Alternate Endings in Anouilh's Medea Essay

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Alternate Endings in Anouilh's Medea

To what purpose does Jean Anouilh alter the central conflicts and characters in his retelling of "Medea"? In the classic play, Medea escapes without punishment and we are told as an audience it is not our place to question the motives and/or actions of the gods. Within the framework of modern, psychologically rendered characters and in the absence of supernatural meddling, Anouilh attempts not only to question the motives but to posit answers to the open ended questions left by Euripides. The dynamic between divine and human will is reshaped with this goal in mind. This change makes a significant impact upon Medea's ability to rediscover and reconcile her identity with her actions as well as
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While the characters, especially Jason and Medea, do not acknowledge divine forces as potent elements shaping their actions, they are keenly aware of their recurring roles throughout literary history. They force the reader to make a more substantial connection or comparison with the previous work. One might try to recast the earlier analogy, replacing the Greek gods with Anouilh. The characters are his tools, his puppets. This, however, is too simplistic. Anouilh himself must acknowledge the limits of the tale, not simply the sequence of events, but themes and ideas within it, if he is to retell it. In this sense Anouilh is confined and he makes the reader aware of this fact. Within these self imposed limits, though, Anouilh is free to revise, review, elucidate, and articulate the ideas, actions, and opinions of each character.

And it is to this end that Jason is raised by Anouilh from the ranks of dramatic foil to an emotional and psychological match for Medea. Jason is left spinning out of control at the conclusion of the original play, wondering how this could have happened and why. Medea escapes untouched and the Chorus is left to restore order. Anouilh's Jason is faced with the murder of his children, fiancé, and future father-in-law as well as Medea's suicide. Medea, consumed by the fires of her own passion and madness, takes her own life. He is obviously devastated but able to respond

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