Women of Corinth, I’m coming here,
outside the house, so you won’t think ill of me.
Many men, I know, become too arrogant,
both in the public eye and in their homes.
Others get a reputation for indifference,
because they stay at ease within the house.
There’s no justice in the eyes of mortal men.
Before they know someone’s deep character,
they hate her on sight, though she’s not hurt them.
A guest of the city must comply, of course,
act as the city wants. I don’t commend
a stubborn man, not even a citizen,
who thanks to his stupidity annoys
his fellow townsmen. But in my case,
this unexpected blow that’s hit me,
well, it’s destroyed my heart. My life is gone,
dear friends. I’ve lost all joy. I want to die.
The man who was everything to me,
my own husband, has turned out to be
the worst of men. This I know is true.
Of all things with life and understanding,
we women are the most unfortunate.
First, we need a husband, someone we get
for an excessive price. He then becomes
the ruler of our bodies. And this misfortune
adds still more troubles to the grief we have.
Then comes the crucial struggle: this husband
we’ve selected, is he good or bad?
For a divorce loses women all respect,
yet we can’t refuse to take a husband.
Then, when she goes into her husband’s home,
with its new rules and different customs,
she needs a prophet’s skill to sort out the man
whose bed she shares. She can’t learn that at home.
Once we’ve worked hard at this, and with success,
our husband accepts the marriage yoke
and lives in peace—an enviable life.
But if the marriage doesn’t work, then death
is much to be preferred. When the man tires
of the company he keeps at home, he leaves,
seeking relief for his distress elsewhere,
outside the home. He gets his satisfaction
with some male friend or someone his own age.
We women have to look at just one man.
Men tell us we live safe and secure at home,
while they must go to battle with their spears.
How stupid they are! I’d rather stand there
three times in battle holding up my shield
than give birth once. But your story and mine
are not the same. For you have a city,
you have your father’s house, enjoy your life
with friends for company. But I’m alone.
I have no city, and I’m being abused
by my own husband. I was carried off,
a trophy from a barbarian country.
I have no mother, brother, or relation,
to shelter with in this extremity.
And so I want to ask something from you.
If I find some way to punish Jason
for these injustices, and his bride, as well,
and father, too, say nothing. In other things
a woman may be timid—in watching battles
or seeing steel, but when she’s hurt in love,
her marriage violated, there’s no heart
more desperate for blood than hers.
I’ll do what you request. For you are right
to pay back your husband. And, Medea,
I’m not surprised you grieve at these events.
I see Creon, king of Corinth, coming.
He’ll be bringing news, announcing
some new decision that’s been made.
You there, Medea, scowling in anger
against your husband. I’m ordering you
out of Corinth. You must go into exile,
and take those two children of yours with you.
Go quickly. I’m here to make quite sure
that this decree is put into effect.
I’ll not go back to my own palace
until I’ve cast you out, beyond our borders.
Oh, now my sufferings will kill me. It’s over.
My enemies have set full sail against me,
and there’s no way I can avert disaster.
But, Creon, let me ask you something—
I’m the one abused, so why banish me?
What have I done?
I’m afraid of you.
I won’t conceal the truth. There’s a good chance
you might well instigate some fatal harm
against my daughter. Many things lead me
to this conclusion: you’re a clever woman,
very experienced in evil ways;
you’re grieving the loss of your husband’s bed;
and from reports I hear you’re making threats
to take revenge on Jason, on his bride,
and on her father. Before that happens,
I’m taking some precautions. Woman,
it’s better that you hate me, than for me
to grow soft now and then regret it later.
Alas, this is not the first time, Creon,
my reputation has badly damaged me.
It’s happened often. No man with any sense
should ever educate his children
to know anything beyond what’s normal.
Quite apart from charges of idleness
which other people bring against them,
they stir up in their fellow citizens
a hostile envy. If you offer fools
some brand new wisdom, they’ll consider you
quite useless, not someone wise. And if,
within the city, people think of you
as greater than those men who seem quite wise,
you’ll appear a nuisance. So it is with me.
For I’m a knowledgeable woman. I make
some people envious. Others say I’m shy.
Some the opposite. Some say I’m hostile.
I’m not that clever, but still you fear me.
Have I hurt you at all, made you suffer?
Don’t fear me, Creon. It’s not in me
to commit crimes against the men in charge.
Besides, in what way have you injured me?
You’ve married your daughter to a man,
one your heart selected. My husband’s
the one I hate. In my view, you’ve acted
with good sense in this business. So now,
I’ll not begrudge you your prosperity.
