Teaching Students About Ancient Greek Theater: Medea by Euripides


Teaching ancient Greek theater, specifically the tragic masterpiece “Medea” by Euripides, can be an engaging and transformative experience for students. With themes ranging from love and betrayal to revenge and gender roles, “Medea” provides a wealth of material for classroom discussion and analysis. This article will outline effective strategies for teaching students about Medea and encourage a deeper understanding of this classic work.

Background Information

Before diving into the play itself, it is essential to provide students with some background information on ancient Greek theater and its conventions:

Introduce the concept of the ancient Greek tragedy and its place within the larger context of Greek society.

Discuss the major playwrights of the time (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides) and their contributions to the development of the tragic form.

Explain specific features of Greek theatre, such as the role of the chorus, masks, costumes, and the structure of a tragic play.

Character Analysis

Character analysis is fundamental in understanding “Medea” as each character represents a unique perspective on the themes explored in the play:

Medea – The protagonist and anti-heroine. Discuss her role as a wife, mother, sorceress, and foreigner in Corinth.

Jason – Medea’s husband, who betrays her for his own advancement. Analyze his ambition, selfishness, and ultimate downfall.

The Chorus – Explore their dual role as both characters in the play and representatives of societal norms.

Other supporting characters – Including Aegeus, Creon, Glauce, and Medea’s children.

 Major Themes

Delving into significant themes of “Medea” will enable students to make connections between ancient Greek society and their own experiences:

Love: Examine different representations of love in the play, including Medea and Jason’s relationship and the concept of self-love as seen through various characters.

Betrayal: Discuss how betrayal functions as a catalyst for revenge and destruction in Medea’s life.

Revenge: Analyze Medea’s pursuit of vengeance and the implications it has for her character development and the play’s outcome.

Gender roles: Consider how “Medea” subverts traditional gender roles by portraying a powerful, intelligent, and vengeful female protagonist.

Modern Connections

To make the story of “Medea” more relatable to today’s students, discuss how its themes are still relevant in contemporary society:

Draw comparisons between the destructive nature of Medea’s quest for revenge and the consequences of seeking personal justice in current events.

Talk about issues concerning gender inequality, from historical instances to our society today.

Examine modern debates about immigration and assimilation in light of Medea’s status as an outsider in Corinth.

Using these tools and approaches will help you engage your students in a comprehensive understanding of Euripides’ “Medea.” By highlighting both historical context and modern connections, your lessons can inspire deeper conversations about love, betrayal, revenge, and societal norms – themes that continue to resonate throughout time.

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