupo Teatral Freamudense (Freamunde Theatre Group) stages Medea, by Euripides, at Associação de Socorros Mútuos de Freamunde, under the direction of Juan Fernández. The performance was repeated on July 8th, at Freamunde, and in October 2002, in the ambit of “Festival de Teatro em Construção”, at Centro Cultural de Joane.  Hélia Correia, Apodera-te de mim (Take Possession of Me). Lisbon: Author’s Edition. [Medea is the protagonist of “A de Cólquida” (The Woman from Colchis), one of the four short texts included in this book]. 2006 3.5–11.6.2006: with Fernanda Lapa as director and dramaturg, Euripides’ Medea was performed at Teatro Nacional D. Maria II (sala Garrett), based on Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen’s Portuguese translation. Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, Medeia. Recriação Poética da Tragédia de Eurípides (Medea. A Poetical Recreation of Euripides’ Tragedy). Lisbon: Caminho.  Hélia Correia, Desmesura. Exercício com Medeia (Excess. An Exercise with Medea). Lisbon: Relógio d’Água Editores.



2007 Staged by John Mowat and featuring Leonor Keil, Jorge Cruz, José Carlos Garcia, and Marta Cerqueira, the Paulo Ribeiro and the Chapitô companies presented a burlesque recreation of the Medea myth. 2.3.2007: directed by Carlos Avilez, Teatro Experimental de Cascais presents a performance of Mário Cláudio’s Medeia, featuring actress Anna Paula in the leading role. 2008 M. Cláudio, Medeia. Lisbon: Publicações Dom Quixote. 2010 26–28.5.2010: the Dutch theatre company “Dood Paard” staged a Medea with text by Oscar van Woensel, Kuno Bakker, and Manja Topper. Marten Oosthoek was stage director and production manager. Included in the “Alkantara Festival 2010” program, the show featured American and British pop song lyrics, presenting the tragedy from the point of view of the Chorus, which powerlessly witnesses the whole tragic process. 2–13.6.2010: with adaptation and stage direction by Patrícia Carreira, Medeia a Estrangeira (Medea the Foreigner) was presented by Companhia Cepa Torta at Teatro da Comuna, Lisbon. A modern adapted version of Euripides’ tragedy, this play aimed to interpret the notion of foreigner from the perspective of cinematographic language. Months later, on November 17th, the play was performed at Bridewell Theatre, London. 2011 20–22.5.2011: Médée, by Max Rouquette, was staged at Arcos de Miragaia (Porto), within the project “Odisseia: Teatro do Mundo” (Odyssey: Theatre of the World). In this co-production, which involved Théâtre NanterreAmandiers and the Napoli Teatro Festival Italia, Jean-Louis Martinelli, the director, constructs a contemporary tragedy about exile and the sentiment of belonging by setting the events at the Melilla and Lampedusa refugee camps, where thousands of Africans anxiously await a European visa. 2013 7–22.2.2013: with text and stage direction by Raquel S., Teatro Universitário do Porto (TUP) presented a performance of the play Medeia de Noitarder (Medea Burninginthenight) in Porto, in the ambit of the commemorations of the company’s 65th anniversary.  11.5.2013: Medeia de Noitarder (Medea Burninginthenight) was again staged on May 11th at the 14.º Festival Anual de Teatro Académico de Lisboa (14th Lisbon Annual Festival of University Theatre), being granted the award “Prémio FATAL Cidade de Lisboa 2013” as the Festival’s most innovative performance. 2014 11.7.2014: Queda Medea (Medea Stays) is performed by the Skaenika Teatro de Granada (Spain) Group at Teatro Académico Gil Vicente, Coimbra. This play, a scenic essay on Seneca and Ovid, was directed by Carlos Jesus. 21–26.11.2014: the “Artes e Engenhos” company presents the play Medea at Teatro Joaquim Benite (Almada). This play, based on contemporary rewrites

