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Medea is a play written by Euripides and which focuses on a woman who lives among some Trojan women with her family-her husband and children. She seems to be exposed to a lot of trouble by her very own husband- Jason, who has walked out on their marriage. The play has four major characters all of whom play a major role in bringing out the tribulations of Medea. As the play begins, the nurse and the attendant are discussing some events they have noticed taking place in the home of Medea. The nurse says "What! Will Jason brook such treatment of his sons, even though he be at variance with their mother?" this clearly shows that things are not working in this family set up. But where did the problem come in? (Euripides 2004)
The attendant replies to this by saying "old ties give way to new; he bears no longer any love to his family." The discussion goes on by the nurse saying, "O children, do you hear how your father feels towards you? Perdition catches him, but no he is my master still; yet is he proved a very traitor to his nearest and dearest." These few quotations are clear enough to bring out the theme of betrayal in this play. Betrayal is the breaking of trust by a person by doing an act that is contrary to what is expected of them by another, and especially without the knowledge of the person whose trust has been broken. But just how does betrayal in the play of Medea compare with betrayal in the play 'School for Scandal' by Sheridan? (Euripides 2004)
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School of scandal is a play that focuses on Sir Peter Teazle, a rich man who marries a young girl while he is in his mid age. They live in a society in which gossip spreads like bush-fire and hence makes people be on the look out even for their very own neighbors. In the play, one of the well known rumor mongers, Lady Sneerwell is on one of Sir Peter's relation- Maria, who is a relationship with another character- Charles Surface. She wants to break up their relationship so that she can have Charles to herself. To accomplish her mission, she partners with another character-Joseph, brother to Charles, who is interested in Maria himself. The script describes Joseph as a hypocritical youth, who, unfortunately, enjoys a much better reputation than his brother Charles. These two characters go ahead a forge a letter, with the help of Snake, which is intended to feign the reputation of Maria, so that Charles can break up with her. In the play, Lady Sneer is quoted saying; "The paragraphs, you say, Mr. Snake, were all inserted?" to which Snake replies, "they were Madam, and as I copied them in a feigned hand, there can be suspicion as to whence they came." Then Lady Sneer goes ahead to ask, "Did you circulate the report of Lady Teazle intrigue with Captain Boastall?" to which Snake replies, " that's in as fine a train as your lordship could wish. In the common course of things, I think it must reach Sir Peter's ears within twenty four hours and then you know, the business is as good as done." However, what they do not realize is that the involvement of Lady Teazle with the Captain is purely for business purposes in the fashion world (Sheridan 2004).
This brings out the aspect of betrayal in this book, whereby the characters involved in spoiling Maria's and Lady Teazle's reputation will go to any length in order to spoil their relationships. As Lady Sneerwell later confesses, it gives her much joy to reduce and belittle other people to the level of her own spoilt and scathed reputation.
How then do the two plays compare in the theme of betrayal? In terms of differences in how the theme comes out in the two books, while betrayal is exhibited within family ties in the play Medea, betrayal in School for Scandal is being exhibited among friends and the larger community. Looking at Medea, this woman complains that her husband has turned his back on her and her children, ".......for he who was all the world to me, as well as thou knows, has turned out he worst of men, my own husband....for divorce is not honorable to women, nor can we disown our Lords" (Sheridan 2004)
Just to prove how much Medea as been betrayed by her own husband, a chorus can be heard been sung from a distance, and part of it reckons, ".....a cry of lamentation, loudly, bitterly, she calls on the traitor of her marriage bed, her perfidious spouse....."
In the School of Scandal however, betrayal is coming from the people that one could count as friends. Joseph, does not want his own brother Charles to benefit from the wealth Charles could amass by being attached to Maria, and therefore goes to the length of spoiling her reputation so that he can have her to himself after she has been left by Charles, in the hope that Maria's fortune from her family could be his as well. At some point, Joseph starts feeling sorry for the trouble they are putting Charles through, but Lady Sneerwell sarcastically reminds him not to "be moral and forget that he is among friends," meaning that they all have a common interest that they should focus on and simply forget about being sympathetic for their targets.
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Another difference in the way the betrayal affects the family is that, while it brings the family and friends of Medea closer together, it draws the family of Sir Peter and friendship with Sir Charles further apart. In Medea, the servants and friends of the family of Medea are sympathetic and seem to mourn with them through their troubles. However, Sir Peter at one point denies Lady Teazle as his wife, but later takes her back in after he is convinced that some people set her up and the only reason she was in an illegal relationship was for the purpose of boosting her fashion business.
In the play Scandal for School, the play ends with reconciliation between the main characters, that is Sir Peter and his wife Lady Teazle and between Charles and Maria, while the impostors are revealed and dealt with accordingly. In the play Medea, the characters end up going their own separate ways, although with a lot of misery and remorse.
Betrayal in both cases has ended up bringing enmity between characters and clearly shows that actions driven by selfish gains lead to distress, loss of trust and loss justice, as the chorus at the end of the play seems to indicate, "many are the forms the heavenly will assume, and many a thing the gods fulfill contrary to all hope, that which was expected is not brought to pass, while for the unlooked-for heaven find a way out...."