Psychoanalysis of Medea
The movement of the unconscious of Medea has been highlighted. Her libido transforms into ego when her libido object is taken from her. She loses the ability to judge right from wrong. This perspective of Medea brings out the unique dramatic art of “Euripides” in the ancient Greece. Ahmad Aqeel Sarwar Professor Ayesha Classical Drama 31st March’2012 Libido: Medea’s Real Force Medea is a domestic tragedy by Euripides depicting the psychological implications because of grief that inflate the misery of a barbarian woman Medea.
A close study of the mind of Medea shows that there are certain psychological constraints which play a vital role in all of her actions. The extremist actions of Medea are not driven by her rage and grief but by her libido. Freud explains libido as: “libido is a term used in the theory of instincts for describing the dynamic manifestations of sexuality. It is difficult to say anything of the behavior of Libido in thee id and super-ego. Everything that we know about it relates to the ego, in which the whole available amount of libido is at first stored up.
Libido participates in every instinctual manifestation, but not everything in that manifestation is libido. ” (Freud, Dictionary of Psychoanalysis) It shows that libido is related to ego and its manifestation is instinctual. A strong libido can be observed in the character of Medea which manifests itself in her actions driven by her extreme ego. In order to get a true picture of Medea, the myth of Medea should be examined. Ovid has given a picture of Medea in his Metamorphoses. Patricia B.
Salzman Mitchell describes the psychology of Medea, as portrayed in Ovid’s Metamorphoses: When her story begins in Book 7, she is no more than a girl, but a girl who promptly falls in love and would give it all to gain her beloved. Her desire springs from an image of Jason. The text first describes how she became passionate for the hero (concipit interea validos Aeetias ignes/ “In the meantime, the daughter of King Aeetes was ignited by the overpowering fire of love,” (Met. 7. 9); shortly thereafter we realize that she has just seen him: “cur, quem modo denique vidi,/ ne pereat timeo? /” Why am I afraid that he whom I have only just seen may die? ” (Met. 7. 15-16). The visual impression proceeds in a double edged-way. Medea Struggling with her own emotions between duty and desire, states: sed trahit invitam nova vis, aliudque cupido, mens aliud suadet: video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor… “But a new force derives me against my will. Desire persuades me one way, my mind another. I see the better course and I approve of it, but I follow the worse. ” (Met. 7. 19-21)
These formulae utterances have profound inter textual echoes, serve as a defining trace of Medea’s character, and hint at woman’s libido and inability to do the right thing. At a surface level, video meliora seems to refer to Medea’s knowledge of the right path to follow. Her previous comment that she has just seen Jason bears the hidden sense that what is ‘melora’ may well be Jason, in her eyes. In addition, the monologue presents a key problem in the story: why does Medea burn for a foreigner? (Met. . 21-22). Medea’s ‘barbarism’ and the problems of treason against one’s own land have been widely explored and they remain central in the issues of movement and immobility that are here discussed. Medea knows that her proper role is to stay on land and safeguard her family, but love is more powerful. As Carole Newlands points out __ though perhaps stretching Medea’s transformation too far__ the heroine undergoes a change from dutiful daughter and innocent girl to rebellious woman, and finally monster. Patricia) This transformation in the person of Medea occurs because she is in danger of losing her libido object. She can go to all extremes to preserve this new feeling which she relishes now. Medea’s actions are now derived by this new force and she is unable to act reasonably. She is ready to make the unwomanly move to kill her brother in order to get a safe passage for Jason and her. She acts unreasonably and unwomanly because she is unable to control the newly felt feeling of libido. This strange force of libido resides in her unconscious and inspires her actions.
According to Freud “… it (libido) manifests itself in irresistible attractions exerted by one sex upon the other and that its aim is sexual union or at least such actions as would lead to that union. ” (Freud, The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud) It is no doubt her overpowering libido which takes control of her consciousness and she acts as her libido dictates her. It is worth noting that all of her actions are violent now. This is explained by Freud as,”… the libido is regularly and lawfully of a masculine nature, whether in the man or in the woman. (Freud, The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud) Its instinctual manifestation is quite clear. Here we come across a young woman, Medea, who can do anything to get hold of her libido object and her force lies in her libido. Let us now examine Medea when the drama starts. The violent Medea burning in the fire of love is not to be seen now. Her lover has married a royal woman Glauce. She is very much upset by this act of her lover. She is in a state of melancholy lamenting the deceit of Jason.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Melancholia as: “a mental condition and especially a maniac-depressive condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions. ”(Merriam-Webster) Medea is suffering from this very condition. She is unable to think reasonably because of her depression. This situation has been portrayed by Euripides, “Medea (within). O misery! The things I have suffered cause enough for deep lamentations! ” (Euripides) Her condition can be further explored psychologically.
Ilit Ferber explains Freudian concept of mourner and melancholy, “Both Freud’s mourner and melancholic begin with a basic denial of their loss and an unwillingness to recognize it. But soon enough, the mourner, who is reacting in a non-pathological manner, recognizes and responds to the call of reality, to let go of the lost-loved object and liberate libidinal desire. This is the point of divergence with the melancholic who remains sunken in his loss, unable to acknowledge and accept the need to cleave and in a self-destructive loyalty to the lost object, internalizes it into his ego, hus furthermore circumscribing the conflict related to the loss. ” (Ferber) This concept of Freud is fully synonymous with the condition of Medea presented by Euripides. She is unwilling to accept the reality; in fact she wants to mould reality by violence. Her object of libido has been taken away and this has made her depressed and she acts as a maniac. The deprivation of libido-object has resulted in the repression of libido. The repression of libido disturbs the unconscious and the conscious life of Medea. The pain of separation from libido-object is in the unconscious of her mind.