A Chronology of Recreations, Editions, and Performances


of the Euripidean myth, is a co-creation by Sandra Hung and Francisco Salgado. With Anabela Mendes as dramaturg and Sandra Hung performing the leading role, the performance was included in the 18ª Mostra de Teatro de Almada. 2015 20–22.2.2015: the company “O Cão Danado” staged a Medea articulating the Euripidean and Senecan texts with the Portuguese versions of Heiner Müller’s contemporary texts Medeamaterial (Material Medeia) and Verkommenes Ufer (Margem ao Abandono). The performance was presented at Teatro Municipal Rivoli do Porto (Pequeno Auditório). 2016 7.6.2016: dramatic reading of Hélia Correia’s Desmesura: exercício com Medeia (Excess: an Exercise with Medea) at Teatro da Cerca São Bernardo, Coimbra. Coordinated by actress Sofia Lobo, this monthly activity, which aims to promote the dissemination of different plays, was fostered by Clube de Leitura Teatral (Coimbra), which includes Teatro Académico de Gil Vicente and A Escola da Noite.  8–9.10.2016: Mário Cláudio’s Medeia was the play chosen by the Group “Contacto – Companhia de Teatro Água Corrente de Ovar” to open the 23rd edition of Festovar, The Ovar Theatre Festival. The production was directed by Manuel Ramos Costa and the role of Medea was performed by Aurora Gaia. 10.12.2016: closing the 2016 performance season, “Contacto – Companhia de Teatro Água Corrente de Ovar” again presented Mário Cláudio’s Medea, now at Casa do Contacto. 2017 15.1.2017: open rehearsal of “Projeto Medeia I”, at Cine-Teatro Sousa Telles, Ourique (Lisbon). This project is based on the myth of Medea and, more specifically, on the play Medeamaterial, by German playwright Heiner Müller. The author, Margarida Bento, was stage director. 28.01.2017: directed by Manuel Ramos Costa, “Contacto – Companhia de Teatro Água Corrente de Ovar” performed Mário Cláudio’s Medeia at Theatro Club de Póvoa de Lanhoso, in the ambit of the 13th edition of the Concurso Nacional de Teatro da Póvoa de Lanhoso (Póvoa de Lanhoso National Theatre Competition) (CONTE), sponsored by the Póvoa de Lanhoso Municipality and by FPTA, the Portuguese Theatre Federation, with the support of INATEL. 17–20.2.2017: with text and stage direction by Margarida Bento, the play “Projeto Medeia I”, inspired both by the myth of Medea and Medeamaterial, by German playwright Heiner Müller, was performed at “Latoaria da Mouraria”.

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Index Locorum This index is a list of the main titles and passages from ancient works included in the text and notes. The editions of the fragmentary works are indicated in the body of the volume where they are quoted. Aeschylus 13, 17n25, 48n10, 166n13, 207 Agamemnon 10 91n13 351–2 91n13 Choephoroe, Libation Bearers 68n8 168–200 165n13 229–30 166n13 Persians 18 Seven Against Thebes 48n10 Alcman Fr. 59 PMG

25n16, 29 25n16


26, 29



Anonymous Argonautica

1, 13

Apollodorus 120–1n32 1.9.26 120n32 1 [141] 9.26 120n32 Apollonius of Rhodes 1, 21–30, 44, 49, 259 Argonautica  14, 21–30, 32, 44, 49 3.1–5 24 3.4–5 24 3.11–110 25 3.27 25 3.91sqq. 26 3.131sqq. 26 3.223–7 26 3.250–2 26 3.253sqq. 26 3.276 27 3.285–6 27 3.290 27

3.459–70 28 3.523sqq. 27 3.528–33 56n14 3.744sqq. 29 3.744-1145 56n14 3.771sqq. 28 3.802sqq. 28 3.876sqq. 28 3.960sqq. 27 3.967sqq. 28 3.1078 27 3.1120sqq. 28 4.4 30 4.50–65 56n14 4.109–82 56n14 4.249–50 30 4.303–81 32 4.442 151n20 4.445–9 29 4.1665sqq. 30 Archilochus

29, 186

Aristophanes 16, 51n11, 57n15 Frogs 60n19 53 57n15 958 207 1058–61 207 Lysistrata 1124 146n9 Thesmophoriazusae 1056–97 57n15 Wealth 60n19 Aristotle 117, 147, 165n13, 186 Poetics 1449a 22–8 186n6 1452a 30–1452b 8 165n13 1456b 15–8 162n7 1459a 11–2 186n6 Politics 1.1260.23a–33 90n12

290 Rhetoric 1407b

Index Locorum 162n7

Aulus Gellius 35 Bacchylides 16.30


Callimachus 21, 24 Epigram 28.1–2 22 Carcinus II Medea TrGF I 70 F 1e

1, 15 16 16n21

Cicero 35 De natura deorum 2.89 35 Creophylus of Ephesus 14, 15 Fr. 3 EGM 14n13 Creophylus of Samos 14n13 Curiatius Maternus

31, 35


1, 15

Diogenes Laertius 9.52


Diogenes of Sinope

1, 15

Eratosthenes 21 Eumelus Korinthiaka Fr. 20 GEF Fr. 23 GEF

1, 14 14n10 14n11

Euphorion 13 Euripides passim Alcestis 188n11 309–10 97n40 Andromache 147–80 18n31 1012–4 249n26

