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Medea and British Legislation Before The First World War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2009


Euripides' Medea has penetrated to parts of modernity most mythical figures have not reached. Since she first rolled off the printing presses half a millennium ago, she has inspired hundreds of performances, plays, paintings, and operas. Medea has murdered her way into a privileged place in the history of the imagination of the West, and can today command huge audiences in the commercial theatre. Yet in Britain, at least, her popularity on the stage is a relatively recent phenomenon. Medea has transcended history partly because she enacts a primal terror universal to human beings: that the motherfigure should intentionally destroy her own children. Yet this dimension of the ancient tragedy was until the twentieth century found so disturbing as largely to prevent unadapted performances. On the British stage it was not until 1907 that Euripides' Medea was performed, without alteration, in English translation.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 1999

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147. Heartfelt thanks for advice and criticism go to Oliver Taplin, Paul Cartledge, and especially, as always, Fiona Macintosh.