Have your marriage, and good luck to you.
But let me remain here, in this country.
Although I’ve suffered an injustice,
I’ll obey the rulers and stay silent.
What you say sounds comforting enough,
but I’m still afraid that heart of yours
is planning something evil. At this point,
I trust you even less than previously.
Passionate people, women as well as men,
are easier to protect oneself against,
than someone clever who keeps silent.
No. You must leave—and right away.
No more speeches. I’ve made up my mind.
It’s not possible for you to stay here,
not with us, given your hostility to me.
MEDEA [kneeling in front of Creon]
No, don’t send me away. I’m begging you,
at your knee, in your daughter’s name.
Your words are useless. You won’t persuade me.
You’ll send me into exile without hearing
Indeed I will.
I don’t love you more than my own family.
O my homeland! How I’m thinking of you now.
Except for my own children, my country
is what I cherish most by far.
love’s a miserable thing for mortal men.
I think events determine if that’s true.
O Zeus, don’t overlook who bears the blame
for all this evil.
It’s time to leave,
you foolish woman. Time to rid myself
of all this trouble.
We have trouble enough—
There’s no need for any more.
or my servants will throw you into exile.
No, don’t do that. I beg you, Creon . . .
Woman, it seems you’re trying to provoke me.
All right then. I will go into exile.
I wasn’t begging to escape from that.
Then why squeeze my hand so hard and not let go?
Let me remain here one day to prepare,
to get ready for my exile, to provide
something for my children, since their father,
as one more insult, does nothing for them.
Have pity on them. You’re a parent, too.
You should treat them kindly—that’s what’s right.
If I go into exile, I don’t care,
but I weep for them in their misfortune.
For a tyrant my will is by nature tender,
and by feeling pity I’ve been hurt before,
more than once. And now, woman, I see
I’m making a mistake, for you can have
your extra day. But let me warn you—
if the sun catches you tomorrow
within the borders of this country,
you or your children, you’ll be put to death.
Don’t think I’m not telling you the truth.
So, if you must remain, stay one more day.
In that time you can’t do the harm I fear.
Alas for you, unfortunate woman—
how wretched your distress. Where will you turn?
Where will you find someone to take you in?
What country, what home will you find yourself
to save you from misfortunes?
Things have worked out badly in every way.
Who can deny the fact? But nonetheless,
you should not assume that’s how things will stay.
The newly wedded pair still face some struggles,
and the man who made this marriage happen
might have serious problems yet. Do you think
I’d prostrate myself before a man like that,
if there was no advantage to be gained?
If I didn’t have some plan in mind,
I’d not have talked to him or grabbed his hand.
But the man’s become completely foolish—
when he had the power to prevent me
from planning anything, by sending me
out of his land, he let me stay one day,
a day when I’ll turn three of my enemies
to corpses—father, daughter, and my husband.
Now, I can slaughter them in many ways.
I’m not sure which one to try out first.
Perhaps I should set the bridal suite on fire,
or sneak into the house in silence,
right up to their marriage bed, and plunge
some sharpened steel right through their guts.
There’s just one problem. If I get caught
going in their house, meaning to destroy it,
I’ll be killed, and my enemies will laugh.
No. The best method is the most direct,
the one at which I have a special skill—
I’ll murder them with poison. Yes, that’s it.
But once they’re dead, what city will receive me?
Who’ll give me safe shelter as a guest,
and offer me physical protection?
There’s no one. Still, I’ll wait a little while.
If someone shows up who can shield me,
I’ll set my scheme in motion and kill them
without saying a word. But if events
force me to act openly, I’ll use a sword.
Even though it will bring about my death,
I’ll push my daring to the very limit
and slaughter them. By Hecate, the goddess
I worship more than all the others,
the one I choose to help me in this work,
who lives with me deep inside my home,
these people won’t bring pain into my heart
and laugh about it. This wedding of theirs,
I’ll make it hateful for them, a disaster—
Creon’s marriage ties, my exile from here,
he’ll find those bitter. So come, Medea,
call on all those things you know so well,
as you plan this and set it up. Let the work,
this deadly business, start. It’s a test of wills.
You see what you have to put up with.
You must not let Jason’s marriage make you
a laughing stock among Corinthians,
compatriots of Sisyphus, for you
trace your family from a noble father
and from Helios, the sun. So get to work.
Besides, we have a woman’s nature—
powerless to perform fine noble deeds,
but very skilled in all the forms of evil.
Medea by Euripides