Proxemics and Structural Symmetry in Euripides’ Medea


This article argues that proxemics (including blocking) and kinesics, a relatively under­studied aspect of ancient Greek performance, is paramount for understanding Euripides’ Medea and especially a fundamental structuring principle of this play, namely the symmet­rical juxtaposition of scenes. Euripides’ Medea realises a kind of theatrical narrative, which turns on mirroring, and thus on a palindromic rather than a linear flow of the action, bely­ing the Aristotelian preference for a plot unfolding strictly κατὰ τὸ εἰκὸς καὶ τὸ ἀναγκαῖον and implicating the spectator in the meaning-creating process. The proxemic code, it is argued, is of paramount importance for establishing structural and thematic parallelisms between scenes, all the more so in the three successive encounters of Medea and Jason, which are the main concern of this article. The vertical axis is especially crucial here. It be­comes ever so loaded, insomuch as the high/low code is further charged by two emblematic discourses of Greek culture, which are largely played out in spatial terms, namely the pub­lic interface of male and female, and the ethics of supplication.