(WITH REFERENCE TO EURIPIDES" MEDEA AND CYCLOPS).
Euripides was the last of the three great Athenian dramatists, as well as the most controversial. He was a man defiant of established beliefs and preoccupied with the dichotomy between instinctive/barbaric and civilized behavior. For the Greeks, "civilised" life meant controlled, orderly, proportionate life with "no excess". As a principle, this applied equally to everything; politics, social habits and the arts. To them it was the only life, a life of moderation and rationality which enforced firm opposition to anything relating to the emotive or the excessive. Euripides commented on this divide in most of his plays. Euripides however, challenged the elitism of the civilised, choosing rather to conclude his plays with the suggestion of balance between the Greek idea of "civilisation" and the other, "barbarity". .
This gulf between the rational, civilized Greek and the emotional, barbaric Greek can be seen with particular poignancy when studying Euripides" great tragedy, Medea, and also his satyr, Cyclops. In these plays it is interesting to note that not only does this divide correspond to gender but also the social hierarchy between Greeks of differing states. .
One of the main themes in Euripides" Medea is the gender and cultural divide that is established between Medea and Jason. From the beginning of the play it is established that Medea, an exile, is the barbaric and emotive character, her coming to Corinth "mad with love for Jason" showing actions that would have been considered in Athenian views as groundless and excessive. In the same manner, it is immediately made clear that Jason and the principles that he stands for are those of the civilised and rational. .
And yet although Jason conducts himself as the "ever reasonable man" who thinks through all of his actions whilst Medea raves like the "barbarian" Jason claims her to be, it becomes obvious that Euripides believes the actions of neither are acceptable.