Andromeda 57n15 Cyclops 188n11 Dictys 13 Electra 20 435 249n26 513–31 166n13 Helen 46, 46n5, 53 1454–5 249n26 Heracles 17 Hippolytus 25, 68n8 433sqq. 25 Ino 17 Iphigenia in Tauris 46n5, 53, 147n12 392 249n26 1501 249n26 Medea passim 1 241 1–2 147, 147n11 1–4 237 1–13 179n30 1–48 240 2 249, 249n26 4–6 242 8 242n17 11–3 238 14–5 242 16 250 20–2 127n10, 250 24–8 133n15 28–9 254 31–4 131n13 36 134n17 40 136n19 60 240 96–7 136n19 138 150n18 141–3 177n27 145–7 136n19 163–4 139n22 166–7 131n13 179 150n18 181 150n18 187–9 137n21 204–6 135n18 210–2 147n11 214–24 167n15 214–66 89n8, 236 226–7 136n19

Index Locorum 228 89 230 90 230–1 90, 212n35, 251 230–51 130 230–66 240 232–4a 89 233–4 130 234b–46 90 238–40 77n20 247–51 91 250–1 70, 134n16, 135, 252 251b 91n15 251–7 90 255 90 262–6 89n8 263–6 253 271–3 90 271–6 76 278–9 256 278–81 211n33 282–3 76 292–315 240 294–5 243 294–305 243 298–9 244 304–5 244 324 189, 189n16 324–6 77n21 374–6 89n8 380 148n15 395–8 148n14, 159n4 397 197n22 431–3 147n11 446–626 41 453–8 178n28 455–64 50 465–74 125n6 470 128n11 476–82 51n12 476–98 50 483 90n11 486–8 90n11 488 125n6 496–509 189 497 189 502–3 90n11 504 90n11 513–5 91n15 509–18 131

291 523–5 161n5 524–75 92 535–41 98n43 536–44 18 544–67 50 546 161n5 549–50 178 550 92n16 555–7 130n12 559–60 97n40 559–64 92 562–4 178 565–7a 92 569–73 136 573–4 92 585 161n5 603 90 663–758 41 709–11 190 710 189, 189n16, 190, 190n17 764–810 236 765–6 142 805 141n23 809 128n11 824–9 245 840–5 245n20, 247 869–71 208, 210n29 873–6 210n29, 212n35 879–81 211n31 896–970 91 899–903 91 905 91 909–13 212n34 923 91 925 91 930–1 91 941 97n40 946–50 69n9 947–50 209, 211n32 959–68 69n9 991–4 239 1005 91 1009 188n12 1019–80 140 1021–80 58, 91n15, 92 1061 91n15 1081–115 248 1156–62 69n9 1156–77 62n22


Index Locorum

Medea (cont.) 1176 190 1236–41 15n15 1263–4 147n11 1282–9 16 1301–5 15n15 1322 189n16 1323–50 236 1329–40 98n43 1347–8 189 1363–6 187 1393–8 187 1402 188n12 1406–7 188 Melanippe Wise Fr. 482 Collard and Cropp 146n9 Meleager 17 Orestes 71n12 128–9 165n12 Philoctetes 13 Reapers or Theristae 13 Trojan Women 18 1094–5 249n26 Euripides, the Younger 1, 15

Iliad 18, 48n10, 256n31 1.36 165n12 2.689 165n12 3.329 165n12 6.481–5 91n14 15.693 249n26 16.34–5 254n29 23.878 249n26 Odyssey 23, 46n5, 47, 147n11 3.299 249n26 4.227 148n15 5 46 6.117sqq. 26 6.149sqq. 27 7.14sqq. 26 9.482 249n26 10.276 25n15 11.69–70 249n26 12.59–72 147n11 12.69–70 23n10 12.69–72 1 12.243 249n26 12.389 165n12 13.100 249n26 13.148 249n26 23.103 254n29

Gnaeus Naevius 31

Hyginus Fabulae 4 25 26 27

Gorgias 177n26 Eulogy of Helen 8 158

Ibycus 29 Fr. 285 PMG 25n16 Fr. 286 PMG 25n16

Heraclitus Fr. 12 Diels-Kranz

Livius Andronicus 31

Gaius Valerius Flaccus Argonautica

2, 44 2, 44


121, 121–2n37


Hesiod 25, 159n4 Theogony 13 411–52 159n4 956–62 13n6 Homer 22, 24, 26, 28, 147n11, 165n12, 249n26, 254n29

32, 34 17n23 32 32 34


31, 35

Lucius Accius Medea Medea siue Argonautae

1, 31, 32, 34, 35 35 33

Lucius Varius Rufus Thyestes

37, 37n12


Index Locorum Marcus Pacuvius Medus

1, 32, 33, 34, 35 31, 32, 33, 34


1, 15


1, 15


1, 15, 16, 18, 29n18

Ovid 1, 30, 31, 35, 36–9, 259 Amores 37 3.1 37 3.1. 67–8 37 Heroides 37, 39 XII 2, 38, 39 Medea 36, 37, 37n12, 38, 39 Metamorphoses 39 VII 2, 30n21, 38 7.1–158 39 7.159–296 39 7.1–424 38, 39 7.1–452 56n14 7.191–4 38 7.297–349 39 7.350–97 39 7.398–424 39 Parmeniscus Frr. 12–3 Breithaupt

