It is commonly noted that Medea and Achilles possess similarities in their rage. There are five major similarities. They both acknowledge the heroic code, they feel dishonored and unjustly slighted, they react with anger and rage causing them to turn down any advice, they’re referred as “wild beasts” and “savages,” and they sacrifice the lives of loved ones and friends to satisfy their need for revenge.
The heroic code is a hero that is willing to confront death. Both Achilles and Medea acknowledge this idea. Medea feels as if she is a hero because she killed the king and his daughter. A messenger tries to warn Medea to leave the city in a hurry because they know she was the murderer. In return, Medea replies, “The finest words you have spoken. Now and hereafter I shall count you among my benefactors and friends” (718: 1101 – 1102). Medea is not fazed by the anger of the city. She states, “How did they die? You will delight me twice as much again if you say they died in agony” (718: 1109 – 1110). Medea is delighted to hear that they have died and that she was the one that killed them. Medea is satisfied with herself and her actions. To her, she is the complete meaning of a hero. Achilles sees himself as the greatest of all the Achaeans. He states, “…Achilles, the best of the Achaeans” (130: 490). He sees himself as a great hero; a hero that looks out for his friends. Even the council says, “So you, Achilles – great godlike Achilles…” (160: 598 – 599). Achilles is known as a great war hero. He not only considers himself as one, but the whole city does as well. Achilles is the perfect example of the heroic code.
Medea and Achilles express the feeling of hurt and dishonor throughout their stories. Even though both characters experience this pain, they each have their own reasons as to why they feel this way. Medea, a princess from Colchis, uses her magic and falls in love with Jason. She left her city and everything behind to go back to Corinth with her new husband. They lived in the city, where they eventually had two kids. This marriage did not last much longer. The nurse expresses this when she says, “But now there’s hated everywhere. Love is diseased. For, deserting his own children and my mistress, Jason has taken a royal wife to his bed, the daughter of the ruler of this land, Kreon. And poor Medea is slighted, and cries aloud on the vows they made to each other” (695: 16 – 21). Jason not only abandons Medea, but his children as well.
Medea feels dishonor by this because Jason his leaving her for the kings daughter. He shows no compassion or remorse for what he has done to Medea. By marrying the kings’ daughter, it allows Jason to become the new king. To Jason, that seems to be the only thing that matters. Medea expresses all her pain and anger for this man to the chorus. They feel as if she is going to seek revenge on Jason. While talking with the chorus, Kreon approaches the house. He states, “You, with that angry look, so set against you husband, Medea, I order you to leave my territories. An exile, and take along with you your two children, and not to waste time doing it. It is my decree, and I will see it done. I will not return home until you are cast from the boundaries of my land” (701: 269 – 274). Kreon is exiling Medea because he feels afraid that she might retaliate and kill his daughter or Jason. Medea feels so dishonored by this. Not only has she lost her husband, but now she has lost her only home for her and her kids. Achilles feels his dishonor after Agamemnon insults him.
Agamemnon insults Achilles by taking away his war prize. Achilles states, “The man disgraces me, seizes and keeps my prize, he tears her away himself!” (129: 421 – 422). Achilles sees the selfishness that Agamemnon is portraying. As a result of Chrysies’ father wanting her back, Agamemnon in return had to take Briseis from Achilles. Achilles was so outraged by Agamemnon’s actions, that he called on a favor from his mother. He asks of his mother, “…Persuade him, somehow, to help the Trojan cause, to pin the Achaeans back against their ships, trap them round the bay and mow them down. So all can reap the benefits of their king – so even mighty Atrides can see how mad he was to disgrace Achilles, the best of the Achaeans” (130: 485 – 490). Achilles asked his mom, Thetis, to persuade Zeus to allow the Greeks to win. Achilles only asked of this in result to Agamemnon dishonoring him.
As a result of all of the rage and anger that Medea and Achilles possess, they do not allow anyone’s advice to affect or appeal to them. In the play, Medea is so angry at her husbands’ decisions and being exiled out of the city. Jason tells Medea, This is not the first occasion that I have noticed how hopeless it is to deal with a stubborn temper. For, with reasonable submission to our ruler’s will, you might have lived in this land and kept your home…Yourself most lucky that exile is your punishment. I, for my part, have always tried to calm down the anger of the king, and wished you to remain…Exile brings many troubles with it. And even if you hate me, I cannot think badly of you (704 – 705: 435 – 453). Jason explains to Medea that she is lucky that exile is her only punishment. Even though she continues to be angry and talk bad about Jason, he still shows no hatred towards her.
