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Universality vs. Specificity in Top Girls and Medea

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Despite the fact that Top Girls was written in the fairly recent past, and Medea was written in the time of the ancient Greeks, the ability for an audience or readership to relate to the content is opposite of what may be expected. Universality makes the ancient Medea relatable to modern audiences, and specificity forces Top Girls into a role which illuminates feminism in the 1980s. The key elements of plot in Medea: the philandering husband, the woman scorned, revenge, attempts at bribery, and the death of the children, can all be related to events that have occurred throughout history and continue to occur in the present day. Though Medea was written in 431 BC, Euripides depicts natural responses of people to the situation in which the characters operate. These responses are universal in that the reader can parallel various thoughts and actions with modern versions of the same thing. For instance, Medea exclaims, “If only I were dead!” in response to her husband leaving her (20). This exclamation is like the reaction that any modern female may have in response to a sudden break-up with a significant other.

Other examples of universality include Jason’s attempts at pacifying his former wife – a common theme in male-female relationships today and the mother murdering the children as a parallel to tragedies such as the Andrea Yeats incident of the recent past. Contrarily, due to the fact that the play highlights and provides commentary on feminism of the early 1980s, Top Girls’ content would not be relatable for a person who existed before or after this time. For example, women of the 1950s would not be able to relate to strong-headed, career oriented women like Marlene because such a concept was non-existent at that time. By the same token, a female born later than the early 1980s could not relate to Churchill’s ultimate commentary on the struggle between traditional feminine ideals and the concept of women in the workplace, as these two have come to a far more solid reconciliation today. Rather than being a relatable play for all generations, the beauty of Top Girls, then, comes in its ability to depict the thoughts and dilemmas of a specific period and for a specific group. The fact that it preserves the ideals of this historical moment for an audience makes it a play which is still equal in value and weight to one that is universally relatable.

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