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Word Count: 598
Much of what has been written on slavery in Euripides has to do with the captive women taken in the Trojan War But even ordinary household slaves like Medeas Nurse may betray characteristics of the free which the free themselves do not possess N T Croally Euripidean Polemic Cambridge 1994102-3 and in this way cast some light on the status of their masters and what the slavefree definition means in the play and in a wider context In the Nurses opening speech the slaves voice is heard perhaps not crying for freedom but asserting a moment of freedom that is not hers The old paidagogos comments on her temporary abandonment of her duty to serve her mistress 50-2 diminishing his colleagues brief moment of freedom so that the audience cannot miss the fact that she is doing something unusual something unservile She is not heard from again after the parodos but the points of view she expresses are maintained from time to time Why does Euripides open a play that is concerned with heroic deeds and royal affairs with one and then two anonymous slaves How does their status illuminate the central figures Medea is mistress despoina and despotis She has one would suppose no mortal masters but invokes Hecate as despoina and as co-worker 395-7 But Medea does speak of masters as if her status were more ambiguous When she is reflecting on the status of women speaking generally of marriage she calls the husband a master for the body 233 and more specifically claims that she had been carried off as booty 256 That is she sees that a womans role in marriage is like that of a slave The loss of home and the dismissal of her logos by Creon prompt her to reject her inferior status and reassert herself as granddaughter of Helios daughter of a noble father a free woman 406 Like her slave the still helpless Medea begins to
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