This applies to Medea, who we find repulsive and evil because of her ruthlessness, her lack of limits and boundaries that could possibly stop her and her complete determination to achieve her goal at all costs. However, this also intrigues us and makes her great, quite ironically. This is because her courage, determination, combined with her intelligence, manipulative skills and total devotion to a cause are unordinary and rare. The fact that she will not stop until she gets what she wants might be immoral and wrong, but it is grand at the same time. The children are merely observers and are caught up in the events taking place in the play.
The children bring the drama and ambiguity into the play, allowing for these mixed feelings to form. One the one hand we sympathise with Medea, as quite obviously she has been treaded unfairly and selfishly by Jason, which allows her to desire revenge. However, this is in conflict with the extent of revenge that Medea plans. In my opinion, Euripides has done this purposefully; in order to show the tragedy of the situation- no matter what choice Medea makes (to carry out her plan, or not to carry it out and flee) it will have tragic consequences. Whatever justice that takes place is wrong and unjust at the same time, thus presenting us with a tragic and impossible to solve problem.
The events seen in The Just bring us to a question that we have to answer ourselves: ‘does the end justify the means’, where the aim is the revolution and a world free of tyranny. The means, here, are the killing and the possible innocent people that could suffer. While the children don’t seize our sympathy very easily, unlike Medea, the image of a child still allows for us to form a strong opinion of an answer to this question. This thought provoking questions and issues seem to be another role of children, in both texts; to allow the reader to associate himself with a character, or an attitude present in the play.
The children, as I mentioned, are cruicial to mood and atmosphere in both texts. In The Just they introduce doubt and conflict into the group, dividing it into those who believe that the children were innocent and therefore didn’t deserve to die, and those who thought otherwise. The scenes of children being in danger make us feel pathos and we are pulled into the action, anticipating the upcoming events. This can be very well shown in The Just, where the action and mood are very intense.
The forming of an attitude towards characters in the plays seems to be one of the roles of children. In The Just I sympathise with Yanek Kaliayev, who decides to withdraw from carrying out the assassination of the Grand Duke, as this would unavoidably cause the death of two children- the niece and the nephew of the grand Duke. I believe this view would be shared by most of the audience.
“I never thought it would be like that…children… oh no, not children”. At this point of the play, the audience is thinking like the protagonist – that an innocent life cannot be sacrificed while achieving a goal, a revolution in this case. While most of the group thinks similarly to Yanek and gives him no stress about his withdrawal from the mission, Stepan appears to be different. This contrast becomes very visible, exactly by the use of children, and characters’ attitude towards them. Stepan seems to be a ruthless revolutionary, only concerned with orders and carrying them out. We usually don’t sympathise with people who don’t like children, seeing them as insensitive and numb.
Yanek, however, is a poet with a romantic soul that believes in the revolution and the righteousness of it. He believes that by saving the lives of those children, he himself preserved his innocence, rather than becoming a ruthless murderer, as that is the enemy they are fighting. “I have chosen death to prevent murder from triumphing in the world… I have chosen to be innocent”, he says to Stepan, after being faced with numerous accusations and insults. His desire to preserve the life of the innocent is admirable and seizes the audience’s sympathy.
To summarise, the roles of children in Medea and The Just, can be shortly listed. Firstly, it is to provoke sympathy of the audience towards them, make us associate us with them and what concerns them. They also allow the audience to come to opinions on different characters in the play and to look at them from different points of view. The situation and context that the children are in provoke thought and questions to arise in the minds of the spectators. Lastly, they allow us to notice the tragedy of the events we see on stage.