His advice to her is to take the punishment and just leave, rather then continue to fight it. Jason offers Medea money to help her and the children survive in exile, but she refuses. He states, “Then in any case, I call the gods to witness that I wish to help you and the children in every way, but you refuse what is good for you” (708: 607 – 609). He tries to help them and to keep them safe while they’re in exile, but Medea continues to turn down his offers. No matter how much advice Jason tries to give Medea, she refuses to listen. Achilles is just as stubborn as Medea when it comes to taking someone’s advice. Odysseus tries to remind Achilles of what his father once told him. His father tells him, “But you, you hold in check that proud, fiery spirit of yours inside your chest! Friendship is much better. Vicious quarrels are deadly – put an end to them, at once” (154: 309 – 312). Odysseus reminds Achilles of this so that he would end his hatred toward Agamemnon. Achilles replies with, “I hate that man like the very Gates of Death who says one thing but hides another in his heart. I will say it outright” (155: 378 – 380). Despite Odysseus’ advice, Achilles still upholds his hatred for Agamemnon. Achilles refuses to change his stance on the situation.
As a result of Medea and Achilles actions, they are referred to as “wild beasts” and “savages.” Medea’s rage becomes so extreme that she uses her kids to kill Kreon’s daughter. Medea tells the Chorus, But that by a trick I may kill the king’s daughter. For I will send the children with gifts in their hands to carry to the bride, so as not to be banished, – a finely woven dress and a golden diadem. And if she takes them and wears them upon her skin she and all who touch the girl will die in agony; such poison will I lay upon the gifts I send (711: 767 – 773). Medea plans to destroy Jason’s new family before leaving the land. Her anger does not end here though. Not only does Medea kill the king’s daughter, but she also turns her rage towards her own children. Medea states, “Force every way will have it they must die, and since this must be so, the I, their mother, shall kill them” (721: 1214 – 1215). Medea acts as if the killing of her children resolved all her problems. She is a very unhappy women and she recognizes it. Her kids cry for help, but it does not stop Medea from murdering them.
Her rage as just completely taken over her mindset and love for what really matters, her kids. Furthermore, after the death of Patroclus, Achilles’ rage increased much more. Achilles explains, “I shall not bury you, not till I drag back here the gear and head of Hector, who slaughtered you, my friend, greathearted friend…” (185: 389 – 391). Achilles wants Patroclus to know that no matter what it takes, he will seek revenge on Hector. He wants to give Patroclus the proper burial, but not until he kills Hector. Not only his Achilles looking to kill Hector, but he threatens to kill the Trojans as well. For example, he states, “Here in front of your flaming pyre I’ll cut the throats of a dozen sons of Troy in all their shining glory, venting my rage on them for your destruction!” (185: 392 – 394). Achilles takes his anger out on these men in honor of his friend. To Achilles, this is his way of showing Patroclus his loyalty to their friendship.
As if rage is not enough, both of these characters sacrifice the lives of friends and loved ones for the need of revenge. Medea seeks the worst of revenge on her husband. Aside from just killing Jason’s new wife and the king, Medea takes his children’s lives as well. Medea tells Jason, “So now you may call me a monster, if you wish, or Scylla housed in the caves of the Tuscan sea I too, as I had to, have taken hold of your heart” (723: 1333 – 1335). She shows no emotion for killing her children. Medea did this just to get back at Jason. She explains, “The children are dead. I say this to make you suffer” (723: 1345). Revenge is the only thing Medea had in mind. As a result of Jason’s actions, Medea found that this was her only way of getting back at him. She had to make him suffer, even if it meant sacrificing the lives of her own children. Achilles, also, let his anger get the best of him. Achilles was so mad at Agamemnon for taking his war prize that he turned against his own army. Achilles prayed to his mother asking for help from Zeus. He said, “Persuade him, somehow, to help the Trojan cause, to pin the Achaeans back against their ships, trap them round the bay and mow them down” (130: 485 – 487). Achilles wanted the Trojans to win the war. He wanted his army to lose and feel his pain. He states, “So all can reap the benefits of their king – so even might Atrides can see how mad he was to disgrace Achilles, the best of the Achaeans” (130: 488 – 490). To Achilles, seeing his army die was all the revenge that he needed. All this anger and fury lead these characters to seek revenge is the worst ways possible.
To conclude, Medea and Achilles possess many similarities. While these two characters are from different stories, they can still be tied together with their actions. This is possible because they know how to recognize the heroic code, they feel dishonored in some way, they ignore advice due to their anger and rage, they are consider to be “wild beasts,” and they seek revenge.
Homer. “The Illiad.” Trans. Robert Fagles. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Ed. Sarah Lawell. 2nd ed. Vol. A. New York: Norton, 2009. 114 – 225. Euripides. “The Ramayana.” Trans. Rex Warner. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Ed. Sarah Lawell. 2nd ed. Vol. A. New York: Norton, 2009. 695 – 725.