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Song Sweeter than Orpheus’

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Euripides’ Medea 542-544

image of Mnemosyne

In Euripides’ Medea, Jason expresses a preference for fame over riches or musical talent such as that which Orpheus possesses. Orpheus was well-known for the supernaturally persuasive qualities of his music, and as the play makes clear, Jason’s rejection of Orpheus’ talents is not purely rhetorical—he lacks the persuasive skill of Orpheus, skill which he needs to reconcile Medea to his new marriage. Medea is persistently compared to things which Orpheus is able to influence through his song, such as rocks, lions, and bulls, highlighting Jason’s failure to persuade where the mythical singer succeeds. Jason is, however, successful in persuading his new bride; as a lover rather than a husband, he possesses Orpheus’ abilities. The implied comparison between Jason and Orpheus foreshadows the death of Jason’s Corinthian bride and Jason’s downfall at the hands of a woman.

Affiliations: 1: Davidson College, Classics Department405 N Main St., Davidson, nc


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