Collier, “On Translating ‘Medea’”

…for a modern reader or audience inured to the public flaunting of unhappy relationships between celebrities, Medea’s sacrifice of her two sons to avenge Jason’s divorce and remarriage is an act of such enormity that it seems excessive and unbelievable (Collier 194).

Collier brings up a relevant issue in his short essay, one that we encountered in our class discussion. Medea’s choice to kill her own children seems so cruel, overdramatic, and unnecessary to us as a modern audience that we have trouble overlooking it to delve into the more complex issues of the play. It explains Collier’s desire to contain the play’s anger and vengeance so it wouldn’t seem to extreme.

In his included translation of the Messenger’s speech, Medea’s crimes are still described to their high degree, but the Messenger’s plain statement of facts further helps the reader imagine them. He is distraught, but there are no indications of overreacting in his lines, which is what Collier hoped to achieve. Still, it is difficult to dilute the drama in a play as dramatic as Medea, and so, the melodrama Collier hoped to avoid could still be portrayed through an actor’s or director’s choices. With the intensity of the play’s plot unchangeable, it is up to the audience and readers to look past the extremity of Medea’s actions to fully appreciate the rest of the play.

Source: Collier, “On Translating ‘Medea’”

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