14, 15 15n14

Pausanias 2.3.6


Pindar 1, 23, 26n17, 30n19 Nemean 5.14–6 30n19 Olympian 1.52 30n19 Pythian Four 14, 23 4.9–31 23 4.207sqq. 23 4.208–9 147n11 4.210–1 249n26 4.212sqq. 25 4.219 25 4.250 26

Plato Cratylus 384b 162n7 391a–c 162n7 Euthydemus 277e 162n7 Phaedrus 267c 162n7 Protagoras 339a 162n7 Plautus

59, 71n12

P.Oxy. 5093 15n17 P. Oxy. 5131 17n23 Prodicus 162n7 Protagoras 162n7, 172n21, 177n26 Quintilian 10.1.98

35, 36 37, 37n12

Quintus Ennius 1, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38 Medea 32, 33 Medea exul 32, 33 Sappho 1, 13, 27, 29, 191, 191n20, 192, 193 Fr. 31 Voigt 27 Fr. 48 Voigt 27 Fr. 130 Voigt 27 Fr. 186 Voigt 13n7 Seneca 1, 2, 3, 5, 31, 33, 35, 36, 38, 39–43, 47, 65n2, 67, 94n24, 98, 259 Medea 37, 39–43, 95n33 20–1 70n10 53–5 74n15 116–7 67n5 168 78n22 171 42 184–5 78 197 77


Index Locorum

Medea (cont.) 211 38 213 38 246–8 77n21 273–6 77 450–9 82 478–82 38 578 41 670–842 41 836–9 62n22 910 42 Simonides Fr. 546 PMG


Sophocles 13, 17n25, 46n7, 182n32, 185 Ajax 20 293 90n12 Antigone 25, 185 60–2 91n13 248 91n13 480–5 91n13 781–805 25 Electra 612–33 19n32 Eurypylus 17 Oedipus the King 17 Tereus 17, 17n24 Frr. 160–1TrGFr 121n32, 121n33 Fr. 583+P.Oxy 5131 Radt 90n10

Trachiniae 497sqq. 25 Women of Colchis 46n7 Women of Scythia 46n7 Stesichorus Oresteia Fr. 181a 11–3

48, 48n9




Tacitus Dialogus de Oratoribus 12 37, 37n12 Terence 71n12 Theocritus Idylls 7.45–8



1, 15

Theophrastus 21n3 Varro 35 Virgil

29, 44


21, 22

Index of Modern Authors This index is a list of the main titles and passages from modern works included in the text and notes. Pages refer to the editions indicated in the body of the volume where they are quoted. Aguiar, João Inês de Portugal (Inês of Portugal)


Alfonso X the Wise 39 Andresen, Sophia de Mello Breyner 8, 233–57, 259 Ariane em Naxos 249n27 Arte Poética 246n23 Chipre 246n21 Cíclades 246n21, 246–7n23 Delphica VII 246n23 Electra 246nn21, 23 Em Hydra, evocando Fernando Pessoa 246n21, 249n27 Ítaca 249n27 Medeia 233–57 19 237, 238, 242, 243, 250 20 251, 255 20–1 250 21 240 28 252 29 252 30 253, 256 31 244 53 245, 247 59 239 62–3 248 O búzio de Cós 249n27 O Minotauro 246n23, 249n27 O templo de Athena Aphaia 246n21 Os Gregos 246n23 Ressurgiremos 246n21 Anouilh, Jean 65–86, 126, 147n12, 149n16, 152n21, 153n22, 167n14, 168n17, 169n18, 176nn23–4, 180n31, 223n11, 259 Antigone 65, 66n3, 68n8

Jézabel 80n25 La sauvage 80n25 Le voyageur sans bagage 80n25 Médée 65–86, 155n27, 169n18, 259 9 67 9–10 68 10 67, 68 11 67, 69 12 67, 68, 70 13 67n6, 68 13–4 69 14 69, 70 15 70 16 70 17 71, 71n11 18 71n11 18–9 71, 71n12 19 72 20 72 20–1 72 21–2 73 22 72, 78n23, 186n24 25 72, 74 26 72 27 72, 74 28 67n6, 75, 75n16 29 75 30 72n13, 75n17, 76 33 78 34 76, 77, 78 35 78 35–6 78 36 79 38 78 38–9 77 39 77, 77n21 40 79 44 79n24 45 80 46 80, 81n26 47 81n26 48 81, 81n28 49 81

