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Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature$
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Lesel Dawson and Fiona McHardy

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474414098

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414098.001.0001

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‘Now I am Medea’: Gender, Identity and the Birth of Revenge in Seneca’s Medea

‘Now I am Medea’: Gender, Identity and the Birth of Revenge in Seneca’s Medea

Chapter:
(p.97) Chapter 4 ‘Now I am Medea’: Gender, Identity and the Birth of Revenge in Seneca’s Medea
Source:
Revenge and Gender in Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Literature
Author(s):

Kathrin Winter

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474414098.003.0005

In Greek and Roman antiquity, revenge is represented as a masculine duty, which is usually carried out by relatives or intimate friends. In Seneca’s drama, Medea adopts this masculine role by exacting revenge for her father and brother, which marks her as a transgressive woman. However, Medea also describes her revenge through language that aligns vengeance to the process of giving birth, a quintessentially female act; as Medea herself proclaims in the first act: parta iam, parta ultio est: peperi (‘My revenge is born, already born: I have given birth’). These birth metaphors contribute to Medea’s formulation of a new vengeful subjectivity, complicating Medea’s status as a transgressive woman and demonstrating how Senecan female characters can appropriate forms of self-definition that are often assumed to be male.

Keywords:   Medea, Seneca, birth, revenge, vengeance

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