Review Essay The Story of Jason and Medea

From the Greek and Roman Empires to the Middle Ages to the Modern Era, there have always been stories, folk-lores, and myths. Even stories, from civilizations with absolutely no contact with each other, have similar structures. The same goes for “The Story of Jason and Medea,” in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and the British television show, Merlin. Metamorphoses were written around the Roman Empire’s Time which is 10 A.D., while Merlin was written in the twenty-first century based on the King Arthur myth towards the beginning of the Middle Ages. In “The Story of Jason and Medea,” Medea discovers the power of life and death and goes off and returns and kills Jason’s second wife and children, then continues to use her power for evil. Merlin is based on the warlock, Merlin, who helps Camelot's Prince, Arthur, fight against evil like Arthur’s half-sister, Morgana, who feels betrayed by their father when she finds out she is part of a race mostly wiped out by him and wants revenge. Both stories show the same archetypal characters, settings, and quest, proving that revenge is an aspect of the human condition that doesn't change over time.

 There is no story without characters. Even though the characters, themselves, are unique in each story, the archetypal characters don't change. “The Story of Jason and Medea” and Merlin both have the ‘heroes,’ the princes Jason and Arthur; the helpers, Medea’s dragon and Merlin, a warlock; and the temptresses, the witches Medea and Morgana. Medea comes home to find her husband, Jason, with “a new bride; Medea/ Killed her with burning poisons, and dyed the sword/ Red in her children’s blood” (Humphries 165); however Morgana seeks to take the throne from her half-brother, Arthur, having learned he annihilated most of her kind. Medea’s dragon is used by Medea as a way of transport and escape including the time she killed Pelias, a crime “she would have paid for/ Had not her dragon car been there to take her” (164). Merlin’s character is more focused on then the dragon, being portrayed as a powerful warlock that acts as a protector and an advisor for Arthur, as his loyal servant, for events involving magical evil (Merlin). The roles these characters play are extremely parallel to the other and become even more apparent with the setting.

 Castles are a symbol of strength and enclosure for the characters both figuratively and literally. The archetypal and physical setting is the medieval British castle in Camelot and the ancient Greek castle in Iolcos, Thessaly, both serving as a home for the heroes and at one point, the temptresses. Jason's home, Iolcos, is "an ancient city in Greece, in the region of Magnesia. In Greek mythology, the king of Iolcos was Aeson[Jason's father], but he was violently dethroned by his brother, Pelias" (greekmythology.com); fortunately, Aeson becomes king once again before Jason returns home with his new wife, Medea. While Iolcos was Medea's home for a short period before becoming evil, Morgana grew up in Camelot alongside with Arthur. The hero and temptress both feel safe and the need to protect, but end with fighting over for control when Morgana turns corrupt. Camelot is illustrated as a stronghold, after surviving the Great Purge and holds an aurora of safety and opportunity (Merlin). The characters and setting create a similar appearance; however, the quest is what ties everything together into two marvelous stories. 

 Revenge can fuel into a person's anger and hate causing them to lose sight of everything else. Medea and Morgana are first seen as powerful and loving women before being corrupted by hate. Medea, out of pure hate, kills her husband's new bride and their children before fleeing "from Jason's fury, borne aloft/ Once more, on dragon wings, and came to Athens... And Aegeus took her in... not only her host, but husband" (Humphries 165, 166). Medea attempts to kill Aegeus' son, Theseus with poison but fails and flees. Morgana is at first kind-hearted and caring until she finds out she possesses magic and her guardian, Arthur's father, is her biological father and annihilated most of her kind, feeling betrayed, she uses her magic to attempt to take the throne of Camelot, believing she is the rightful heir (Merlin). Although the temptresses are conceived as evil, they are betrayed by those close to them, twisting their views of justice and righteousness. 

 Even with about five hundred years between the original stories, they contain extremely similar characters, settings, and quests; confirming the revenge aspect of the human condition has not changed over time and will stay the same throughout all stories. The stories are created by humans, who know the feeling of revenge to some extent and use that knowledge to create an accurate and relatable description of revenge in the character. Revenge and all other strong emotions can be felt by every human, by adding those emotions in the story make it more relatable to the audience, creating a story similar to others with those emotions. Time and location can not make a human feel the same emotion differently, making the emotion in the story similar to others. The human condition is the emotions people can relate to in stories, without that, it's just words on paper.