In front of Madea’s house in Corinth, her nurse narrates and grieves over the circumstances that have led to the conflict between Madea, Jason, and the royal family. This all started when Pelias, king of Iolcus sent Jason to get a Golden Fleece from Colchis, Madea’s home land. Madea, daughter of the king of Colchis, a sorceress, fell in love with Jason, helped him take the Golden Fleece away from her own country, and fled with him to Jason’s home. When they returned to Iolcus, Jason’s home, she used her magical powers to convince the daughters of Pelias to kill their father.
As a result, Madea and Jason were banished from Iolcus by Pelias’s son. From Iolcus, they moved to Corinth where they had children and they earned respect in the city. However, Jason abandons Madea and his children to remarry Glauce, daughter of Kreon, King of Corinth. The nurse describes the degree of emotional wreck that Madea is going through. “She lies without food and gives herself up to suffering, wasting away every moment of the day in tears” (line 24). This makes the nurse scared of the outcome of Madea’s anger: “I am afraid she (Madea) may think of some dreadful thing, for her heart is violent” (line 37) the nurse states.
The tutor of Madea’s children meets the nurse moaning and he shares with her the rumor that was circulating in the city: Kreon intends to drive Madea and her children in exile from Corinth. Inside the house, Madea cries out and wishes her own death. She also curses her children and their father (Jason). She regrets her actions in the past; betraying her country and killing her brother in the course of escaping with Jason. Madea grieves and calls on the goddess of promise (Artemis) and on Zeus (keeper of Oaths) to shatter Jason, his wife to be and the entire palace.
The Chorus made of Corinthian women visits Madea’s home to console her wishing she would relax her rage and temper. They summon Madea to their presence so they could talk to her. Madea respectfully comes out of the house to meet with the chorus. She recounts how unfortunate the woman gender is, with very little privileges and almost no legal rights. She pleads with the chorus to let her devise a means of punishing her husband Jason for betraying her and the chorus agrees that she has the right to punish Jason for abandoning her.
Kreon had been informed about the threats and curses by Madea on Jason and his daughter Glauce. Acknowledging that Madea was a clever woman and versed in evil arts, he was afraid of the outcome of Madea’s anger so, he decided to visit Madea and banish her and her children from Corinth. Madea tries to convince Kreon that she held grudges for Jason and not him or her daughter for they had done her no wrong. However, Kreon was very adamant but agreed to let Madea stay in Corinth for just one day so that she could deliberate on where to go on exile with her children.
As the king leaves, Madea contemplates on how to kill his three enemies, Kreon, Glauce, and Jason “father, the girl and my husband” (line 371). She decides on killing them by “the straight road, the one in which I am (she is) most skilled, and make away with them by poison” (line 380) if she finds somewhere to go for refuge but if not, she will “take the sword myself (herself) and kill, and steadfastly advance to crime” (line 390). Jason visits Madea and reproves her for publicly cursing the house of the king and expressing her evil intensions towards the palace.
However, Jason offers to make provision for her and the children in exile. Madea on the other hand sees this as an act of cowardice and lack of manliness. She recounts to Jason all what she did to help him: helping him in his quest for the Golden Fleece, and the killing of Pelias. She can neither return to her father’s home land where she betrayed her people nor can she go to Jason’s homeland, where she had caused the death of Pelias. In response to Madea, Jason denies the fact that she saved him. In his view, his life was preserved by Cypris, Aphrodite, goddess of love.
He argues that Madea had gained more from him than she had given to him. She now lives in a better city and has gained respect and fame as a clever woman. Jason also argues that his decision to remarry the princess was a clever move and was in the benefit of Madea and the children so they could not lack anything. The chorus acknowledges the fact that Jason had good intensions but they still blame him for betraying his wife. Jason however still offers to help Madea and his children while in exile but Madea rejects all his endeavors and asked him to leave.
Aigeus, king of Athens, an old friend of Madea visits Corinth in search for answers to a riddle from the oracle of Phoebus. He greets Madea and tells her the reason for his visit. He was childless and had gone to inquire from the oracle of Phoebus how he could have children. The oracle told him “I am (He was) not to loosen the hanging foot of the wine-skin” (line 663) (not to have intercourse). This message was unclear to him so he was on his way to meet Pittheus (Aigeus’s father-in-law, known for his ability to interpret words from the gods) to help him explain the riddle.
Madea also told him about her banishment from Corinth and pleads with him to accept her in Athens. She also offers to help Aigeus with drugs that will end his childlessness. Aigeus sympathizes with Madea, he accepts and promises with an oath to let her live in his country only if she will get there on her own. Madea, now so confident and happy she has somewhere to stay in exile, she plans on punishing Jason by poisoning his bride and killing their children. She sends a servant to call for Jason. She pretends to agree with Jason’s marriage and make peace with him and the palace.
She then request that Jason should plead with the king to allow their children to stay in Corinth. Jason expresses his doubts on being able to convince the king but Madea suggested that she talks to his wife, the princess to solicit on his behalf. Madea also offers to send Glauce a golden diadem and a dress through her children so she could help talk to the king. Madea orders a servant to get the poisoned gift and she instructed her children to go to the palace and give the gifts to the princess.
The tutor returns to tell her mistress that the royal bride was pleased with the gifts and her children are reprieved from going to exile. On hearing the news, Madea rather grieves and fights with herself on either completing her evil intensions of killing her children or taking them with her to Athens. She awaits the news of the death of the princess. A messenger from the palace comes with the message of the death of the princess. He narrates the scene of Glauce’s death. Glauce was so attracted to the gifts. She wore the dress sent by Madea and immediately the poison killed her.
Her father, Kreon so frustrated, cried and wished to die with her daughter. He decided to also wear the poisoned dress and he died next to his daughter. Madea was so happy after hearing the news but still decided to complete her task by killing her children so she could quickly leave Corinth. While the chorus cries out about the disaster, they heard a cry from the children in the Madea’s house. Jason asks the chorus the where about of Madea so he could take his children from the hands of their evil mother not knowing that Madea had already killed them.
The chorus tells him his children were dead in the hands of their mother. He orders the servants to open the gates and there comes Madea with the dead children in a chariot drawn by dragons. Jason seeing his death children grieves and regrets marrying Madea and bearing children with her. He begs Madea to touch the children and bury them but Madea refused giving him the opportunity of even touching the children. Madea blames Jason for her actions. She acknowledges the fact that she is also in sorrow but she justifies her action to be Jason’s punishment for betraying her love and breaking their marital vows.