A Short Philosophical One-Act Play
The Place: Hades (World of Shadows)
In that eye within which I saw a world reduced
I engendered a treacly venom so strong
that love itself was sick with weakness and fear
for the sipping of it
It was not your love for me that caused you to eternally burn and to presently kill
but self-love to indignation was firmly tied
with wrath to soothe the scorn you nursed
to arouse the darkest of vipers to curse the living sun
You speak too easily of things unknown to you
The fire that first brought forth betrayal
was at first a new foundation of light
For you were the entire spectrum of my existence
beyond father, brother, friend—even our children’s life
Oh cursed woman! You lie.
It was but simple jealousy that stewed you
to madness and to murder the fruit of your womb
So was your infinite hate incommensurate
to any human love
To renounce all for love and to lose that love
Is to unloose the soul towards the counsels of hell
No good women of Corinth! It was not hell that I sought
but a re-balancing of the world
But to destroy the innocent in the name of revenge! What terrible logic is this?
I am a princess both by nature and by custom and no weak woman
I risked all that I am for the love of this man (scowling in Jason’s direction)
It was my honor and my rank and my family’s love that I set as nothing
before an affection that was more than mortal
And for an affliction that causes the very Gods to cringe in horror!
The blood of thy children! How could a wife’s passion murder
the mothering bond! How could you extinguish the very eyes that were the
truest reflection of your own?!?
A criminal act was met by another. Simply put: My honor was more terrible
than my motherhood was kind.
Terrible word: honor. What has not been done in its name. Cities burned. The old, and the weak, and the sick, and the innocent put to the sword. The brave, the good, and the noble vanquished by its unyielding dictate. Honor! You have vanquished all. And no child can beg the smallest reprieve from your impassioned order.
Was it not my sacred honor that I gave when I wed this man? Was it not my life’s bond that I bore witness to in bearing my brood; in bringing them to life? And when that honor was taken from me did that not drain my life and theirs in an instant of ineffable negation. The unspeakable horror that I felt in annihilating their small bones and trembling hearts was the terrible payment that was due for their illegitimate existence. In falsity conceived, death returned them, myself, and Jason to the Truth.
If so, then let all Truth be cursed! Let all self, and honor, and revenge be counted amongst the worms. For surely, life it is that we must always follow.
You speak of life. I speak of worth. I speak of value. I speak of that which is the very crux of a human life. For we are not worms. For we are not stones. To us is not given the oblivion of mere existence but the unyielding power of saying “Yes” and “No” no matter how terrible the consequence. In going against nature, I re-found myself.
Yes truly spoken unnatural woman! For what emotion, what concept, what idea could figure more highly than a mother’s love? You have betrayed the very heart and hearth of all civilization.
Is that so? Is it a woman’s lot to bathe and to console and to nurture all and everyone that exists around her? Is she mother first and last when entering that celebrated state? Or is there some other existence that she must find that both precedes and follows it? What is on the other side of Woman?
It is surely an adventure with high stakes. Are you strong enough to erect the new Gods that you must find to sustain you upon your eventual arrival to this new sacred place? Will they be strong enough to forgive murder in the name of self-revelation?
Oh women of Corinth! I know not. I seek not forgiveness. I do not even seek out any kind of understanding or pity. But I seek. It is a power greater than all the others now. I seek an awakening beyond love and death and murder and betrayal. My deeds are the first acts of rebellion’s birth.
A bloody revolution yours! To cancel the innocent and the issue of your womb in the name of emancipation! To cover crimes most base with trumped up, glorious names and titles. Thus is every insurgent a criminal and you, like a mad jackal, devour your own kind in the hopes of producing another brood greater and more divine! No crime can be whitewashed with an idea. Every revolution is hate disguised as justice.
Oh treacherous husband! Your words betray a world. A world ruled by men blind to the possibility of Woman. Yes, I killed that which was expected of me, defined for me, expressed as me. But imagine my surprise when, because of your sovereign acts of perfidy, I realized that all this was not me. That in my despair I saw a light that beckoned me to go further, reach deeper, see clearer an horizon that was always there hidden in plain sight. All birth is a painful bargain with death. All beginnings are a farewell. Even murder most malignant can yield new earth.
These are the ravings of a madwoman! Mad, bestial, and full of her own proud self. I see nothing here but the deed and the innocent dead.
Innocent! Was it innocence when you deceived me about your true intent? Was it innocence when you used my own powers against me? Was it innocence when, for reason of stately advancement, you discarded me? What weapon did you leave me with to revenge my several disgraces if not to maim mine own self? You disfigured my love and so I disfigured yours. The bloody image that I now present to you is the mirror image of your own most horrid teachings. Look upon it. Own it. For I am your newly awakened creature that spits your blackest villainy back at you.
And yet, behold your eternal punishment!
(Enter two small disfigured wraith-like children)
No! No! My freedom is too great. I cannot look upon it. I dare not look! The sweetest figures of my cruelest damnation for what I am, for what I have done. A woman’s hate bathed in the blood of a mother’s love. A despicable bile gurgling up towards the limits of Men’s Rule choking me upon an unseemly feast of fiery justice. Bones. Bones are my loves. A grand wasteland of betrayal and all doubled for my remaining true to my own inner flame. I have done thee greatest wrong my beautiful angels in righting myself. I have swallowed love whole so that I might repudiate the wickedness of men; their unconscionable deeds which neglect desire and extol death. In banishing you to Hades, I restored myself. In thy terrible blood, I damned myself to a fresh world alone, naked, and wretched with my new word “freedom” dangling, mewing savagely upon my lips.
(The wraiths depart)
Gorgon! Turn your own deadly eyes upon yourself! For the savageness of your bright new gaze should turn your insides into heaviest stone! Rebellious creature! who charged you to cancel sweet life to pay for slights, insults, and the ancient demeanor of men? What right have you to cancel the buds of innocent Spring? You are no woman but an abomination; damned among the judgements of the Gods and rightfully cursed by the memory of Men.
You call me damned. You picture me a fusion of all that is unholy, sick, and unclean. And yet I transcend all your definitions! Within the horror of the deed, sprouts the seed of new beauty, life, and nobility!
Nobility?!? What is noble in children’s death? What argument can you devise to erase their pleading for their lives in pitiless confrontation with motherly love treacherously perverted into a raging insatiable beast! Cannibal! Monster! Freak! You are the mad flesh that feeds upon itself! You deserve nothing better than to never have been born or to ever have given birth.
Yes! Stillborn, that is what you wish me to be. But I live. And will continue. I will bring upon myself all the stark attention of the ages so as to say: “Behold the beautiful monster if you have but the courage to see!”. Horror is the thunderous shudder of the speechless agony of new existence. I sacrificed all for those others I could but dimly see in the far distance. From my blood, sorrow, and pain will spring new life and the wicked smile of History will sneer and say: “Es musste so sein!!“
So this sorrowful tale has no end. In negating Woman; Woman was found. All innocence was betrayed and proper sight restored. The chains of sex were ripped apart and a new womb torn open. Bloody and envious and greedy for life. Medea is both devil and saint depending where you, dear spectator, stand on the continuum of time. Her defiance turns human hearts to half-hidden truths that burn out the rubbish of false consciousness. Her dagger plunges deep again and again into the mystery of subjugation, intimacy, loyalty, and freedom. We are all Medea’s children. And we shall live.
Dan Corjescu teaches at the University of Tübingen’s “Studium Professionale” Program