Love, betrayal, revenge... all the ingredients of a good Greek tragedy. But where does history end and myth begin? The tale of Jason and Medea existed for a 1000 years before Euripides wrote his play in 431 BCE. Learn more below about Euripides' Medea, the woman and her legend.
At the time Euripides wrote his play, the legend of Medea was already over a millennium old. As with other stories in the Greek cannon, the audience of 431 BCE would have known many of the details about this woman’s past. Euripides' play continues to resonate with audiences today, however many of the themes and imagery in Medea's myth are less known to contemporary theatre attendees.
Some scholars believe there is evience to show that Medea was a real person. She was a princess of Cholchis and granddaughter to the Greek god of the sun, Helios. Medea was a woman of great power and knowledge and had mastered the art of sorcery. Colchis, where Medea came from, was an area with many riches located in the western part of what is now Georgia, close to the Black Sea. It was also a probable homeland for the Amazons, a tribe of warrior women.
Jason was the heir to the throne of Iolcos (modern-day Thessaly, on the central eastern coast of Greece). His father was overthrown by his half-brother Pelias, in a bitter feud and Jason was raised away from Iolcos in fear that Pelias would kill him. To reclaim the throne, Pelias sent Jason on the quest for the Golden Fleece. It was on this journey on his ship, the Argo, that he met the sorceress Medea, who killed her brother in able to leave with him. The love-struck Medea agreed to help him find the Golden Fleece – if he promised her marriage. With her help, Jason was able to kill the giant serpent that protected the Fleece, sieze it, and return to Iolcos victorious.
He returned home to find that Pelias would not relinquish the throne. In retribution, Medea orchestrated Pelias' death by his own daughters' hands. She convinced the daughters that by cutting up an old ram and boiling it, it could be made young again. She demonstrated on an old ram (see illustration of this on Greek pottery above) and when they saw Medea’s young ram emerge from the pot, they did the same to try to rejuvenate their father. Pelias was cut up, but was not magically reborn.
Jason and Medea then left Iolcos and travelled across southern part of Europe before arriving in Corinth. This maps shows a proposed route of their journeys.
Though Jason had pledged himself to Medea, he still desired power. He negotiated a marriage to Glauce, princess of Corinth, who would bring him into a royal family once more. Despite Medea's royal status, to the Greeks she was considered a barbarian and an outsider whose marriage to Jason had no legal standing. As is seen in Euripides' play, Medea does not forget his oaths to her and seeks her revenge.
The myth of Medea has been reincarnated in many art forms from ancient pottery to opera. The role of Medea has been performed by Maria Callas, one of the most renowned opera singers of the twentieth century, and Sarah Bernhardt, "the most famous actress in the history of the world".
Indeed, the role of a female character seeking revenge on an unfaithful man has reapeared countless times in literature, art and pop culture. Librettists, painters, performance artists and even soap opera writers all owe a debt to Euripides!
March 19 – 28: Medea
Directed by Linda Hardy
March 11: Box Office Open for Medea tickets.
March 17 & 18 at 8:00pm: $6 Preview NightsOn a budget? Join us for Preview nights — the Tuesday and Wednesday before our show opens — for only $6! Tickets are available in person or by phone (250-721-8000) at the box office on the day of the show beginning at 5pm.
March 20 at 7:00pm: Free Pre-Show LectureJoin Associate Professor Ingrid E. Holmberg from UVic’s Department of Greek and Roman Studies for a lecture entitled "Medea: From Ancient Myth to Modern Production."
March 23: Extra Show Added!Due to demand, we have added an extra performance night of Medea on Monday, March 23. Many other performance nights are almost sold out, so consider making Monday your theatre night!
Ride the Cyclone is the long-awaited sequel to Legoland, presented at the Phoenix Theatre in October 2008. Written by past student Jacob Richmond (with lyrics and music by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond) and directed by Atomic Vaudeville co-founders Britt Small (MFA '04) and Jacob Richmond, the play features many Theatre alumni and current students including Timothy Johnston (4th year), Rielle Braid (4th year), Carey Wass (BFA '08), Sarah Pelzer (BFA '08) and Kholby Wardell (BFA '08)
Mark Leiren-Young (BFA '85) wrote, directed and produced the movie The Green Chain, which is opening in Victoria this Friday. This film has won or been nominated in for awards including the "Leo Award," the Writer’s Guild of Canada, "Mockfest" and the "El Prat de Llobregrat Award" from Festival International de Cinema de Medi Ambient in Barcelona.
Check out past Phoenix Phacts on our website.
Looking for dinner before the show? Or maybe a place to go afterwards to discuss the play over drink? Smuggler's Cove in Cadboro Bay Village is just down the hill from the University. Drop in and show your support of this local business that supports local theatre!
The Phoenix Theatre would like to thank our individual donors and community sponsors for their support of our programs and talented students! Thank you!
Season Community Partner:
Cadboro Bay Village Merchants
Blaney's Travel, Bliss Boutique Spa, Cadboro Bay Book Company, Cadboro Bay Village Service, Edward Jones, For Good Measure, People's Pharmacy, Pepper's Foods, Smugglers Cove
Season Ticket Sponsor:
Grand & Toy: Performance Enhancing Offices
Contact Adrienne Holierhoek for information about how your company can support emerging theatre artists at UVic.
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