Family in Medea and The Cherry Orchard

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Family is central to many plays and is also something we cannot choose. When it is a theme within a play, the characters that make up a family often play off each other in such a way that impacts the overall plot of the play. Throughout both Euripides’ play Medea and Anton Chekhov’s play, The Cherry Orchard, family is a very powerful theme. The tragic tale of Medea and her children and the similarly tragic, however more comical, tale of the Ranevskaya extended family both centre heavily on family and the trials and tribulations that come with a dramatic family. Medea’s treatment of family explores the relationship between a tainted mother and her acts against her cheating ex-husband, while The Cherry Orchard’s treatment of family is shown in the way they accept all who enters their lives in the tough times of 19th century Russia. William Congreve quoted in one of is plays that "heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." (Congreve, 1967, Act III, scene viii.) This can be applied to the character of Medea. While taken to extremes, it is clear that this woman had no respect for her family – especially her children. Even though she loves her children and knows she herself will be hurt from their death, the pain that Jason her caused her is too much for her to bear. Too much, even, than the death of her offspring. “CHORUS: But to kill your own children – will you have the heart for that, lady? MEDEA: Yes, it is by doing so that I shall hurt my husband most. CHORUS: But no woman would then know greater misery. MEDEA: So be it!” (Euripides, Lines 16 -19, p72) The audience’s attitude towards Medea will have changed at this moment, as the fact of killing her own children was the most outrageous part of this play. It is also at this point that she distances herself from the audience and most importantly, any

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