Restraining her Song and Saving the Oikos? Nurses in Euripides’ Medea, Hippolytus, and Andromache


  • Vasiliki Kousoulini National and Kapodistrian University of Athens



Contemporary scholars usually associate actors’ song with extremely heightened emotion. Solo songs in tragedy, and especially in Euripides, are frequently attributed to female characters. In this article I examine three instances where a female character (Medea, Phaedra and Hermione) who sings is juxtaposed with another female character, a Nurse, who speaks or chants. Nurses attempt to restrain the songs of their mistresses and, usually, encourage them to articulate their thoughts in a more rational way. The excessive emotions, unrealistic fears and uncontrolled desires expressed by song are perceived by the Nurses as a threat to the lives of their mistresses. These emotions also pose a serious threat to the survival of the oikos. Nurses encourage these singing females to be more rational and attempt to save their lives, that is, they serve a consolatory function within the play; nevertheless, in this tragic environment both self-absorbed singing and dialogue lead to disaster.