Sunday, November 24th, 2019...10:26 amChris Francese

Seneca, Medea 895-910

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Marble relief fragment with the head of Medea 1st–2nd century A.D. Metropolitan Museum.

Marble relief fragment with the head of Medea, 1st–2nd century A.D. New York, Metropolitan Museum.

Seneca’s Latin play Medea was written in the mid-first century AD. Less famous than the version of Euripides, it is nonetheless very powerful, and is generally considered to be the strongest of his earlier plays. In this scene, Medea prepares herself to kill her own children as a way of taking revenge on her faithless husband, Jason (plot summary).

quid, anime, cessas? sequere felicem impetum.

pars ultionis ista, qua gaudes, quota est?

amas adhuc, furiose, si satis est tibi

caelebs Iason. quaere poenarum genus

haut usitatum iamque sic temet para:

fas omne cedat, abeat expulsus pudor;

uindicta leuis est quam ferunt purae manus.

incumbe in iras teque languentem excita

penitusque ueteres pectore ex imo impetus

uiolentus hauri. quidquid admissum est adhuc,

pietas uocetur. hoc age! en faxo sciant

quam leuia fuerint quamque uulgaris notae

quae commodaui scelera. prolusit dolor

per ista noster: quid manus poterant rudes

audere magnum, quid puellaris furor?

Medea nunc sum; creuit ingenium malis:

This is Zweierlein’s text (1987) via the Packard Humanities Institute. Here is the translation written for this episode by Ashley Roman-Francese:

My soul, why do you hesitate? Follow up your successful attack.

You rejoice in but a tiny part of true vengeance. 

Raging heart, if Jason wifeless is enough for you, then you still love the man. 

Seek a unique form of punishment and prepare yourself now:

All morality, be gone! Drive out and banish shame!

Vengeance is light when pure hands enact it. 

Bear down on your anger! Stir your sluggish self!

Dig deep, dredge the old violence from within, and attack.

What you’ve done so far, that should be called family love.

Do it! Let them realize 

how trivial and common were the crimes I did for others.

Through them my grief was rehearsing. 

What great enterprise could my then unskilled hands dare?

What good was my girlish anger? 

Now I am Medea. My genius has blossomed with my crimes. 

If you have a minute, check out the exclusive sponsor for this episode, the Latin Interjection!


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