Loyal Disobedience - A Social Tract of Euripides in Medea and Helen

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Loyal Disobedience-A Social Tract of Euripides

In ancient Greece the females were considered to be conniving and deceiving whisperers, and men almost never trusted their wives. The ideal woman was an obedient and placating wife. They believed that the female should be strong but still yield to the power of the male in charge, whether it was older brother, father, or husband. Euripides often used females in uncommon ways; he did not simply show them as complacent animals. Women in Euripides' plays were used for social commentary. They were not just simple characters; they could be both agathos and kakos. The females in the works of Euripides were extremely strong and devious and they were loyal but at the same time
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Having no other option Menelaos goes to the house of Theoklymenos to beg for food. He is turned away and Helen enters the scene having just returned from the oracle. They meet each other and it is not 'love at first sight' as Helen was promised. Nevertheless Menelaos soon believes that his new-found wife is the real Helen.. She has remained loyal to him unlike his deceitful apparition. He wants to take her away and she disobediently refuses. Helen comes up with a plan of her own to reunite the two, a unique twist in the typical hero-rescues-damsel story. The roles have been changed and Helen is in charge. She, like Thenoe, is not an obedient female-she is loyal. Helen then turns to Theoklymenos and play-acts as if her husband has died. She feigns obedience to her (soon-to-be) husband to lure him into allowing the plan to work.

My new-found husband I am duty bound

to revere the memory, the intimacy

of my first marriage. I've loved Menelaos

so much that I could die with him-but then

what benefit would my death bring him in death?

...And for your kindness

to me and to Menelaos you shall find me

exactly the sort of wife that you deserve (Helen 1492-1501).

She is placating the Egyptian king with stories of how she wishes to honor the passing of Menelaos. She is portraying the qualities most commonly considered to be agathos in a female. She is

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