296 Médée (cont.) 49–50 50 53 55 56 57–8 58 59 61 62 63 64 67 72 88 Nouvelles pièces noires Roméo et Jeannette

Index of Modern Authors 81n29 81, 81n28 81 82 82 82 82 83 83 83, 84 84 84 84 85 86 65 80n25

Artaud, Antonin 113 Avilez, Carlos (director)

201n3, 261

Bergamín, José 66n4 Medea, la encantadora (Medea, the Enchantress) 66n4 Boglio, Maricla Medeia – O amor de uma mulher (Medea – A Woman’s Love)


Brandão, Fiama Pais 5, 113–22, 260 Eu vi o Epidauro (I Saw Epidaurus) 5, 113–9, 260 72 115, 115n14 73 114, 119, 119n26 74 118n25 75 118, 118n24 82 116, 116n17 84 118, 118n22 91 116, 116–7n18 102 116, 116n15 121 116, 116n17 127 117, 117n21 128 114, 116, 116n16 129 115, 115n13 Obra breve (Brief Work) 118

Sob o Olhar de Medeia (Under the Gaze of Medea) 5, 113, 119–22, 260 13 119, 119n27 16 119 67–8 120, 120n32 68 121 99 121, 121n36 103 121, 121n35 109 121, 121n34 112 122, 122n37 124 120 166 119n28 170 120, 120n31 Brecht, Bertolt 113, 117, 117nn19–20, 118 Furcht und Elend des dritten Reiches 
 (Terror and Misery in the Third Reich) 117n19 Schriften zum Theater 
 (Studies about Theater) 117n19 Buarque, Chico Gota d’Água (Drop of Water) 95, 96, 96n34, 105–6, 258n1 Butler, Guy Demea

100, 100n50

Cacoyannis, Michael

40, 41

Calderón de la Barca, Pedro 45n3 Los tres mayores prodigios (The Three Biggest Prodigies) 45n3 Calle, Mónica (director)


Camões, Luís de 203n7 The Lusiads 203n7 Carr, Martina By the Bog of Cats ...



Index of Modern Authors Casales, Pablo 203n6 Cattani, Fabrizio Maternity Blues


Cintra, Luis Miguel (director) 114n6 Cláudio, Mário 6, 7, 200–15, 259 Amadeo 202, 202n5 Boa noite, Senhor Soares (Good Evening, Mister Soares) 214n39 Guilhermina 202 Medeia 7, 200–15, 219n6, 260 9 204n10 9–10 208 11 205n15, 206n18, 208, 208n24, 210n29, 211n30, 212n35 12 204n10, 205n15, 208n24, 211n31 13 209, 209nn25– 6, 211n32 14 205n15, 208n24, 213 14–5 210n28 15 208n24, 211n33 17 204n11, 207n21 18 204n11, 209n27, 212n34 19 204nn11–2 21 204n12, 212n37 22 204n12 22–3 212n37 23 204n12, 212 24 204n11, 206n17 25 205n16, 212n35 26–7 212n37 28 204n11, 206n19, 207n20 29–30 213 30 214 31 212n35 33 204n11 34 204n11, 212, 212n36

35 204n11, 213 37 205n16, 207n23, 213, 214 38 213 39 214 40 207n22, 212 41 212n35, 214 44 214 45 213 46 214 47–8 212 48 214 49 212 50 214 51 204n13, 215 Retrato de Rapaz (Portrait of a Boy) 202n5 Rosa 202 Trilogia da Mão (Trilogy of the Hand) 202 Corneille, Pierre 65n2 Correia, Hélia 4, 5–6, 66n4, 75, 76, 80nn25–6, 81n27, 82n30, 83n31, 144–57, 158–83, 184–99, 222n10, 259–60 A de Cólquida (The Woman from Colchis) 6, 144–57, 260 9 145, 145n7, 146, 147, 148, 149 10 146, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154 11 154, 156, 157 Apodera-te de mim (Take Possession of Me) 6, 144 Desmesura. Exercício com Medeia (Excess: An Exercise with Medea) 6, 75n16, 113, 144n4, 145, 145n8, 148n14, 149n17, 150n18, 154n23, 155n26, 156, 158–83, 184–99, 222n10, 260

