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Only Human

‘But, really, what is happening to me? Am I willing to be laughed at, and my enemies go unpunished?’ Am I to put up with this? No way, tis weakness.’

Revenge on enemies, defending reputation, anger at being laughed at, all familiar themes from pop music, film, in short popular culture. It is a familiar human urge and feeling. We may think it wrong to act on such sentiments, but I think we have all felt anger at being humiliated and laughed at, especially if it is done with condescending pleasure or a sense of triumph. Maybe we have lashed out, spoken before we think. In a less serious form, it is playing a counter joke on a classmate, or some sort of trick to make a point. Or the consequences can be more serious.

The above quotation comes from a work from over two and half millennia ago. The speaker is Medea, shortly before she kills her children. Not because she doesn’t love them. She is wavering, she is conflicted, she nearly turns her back on her ghastly plan. But her anger at being humiliated and cast aside is stronger and eventually wins. Spurned by Jason, whom she helped, rescued, and loved, she decides to hurt him by making him feel her loss.

Twisted? Yes, but the actual core feeling by her extreme response is human and present in us all. There is even a grim logic to. What hurts her most, must also be what hurts Jason most. Similarly violent sentiments appear in music from all ages and more recent drama.

Classics shows us that whilst we may not respond as Medea did, the sentiment is as human as we all are.

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