Euripides’ Medea and Jason: A Study in the Social Power of Love

Kofi Ackah


Euripides’ Medea resonates with modern issues in intimate relationships. However, little has been written on this, especially from the social-psychological perspective. This paper explores the breakdown of the Jason-Medea marriage in terms of the social-psychological theory of love as an exchange in a power game in which a certain degree of imbalance in the exchange could account for such a breakdown. I analyse the Medea text in terms of Olson and Cromwell’s (1975) tripartite theoretical framework, namely: (a) the bases on which social power is built; (b) the processes by which social power is wielded; and (c) the outcomes produced by the use of social power. I find that Medea carried a greater burden of love towards Jason than Jason did towards her, fuelled and sustained by her enduring and greater need for security and happiness. And in intimate relationships, the principle of least interest (Waller and Hill 1951) works: the beloved tends to dominate the lover. Jason, however, overreached himself when he violated the minimum conditions of his own desirability – fidelity to and respect for Medea. I conclude that Medea’s violent reaction to Jason’s conduct indicates the fragility of love as a basis of social power in intimate relationships.


Love; social power; intimate relationship; exchange theory; fidelity; respect.

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