298 Desmesura. Exercício com Medeia (cont.) 4 164, 165, 167, 172, 174 5 165, 170, 172 6 164, 165, 174, 175, 176 7 165 8 180 9 167, 169, 174, 182 10 169, 170 11 170n19, 171 12 170, 173, 175 13 159, 160, 174, 175, 182 13–4 195 14 160, 165n11, 166, 176, 180 14–5 197 15 161, 164, 177 16 166 16–7 177 17 170n19, 171 17–8 177 18 167, 175 19 178, 192, 194 19–20 178, 193 20 170, 178, 182 21 168, 178 21–2 178 22 166, 167, 179, 180 24 175, 191 25 168, 180 27 171 28 181 29 163 32 181 33 179 34 194, 195 34–5 194 35 166 36 113 37 182, 183 38 183 Em Knossos (In Knossos) 144 Penthesiléa 144 Perdição. Exercício sobre Antígona (Perdition. An Exercise on Antigone) 6, 74n14, 83n31, 144n4, 156n28,

Index of Modern Authors 158, 159, 162, 185, 222n10 164n10

34 Rancor. Exercício sobre Helena (Rancor. An Exercise on Helen) 6, 144n4, 158, 162, 185 43–6 165n12 56 179n30 101–2 164n10 Correia, Natália

151n19, 158

Cruz, Ulysses (director) 258n1 Diário de Notícias


Dionísio, Eduarda 5, 115n10, 123–43, 260n3 Antes que a noite venha (Before the Night Comes) 5, 115n10, 123–43, 260 Dostoyevsky, Fiódor 151n19 Druckman, Jacob 109n82 Ferreira, António 191n19, 195 A Castro 123n3, 191, 191n19, 195, 203n7 Comédia do Fanchono ou de Bristo 191n19 Comédia do Cioso 191n19 Fisher, John Medea. The Musical 107n74, 108n78 Franco, António Cândido Memórias de Inês de Castro (Memories of Inês de Castro) 203n7 García Lorca, Federico 231 Garcia de Resende 39


Index of Modern Authors Gersão, Teolinda 151n19 Gildon, Charles Phaeton, or The Fatal Divorce


Glover, Richard Medea: A Tragedy

94, 95

Gomes Júnior, João Baptista A nova Castro 123n3, 203n7 Grillparzer, Franz 98n44 Das Goldene Vließ 97n40 Medea 97, 97nn39, 40, 42 Harrison, Tony 109n82 Medea: A Sex-Opera 109

Lope de Vega, Félix El vellocino de oro (Golden Fleece)

35, 45n3 35, 45n3

Lopes, Fernão 203 Luís, Agustina Bessa 151n19 Adivinhas de Pedro e Inês (The Riddles of Pedro and Inês) 203n7 Luz, Adriano

123n2, 260

Manguson, James African Medea


Milhaud, Darius Médée


Miranda, Sá de 191

Jahnn, Hans Henny Medea

98, 98n45

Mónica, Maria Filomena 150–1n19

Jeffers, John Robinson Medea Solstice

99n46, 259 99n46

Moraga, Cherríe The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea

106, 107, 107n73

Jesus, Carlos (director) Queda Medea


Morillo, Juan Medeia. Rito e cerimónia sobre uma lenda imortal (Medea. Rite and Ceremony Around an Immortal Legend)


Jorge, Lídia 151n19 Kennelly, Brendan Euripides’ Medea: A New Version


Kirklund, Willy Medeia Estrangeira (Foreign Medea)

Morrison, Toni Beloved  101, 101n52, 102


LaChiusa, Michael John Marie Christine


Lapa, Fernanda (director)

235n5, 259

Legouvé, Ernest

96n37, 97–8n42

Müller, Heiner 103nn61, 63, 104, 105 Despoiled Shore 103 Landscape with Argonauts 103 Medeamaterial 103, 103n61, 258 Medeaspiedel (Medea play) 103n61

Lenormand, Henry Asie (Asia)

98–9, 99n46

Ninagawa, Yukio (director) Medea 91n13


Index of Modern Authors

Noble, Thomas Satterwhite 101n52 Notícias Magazine


Novalis / Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg 113 Oliveira, Jocy de Kseni – A Estrangeira (Kseni – The Foreigner)


Pasolini, Pier Paolo 103n59, 121 Medea 99n46, 101n51, 102n57 Patrício, António Pedro, o Cru (Pedro, the Cruel)


Paula, Anna (actress) 201n3 Pedro, António 223n11 Pessoa, Carlos Jorge 6, 216–32 A menina que foi avó: peça teatral em jeito de conto de fadas (The Girl Who Became a Grandmother: A Fairytale-Style Srama) 217n3 Desertos: evento didáctico seguido de um poema grátis (Deserts: A Didactic Event Followed by a Free Poem) 216n2, 217n3 Escrita da água: no rasto de Medeia (Water Writing: In Medea’s Wake) 7, 216–32, 260, 261 229 221, 222 232 219 235 227, 231 236 226, 228 237 218, 225 237–8 225 238 221, 224 240 231 241–2 230 246 220, 223

