A Comparative Outlook on Lady Macbeth and Medea

5 May 2016

From ancient theater of Greece and Rome to modern stylized versions of it, stereotypes of monstrous women have always been present; ranging from ancient Greek tragedian Euripides’s Medea to Oscar Wilde’s sexy Salome and Cinderella’s step-mother.

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In the current paper, two characters are compared due to the limitations of space assigned. The two characters are Lady Macbeth and Medea. The former is a character in Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth, and the latter a character by Euripides in a play by the same name. Both plays are tragedies and both of these characters are called evil in many anthologies and essays.

Even painters have brutally portrayed these characters as she devils with horrible faces. But calling them simply by these names is a misnomer and many traits of these characters, if analyzed deeply, are naturally present in all of us. Lady Macbeth and Medea have many things in common with each other: ambitiousness, aggressiveness, intelligence and scheming and many more. And some of the qualities are not present in both characters e.g. love, power and etc.

Shakespeare, being a renaissance English writer, was familiar with Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587) which was a history of England, Scotland and Ireland. And it has been said that, his character’s origins are from this book but with some modifications: whereas in the Chronicle Macbeth is an admired monarch but in Shakespeare’s play he is a usurper.

The secondary source for Shakespeare’s Macbeth is said to be the legend of Medea, a sorceress and princess who murdered her own children. Her act has been said, may have influenced Shakespeare’s portrayal of Lady Macbeth. Medea was the central figure of ancient Greek and Roman plays by the playwrights Euripides and Seneca.

The story of Medea was known orally by folks at the time of Euripides. So the originality of the work lies in its manner of expression and making the play his own, not the subject matter. The unbound emotion and passion pictured by Medea defied moral norms of Athens.

Euripides was one of the prominent ancient Greek tragedians, but he is also called the “darkest”, “most disturbing” and “most innovative” of them. He challenges authority and hollow or hypocritical ideals, and on the contrary

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