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Oakton Community College Ovids Heroides Medea’s Letter to Jason Discussion

Read Ovid’s HEROIDES: Medea’s Letter to Jason attached below and answer the discussion post in your own words. Write a paragraph 8-10 sentences minimum. Make sure to address all the questions asked below in the paragraph.

In their commentary on Medea’s Letter to Jason, the translators (Murgatroyd, Reeves and Parker) summarize the way in which the writer, Medea, explains herself and the situation that has developed with Jason.

She foregrounds her loyalty and kindness, her misery and her regret at helping Jason, putting them at the start of her letter to give them prominence. She plays up all that she has done for him and how badly he has treated her by going on at length about all that and returning to it repeatedly. She plays down the questionable and bad things she has done (the betrayal of her father and the murders of Apsyrtus and Pelias), passing over them quickly, and also intimating that her love for Jason was to blame in each case. She presents herself as a naïve and vulnerable young girl who was taken in by his seductive words, and who has subsequently been caused great pain by being abandoned by him for his new wife. (138-139)

But this self-presentation or explanation of her situation is not credible to some readers. For example, one critic, Isbell, calls Medea “a perfect model of depravity.” Isbell also asserts “that she is not rehabilitated in the eyes of the reader and her argument is so flawed that she cannot be pitied” (139) Another critic, Jacobson, describes Medea as a “dastardly villain” and claims that “there is little good to be said for her and her personality is contemptible” (139).

How do you respond to these critics’ interpretations of Medea’s self-presentation and her explanation of the past in this letter to Jason? Does Medea offer a credible explanation of herself and the events of the past that have contributed to her present difficulties? Is everything really Medea’s fault because she is the perfect model of depravity? Is Medea simply villainous, or contemptible? Or does the letter reveal a woman who is complicated and conflicted about her past as she struggles to deal with the problems of both the present and the future?


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