The Glamorous Life of a Greek Wife…
“We women are the most unfortunate creatures” (Euripides 695). This worn-out grievance has poured through the vocal chords of all women since the first pains of childbirth, but more importantly the atrocious day men began to pervert the customs of marriage. Prominence and provocation clothe the declaration as Medea, a forlorn woman abandoned by her husband, explains the status and circumstances women of ancient Greece were subject to desolately endure. Scholars are blinded by the era of great philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but the institutions and governments built by these “great men” denied the admittance of women into their institutions and therefore closed the door to potentially incredibly intelligent minds. All women, even those leading satisfactory lives, were subject to the unfair laws and barriers men created. Although women have been cast into the depths of submission through out the course of history, Medea daringly broke the ideal perception of weak and ignorant women in the Greek tragedy, Medea, where she made an aggressive speech by mournfully proclaiming,
Firstly, with an excess of wealth it is required
For us to buy a husband and take for our bodies
A master; for not to take one is even worse.
And now the question is serious whether we take
A good or bad one; for there is no easy escape
For a women, nor can she say no to her marriage
She arrives among new modes of behavior and manners,
And needs prophetic power, unless she has learnt at home,
How best to manage him who shares the bed with her.
And if we work out all this well and carefully,
And the husband lives with us and lightly bears his yoke,
Then life is enviable. If not, I’d rather die.
A man, when he’s tired of the company in his home,
Goes out of the house and puts an end to his boredom
And turns to a friend or companion of his own age.
But we are forced to keep our eyes on one alone. (Euripides 695)
The basic circumstances of Medea’s quandary is an exact replica of all Greek wives, including the union between Penelope and Odysseus in the epic poem The Odyssey, even though one marriage is perceived as blissful and the other horrendous. The results of the love stories or marriages are contradictory, but both women are held to the same customs or qualifications a Greek marriage requires despite the attitudes or perceptions of their husbands and the wives themselves. Medea’s Criteria
In order to relinquish the bitter taste of her failed marriage, Medea composes a dramatic speech, which outlines the criteria for wives in Greek marriages and then is confirmed by the commentary of the chorus. The first requirement consists of “buying” husbands or presenting a dowry and in return the husband shall become the master over his wife’s body. Life for those who do not obtain “masters of their bodies” or husbands enter a more dismal state than the potential of a dreadful life from a bad husband. The second criterion includes the inability of daughters to refuse a marriage arranged by their father or guardian. Lastly, the criteria allows men to find comfort outside of the home, where the woman must remain true to one only or will be considered unfaithful. “In archaic times, marriage did not entail sexual exclusivity for men…” (Anhalt 155). Woman must learn new behaviors to please their husbands by turning allegiance towards her new family and forsaking blood relatives and continue generations for their husbands family, but not their own. Learning the appropriate behaviors of marriage is the pinnacle of whether an enviable life will be achieved. Every marriage fits into these criteria no matter the circumstances or the outcome. Masters and Dowries
Both Penelope and Medea entered their marriages with dowries and submission, especially the surrendering of their bodies to their husbands. Penelope’s dowry was paid in traditional forms of wealth,...
Cited: Anhalt, Emily Katz. "A Matter if Perspective: Penelope and the Nightingale in 'Odyssey. '" The Classical Journal19.512-534 ser. 97.2 (2002): 145-159. Jstor. 11 Dec. 2008 .
Anton, Powell. Euripides, Women, and Sexuality. Routledge. Jstor. 11 Dec. 2008 .
Euripides. Medea. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. Vol. 1 ed. Sarah Lawall. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. 690-720.
Morgan, Kathleen. "Odyssey- Adultery, Shame, and Marriage." American Journal of Philology 0002-9457 ser. 112.23.218-24 (1991): 1-10. Jstor. 11 Dec. 2008 .
Please join StudyMode to read the full document