247 228 247–8 230 248 223 249 230 250 223 250–1 228 252 225, 228 253 229 256 221, 227, 229 257 227, 229 261 226 262 226 263 219, 226 264 226 265 223, 226, 228 266 226 267 226, 227 269 224 270 226 271 227, 228 272 229 273 227, 230 275 226 276 226 277 218 278 227 280 231 281–2 230 284–5 228 323 231 In(sub)missão (Peça teatral sobre a liberdade) (In(sub)mission (A Play on Freedom)) 216–7n2 O homem que ressuscitou: epifania em 20 estações (The Man Who Resurrected: An Epiphany in 20 Stations) 217n3
 On the road ou a hora do arco-íris (On the Road, or the Rainbow Hour) 216n2 O Pai (The Father) 216n2 Pentateuco – Manual de sobrevivência para o ano 2000 (Pentateuch – A Survival Manual for the Year 2000) 7, 217, 217nn3–4, 218


Index of Modern Authors Peregrinação – o fio de Ariadne (Peregrination – Ariadne’s Thread) 216n2, 217n3 
 Pessoa, Fernando (vide Reis, Ricardo, Soares, Bernardo) 184, 186n5, 191n20, 199, 199nn24–5, 214n39 Pirandello, Luigi 115, 115n13, 223, 223n11 L’ Esclusa (The Excluded) 115n12 Pontes, Paulo Gota d’Água 95, 96, 96n34, 105–6, 258n1 Público

115n11, 150n19

Ramalho, Rosa

202, 203n6

Rame, Franca Medea 68 70 Tutto casa, letto e chiesa (All Home, Bed, and Church)

87, 87–8nn1–2 87, 87–8n2 87 87 87n2

Reis, Ricardo (vide Pessoa, Fernando)

186, 186n5

Riaza, Luiz Medea es un buen chico (Medea is a Good Boy)


Ribas, Tomaz (director) 259 Rodríguez del Padrón, Juan 39 Rojas, Francisco de 45n3 Rouquette, Max Médée


Schroeder, Juan German

40, 41

Selecções Reader’s Digest


Shakespeare, William 5, 43, 114, 115, 115n13, 117, 235–6n7, 241n16, 260 Hamlet 233n3, 235n7, 236n8, 238n13, 241n16 Silva, António José 45–64 Anfitrião ou Júpiter e Alcmena (Amphitruo or Juppiter and Alcmena) 45n2 Esopaida ou Vida de Esopo (Aesopaida or Life of Aesopus) 45n2 Os encantos de Medeia (Medea’s Charms) 45–64, 259 7–8 48 8 48 9 49, 54, 60 10 60n17 10–1 61 11 54 12 49, 55 13 49, 60n17 14 59, 61 15 60 17 61 18 61n21 19 50 21 50, 56 22 51 24 51 25 62 26 57 27 62 32 57, 62 33 62 35 51 37 60nn16–7 38 58 38–9 57 41 51 44 52 45 60n17, 62 46 62 49 54, 63


Index of Modern Authors

Os encantos de Medeia (cont.) 52 58 57 54, 55 65 63 67 63 72 52 75 52 85 52 88 59 90 55 91 55 Precipício de Faetonte (Phaeton’s Precipice) 45n2 Soares, Bernardo 214n39 Livro do Desassossego (Book of Disquiet) 214n39 Souza-Cardoso, Amadeo de

202, 202n6

Studley, John 95n33 Suggia, Guilhermina

202, 203n6

Tchekhov, Anton 113, 115, 115n13, 117 The Three Sisters 115, 115n9 Updike, John 113 Vargas Llosa, Mario

214, 214n38

Verasani, Grazia 108n76 From Medea 108

Viana Filho, Oduvaldo Caso Especial-Medéia (Special Case-Medea)


Vieira, Afonso Lopes A Paixão de Pedro o Cru (The passion of Pedro, the Cruel)


Wagner, Richard 5, 114, 117, 205, 260 The Ring of the Nibelung (Der Ring des Nibelungen) 114 Woensel, Oscar van, Bakker, Kuno, Topper, Manja Medeia 259 Wolf, Christa 93n21, 104, 104nn65–6, 105, 105nn67, 69, 151n20 Medea. Stimmen (Medea. Voices / Medea. A New Retelling) 103–4, 104n64, 151n20, 258 Zambrano, María La tumba de Antígona (Antigone’s Tomb)

