Euripides' Tragedy of "Hippolytus": Phaedra As a Essay

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Euripides' tragedy of "Hippolytus":

Phaedra as a plaything of the gods

Euripides' tragedy of "Hippolytus" is a tragedy of paganism, at least on its surface. The work details the conflict between Hippolytus, the noble son of Theseus who honors the goddess of chastity and the hunt Artemis and his new stepmother Phaedra, who honors Aphrodite above all other goddesses. When Phaedra falls in love with Hippolytus he is repulsed not simply because of the incestuous nature of Phaedra's love but because it dishonors the principles of chastity embodied by his excessive worship of Artemis. The conflict between the two goddesses, translated into human terms, ultimately results in death and destruction for both Hippolytus and Artemis and the misery of Theseus, the father of Hippolytus and the husband of Phaedra. However, there is also a higher symbolic order beyond that a personal conflict between the gods that is being violated, one which gives the play a cosmological significance beyond that of the purely personal variety: the natural order and balance of things is being violated thanks to Hippolytus' excessive reverence for Artemis which results in Phaedra being used as a helpless tool of revenge for the wrath of Aphrodite.

Human beings are playthings of the gods in Greek mythology, not masters of their own fate, and when such a balance is upset; humans inevitably get caught in the fray and are crushed.
Although on the surface it may seem to be a play about passion, in its own way the tragedy of Hippolytus is just as much a tragedy of fate as is the classic tale of Oedipus Rex. Additionally, the person who actually suffers the most as a result of the tragedy is Theseus, who is effectively tricked by Aphrodite into killing his own son by bringing down the wrath of Poseidon on Hippolytus' head. Phaedra functions more as an instrument of Aphrodite's will than as an actual independent moral actor, capable of making good and bad decisions. Her affection is entirely generated by Aphrodite's will.

This is communicated at the beginning of the play when Aphrodite is depicted as being angry at Theseus' stepson because of his fixation upon Artemis and his sworn chastity. Aphrodite, rather than Phaedra drives the plot. Aphrodite believes that Hippolytus does not give sufficient reference to all the gods and goddesses, only to one, thus he is to be condemned. Phaedra is, in fact, sickened by her passion. Phaedra knows it is wrong, but she cannot help herself. The framing of the tale makes it clear that Aphrodite has caused Phaedra to fall in love….....

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