She herself, perhaps, does not know the real problem with her. The excessive repression of libido results in her mental stress beyond her capacity. She becomes a patient of psycho-neuroses. Freud describes psycho-neuroses as: “it (paranoia, psychoneuroses) regularly controls some portion of the social behavior (of the patient). The transformation of love into hatred, tenderness into hostility, which is characteristic of a large number of neurotic cases and apparently of all cases of paranoia, takes place by means of union of cruelty with libido. (Freud, The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud) The same is the case with Medea now. Her extreme love for Jason now transforms into extreme hate. Her tenderness, as a lover and mother, changes into her cruelty. She does not care for anything now, not even for her children. She is now ready to break the conventions of society to satisfy her mind which has been disturbed by the pain inflicted upon her by her lover. Here again, she is unable to judge right from wrong. The barbarian Medea is again in action. The repressed libido here shows itself in the form of ego.
The ego of Medea, which was not observed at the time of her elopement, now begins to take shape. The relation between ego and libido is explained by Freud in these lines, “we infer that under normal conditions ego-libido can transform itself into object-libido without difficulty and that this can again subsequently be absorbed into ego. ” (Freud, A General Introduction to Psycho-analysis) The libido of Medea here transforms into her ego. The overwhelming libido gives birth to overwhelming ego. She can do anything for the sake of her ego as she did for the satisfaction and preservation of her libido.
Freud further says in the same essay, “A man may be absolutely egoistic and yet have strong libidinal attachments to objects, in so far as libidinal satisfaction is an object is a need of his ego: his egoism will then see to it that his desires towards the object involve no injury to his ego. ” (Freud, A General Introduction to Psycho-analysis) It follows from this that if the object goes out of reach the person considers it an injury to his/her ego. The ego of Medea now comes to play. She does not lament for the loss of her lover now but talks about the deceit of Jason.
She says, “Great Zeus and Lady Themis, see you how I am treated, for all the strong oaths with which I bound my cursed husband. ” (Euripides, Medea) She begins to think in the same manner as she did in her homeland when she experienced the fear of separation from Jason. She finally thinks of taking her revenge and inflicting the same pain on Jason which she herself suffers from. She has suffered psychologically and she wants Jason to feel the same psychological agony. She does not think of killing Jason but she plans to take away his libido-object by killing Glauce.
To attain success in her motive she does not act madly but tactfully. She requests Creon to give her one day to go away from the country. In this time she architects a plan to kill Glauce. Her libido has now absorbed in her ego as we have noted earlier. The intensity of libido results in the intensified ego. Her ego now drives all her actions. She plans to kill her children as well because she does not want her enemies to inflict pains on her children. She also thinks that if she leaves her children behind, her enemies will laugh at her. She is fully aware of the horror and cruelty involved in her plan.
She says, “My misery overwhelms me. O I do realize how terrible is the crime I am about, but passion over rules my resolutions, passion that causes most of the misery in the world. ” (Euripides, Medea) This passion is not inspired only by her ego but also by her libido because she has in her mind the violent way she followed at the time of her elopement and it is perhaps towards this misery she refers in the cited lines. She decides to kill her children and the reason behind her action is, “I can delay no longer, my children will fall into the murderous hands of those that love them less than I do. In any case they must die.
And if they must, I shall slay them, who gave them birth. ” (Euripides, Medea) This also implies that Medea’s love is not complacent_ it is quite violent. She lives on extremes. Her love is extreme and her hate is extreme. This situation of her mind again refers to lack of balance common in patients suffering from psychoneuroses. She loses sense of choosing the right way and sense of guilt is never seen in her. Her final dialogue with Jason is worth noting. Here she fully claims what she has done and her real motive. She says, “You could not hope, nor your princess either, to scorn my love, make a fool of me and live happily ever after. (Euripides, Medea) She has deprived Jason of his libido object and she is now satisfied because she has served her ego properly and has inflicted the same psychological stress as she suffered herself. She now feels herself victorious. She further says, “Call me tigress if you like, or Scylla that haunts the Tuscan coast. I don’t mind now I have got properly under your skin. ” (Euripides,Medea) Her ego now served she has no worries. She even does not care now what society says about her. She has taken her revenge. This psychoanalysis of the character of Medea shows that her overpowering libido is behind all her actions.
The help she offered to Jason during the campaign, her elopement with Jason, the murder of her brother, the painful death inflicted upon Glauce __ all these actions were carried out for the satisfaction of her libido and then her libido transforms into ego. The repression of libido results in the formation of ego with greater intensity. Her heightened ego results in the murder of her own children. She even denies them burial. This not only disrupts the natural order but also intensifies the misery of Jason. The killing of blood relations is revolting in terms of Aristotle.
She kills her blood relations twice and this shows that her mind is not balanced. The problem behind her psychological imbalance is not that she is unable to control her libido. It is because her libido is overwhelming and it is beyond her power to control it. The intensive libido is quite obvious in the unconscious of Medea forcing her to take steps that disrupt the natural order. Works Cited Euripides. Ten Plays by Euripides. Trans. Moses and McLean,John Hades. New York: Bantam Books, 2006. Ferber, Ilit. E-rea. 15 June 2006. 30 March 2012 <http://erea. revues. org/413>. Freud, Sigmund.