5, 124, 126 124, 260

Index of Subjects This index consists of a list of entries, such as themes/concepts events or historical personalities, related to the ancient works and their adaptations, relevant in a volume dedicated to reception. Agon 5, 19, 76–85, 125, 126, 128n11, 159, 162, 173, 176, 177, 178n29, 181, 188, 194, 211 Athens ‘ideal city’ 2, 12 Audience, Spectators 5, 7, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 22n6, 33, 40, 65, 66, 88n2, 96, 107, 108, 117, 124, 140, 147n12, 208, 210, 213, 221–2, 222n9, 223, 224, 228, 233, 234, 242, 249, 251, 257 Barbarism 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 16, 18, 18n31, 19, 23, 28, 29, 30, 46, 46n5, 47, 52–5, 56, 60, 60n17, 63, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71n12, 72, 73, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, 84, 85, 98n43, 102, 105, 106, 133, 145, 146, 147, 147n12, 148, 149n16, 150n18, 152n21, 153, 154, 155, 155n26, 159, 162, 163, 167, 168, 168n17, 169, 170, 171, 175, 178n28, 182, 206, 211, 215, 219, 250 Brazil Culture 96 Politics 105, 106 Chorus 11, 12, 16, 20, 41, 42, 43, 87, 106, 133, 135n18, 137n20, 147n11, 150n18, 159, 160, 162–3n8, 167n15, 195–6, 205, 220, 221–2, 234, 236, 238, 239, 240, 245, 248, 259 Cinema 7, 114n6, 219, 220, 221, 222–3, 227, 228 Deus ex machina 20, 52, 188 Exile 2, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 47, 53, 55, 74, 77, 78, 82, 83, 90, 107, 119, 129, 131–2, 135, 137, 141, 143n25, 147n12, 154, 159, 163n8, 167n15, 168, 169, 169n18, 170, 171, 175, 211, 259, 260, 261 Filicide, Infanticide 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 15, 15n15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 29n18, 32, 42, 55, 58, 70, 85, 86, 88, 88nn2, 4, 5, 89, 89nn7–8, 92, 92n17, 93, 93n19, 94, 95, 95n30, 96, 96nn37–8, 98, 98n43, 99, 99n46, 100, 100–1n51, 101, 102, 102n55,

103, 104, 104n66, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 109n85, 113, 116, 131, 140, 142, 143, 151n20, 152–6, 159, 163n8, 182, 188, 189, 215, 227, 236, 245, 247, 258 Magic powers 2, 5, 14, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 39, 41, 45n3, 47, 50, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 56n14, 57, 59, 61, 62, 63, 76, 85, 92, 94, 107, 120n32, 121, 126, 131, 136, 138, 139, 140, 146, 147, 148, 148nn14–5, 149, 151, 159, 159n4, 160, 163, 167, 168, 171, 171n20, 178, 183, 188, 240, 243, 244, 249, 260, 261 Motherhood 2, 6, 7, 12, 25, 26, 70, 88, 88nn2, 4, 91, 91n15, 92, 93, 94, 101, 107, 108, 108n77, 134–5, 138, 140, 141, 153, 153n22, 154, 211, 226, 232 Nomos 130, 153, 168, 172, 172n21, 173, 174, 179 Nurse 41, 42, 55, 56, 58, 65, 66, 67, 68, 68n8, 70, 71, 72, 72n13, 73, 74, 74n14, 75, 75n17, 76, 78nn22–3, 80, 103, 127n10, 133, 133n15, 134n17, 137nn20–1, 147nn11–2, 149n16, 153n22, 155n27, 163, 163nn8–9, 164, 164n10, 167n16, 168n17, 169n18, 176, 176n23, 177n27, 179n30, 236, 240, 242, 250, 251, 254 Orthoépeia 76, 82n30, 162, 162n7, 179, 181, 183 Philia, philos 2, 49, 54, 59, 128, 128n11, 131, 131n14, 150n18 Physis, nature 130, 131, 134, 135, 140, 147, 148, 153, 155, 163, 172n21, 173, 174, 179, 218, 232, 254 Portugal Culture 7, 203, 203n7, 204, 207, 214 History 203n7, 204, 258 Politics 4, 158n2, 207, 261 Society 4, 7, 150–1n19, 158n2, 204, 212–5, 217–8, 225–6, 258, 261

304 Prologue  66, 67, 80, 88n2, 127n10, 168n17, 204, 208, 220, 221, 222 Racism 98, 98nn43–4, 99, 99n46, 100, 100nn50–1, 101 Scenery 66n4 slave (comedy) 52, 54, 58, 59–64, 71n12 Women Psychology 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 20, 41, 55, 58, 66, 89n8, 134, 145–6n9, 159

Index of Subjects Female condition 3, 4, 6, 11, 17, 70, 77, 77n20, 88n2, 89–90n10, 90, 90–1n13, 91, 95, 105, 107, 108, 114–9, 126, 127, 129, 130, 134n16, 142n24, 148, 149, 149–50nn16–7, 150, 150n18, 156, 164, 164n10, 167, 171–2, 232, 240, 250, 251, 253, 258, 261 Feminist movements 97, 100, 258 Presence in performances 19