Edited with Introduction, Translation, and Commentary
The myth of the sorceress Medea, who, abandoned by her Argonaut husband Jason, killed their children in revenge, has exerted a continuous impact on European writers and artists from classical Greece to the present day. The ancient Romans were especially drawn to the myth, but Seneca's tragedy is the only dramatic treatment to have survived from imperial Rome intact. It is intellectually and poetically one of the richest of Seneca's plays and theatrically one of his most innovative, spectacular and self-reflective. Its themes include the problematics of power and civilization, the dynamics of 'self' and 'other', the psychology of action, the determinism of history, the tragic theatre itself. The play's deep influence on the European dramatic, operatic and artistic tradition (and beyond) is only now being fully appreciated. Poets, dramatists, librettists, composers, choreographers, painters, film-makers - including Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Webster, Corneille, Noverre, Cherubini, Mayr, Grillparzer, Turner, Anouilh, Jeffers, Pasolini, Müller, Ripstein, Reimann - exhibit its formal and thematic force. This full-scale critical edition of Seneca's Medea offers a substantial introduction, a new Latin text, an English verse translation designed for both performance and serious study, and a detailed commentary on the play which is exegetic, analytic, and interpretative. The aim throughout has been to elucidate the text dramatically as well as philologically, and to locate the play firmly in its contemporary historical and theatrical context and in the ensuing literary and dramatic tradition.
Anthony James Boyle is Professor of Classics at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. He has been editor of the Classical literary journal, Ramus, since its inception in 1972.