The play opens with MEDEA grieving over the loss of her husband’s love. Her elderly nurse and the chorus of Corinthian women (generally sympathetic to her plight) fear what she might do to herself or her children. King Kryon, also fearing what Medea might do, banishes her, declaring that she and her children must leave Corinth immediately. Medea begs for mercy and is granted a reprieve of one day, all she needs to extract her revenge.
Jason arrives and attempts to explain himself. He says that he does not love Glauce (daughter of king Kryon) but cannot pass the opportunity to marry a wealthy and royal princess (Medea is considered a barbarian witch by the Greeks), and claims that he hopes one day to join the two families and keep Medea as his mistress. Medea and the chorus of Corinthian women do not believe him. Medea hints darkly that he may live to regret his decision and secretly plans to kill both Glauce and Kryon.
Medea is then visited by Aegeus, the childless king of Athens, who asks the renowned sorceress to help his wife conceive a child. In return, Medea asks for his protection and although Aegeus is not aware of Medea’s plan for revenge, he promises to give her refuge if she can escape to Athens.
Medea tells the chorus of her plans to poison a golden robe (a family heirloom and gift from the sun god, Helios) which she believes the vain Glauce will not be able to resist wearing. She resolves to kill her own children as well, not because the children have done anything wrong but as the best way her tortured mind can think of to hurt Jason. She calls for Jason once more, pretends to apologize to him and sends the poisoned robe and crown as gifts to Glauce, with her children as the gifts bearers.
As Medea ponders her actions, a messenger arrives to relate the wild success of her plan. Glauce has been killed by the poisoned robe and Kryon has also been killed by the poison while attempting to save her, both daughter and father dying in excruciating pain. She wrestles with herself whether she can bring herself to kill her own children too, speaking lovingly to them all the while in a moving and chilling scene. After a moment of hesitation, she eventually justifies it as a way of saving them from the retribution of Jason and Kryon’s family. As the chorus of women laments her decision, the children are heard screaming. The chorus considers interfering, but in the end does nothing.
Jason discovers the murder of Glauce and Kryon and rushes to the scene to punish Medea, only learn that his children too have been killed. Medea appears in the chariot of Artemisia, with the corpses of her children mocking and gloating over Jason’s pain. She prophesies a bad end for Jason too before escaping towards Athens with her children bodies. The paly ends with the chorus lamenting that such tragic and unexpected evil should result from the will of the gods.

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