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A Hero of Another Kind

The tragic hero is usually not like an everyday person that is seen on the street. According to Aristotle’s book, Poetics, four characteristics establish the essence of a tragic hero. This is very helpful in understanding why the tragic hero is a mediocre type of person. First of all the hero must belong to a distinguished family. Secondly he must be a-better-than average person. Next the hero must suffer from a flaw in his character or in his judgement otherwise known as hmartia. Finally he must undergo a transition of happiness to misery called peripeteia. In Euripides’ tragedy, Medea, Medea can be classified as an atypical tragic hero.

To follow Aristotle’s four characteristics, Medea fits the first one. She does come from a well-distinguished family. Her father is King Aeetes. Medea is also a better-than-average person. With her great deception she can fool many people. For example she killed her own brother and duped her father. Another example would be that she caused Pelias’ own daughters to murder him. She deceives Jason by telling him she would like to make amends for their past. Medea says,” Surely you can afford to forgive my bad temper: after all there has been much love between us.”(p.320) She continues to tell true lies to Jason. Also Medea is very crafted in poison. She sends gifts to the princess that poison her.

Medea had a tragic flaw that resulted in how she reacted to Jason’s betrayal. Her tragic flaw was her self-will and excessive pride. Some quotes from the book reveal how Medea recognized this. ” Now I see how my passion is stronger than my reason.”(p.325) Her passion and self-will could not let Jason go unpunished. ” Am I willing to let my enemies go unpunished? Am I willing to be insulted and laughed at?”(p.325) This quote reveals her strong pride. Her self-will and pride lead her to fulfill a dangerous and deadly deed to seek revenge.

This atypical hero, Medea, undergoes a reversal change of misery to happiness. ” In my sufferings, I wish, oh I wish, that I could die(p.303)….I have been waiting in suspense ladies, I have waited long to learn how things will happen.”(p.326) From the beginning she has no hope in the future, and in the end she gains hope. She gets happiness from justification of revenge. She kills her children because she did not want anyone else to. Also she kills the two people she despises which are King Creon and the princess. How can she be miserable when her problem is gone. Although she did horrible things, she was relieved of troubles knowing Jason would not be happy.

In the end, conclusion has it that Medea was certainly an atypical tragic hero. Medea does measure up to the four characteristics of a tragic hero, but not exactly in the usual ways a typical hero would. So it can be inferred that Euripides’ Medea is a tragic and atypical hero.


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