Classics 210: Greek & Roman Classics in English 10/14
“But those whose pride is stiff-necked against me I lay by the heels” Aphrodite
Aphrodite (goddess of love & beauty – sensual) angry with Hippolytus (son to
Theseus) for rejecting her makes Phaedra (Hippolytus’ step-mother, wife to
Theseus) lust over him as a punishment.
Novel opens with Hippolytus and his friends singing praises to Artemis (goddess of
the hunt – virginal.) They call her “most beautiful of all that live in Olympus”
A servant of Hippolytus warns Hippolytus about snuffing Aphrodite, cautioning that
there may be dire consequences if he continues. Hippolytus leaves; the servant
prays to Aphrodite stating that he has no part in rejecting her. He bows/worships her.
The Chorus describes the fate of a woman who is sick though no one, not even her
servants, know what ails her. The Chorus gives various explanations such as an
affair with another woman or “Hectate’s madness.”
The nurse comes to care for Phaedra, who is restlessly tossing to-and-fro. She
begins to go in a maniac attack muttering about Artemis, going to the mountains and
Phaedra will still not disclose the cause of her sickness. Not to her beloved nurse or
servants – she hides her sickness from her husband, swearing that she is not sick.
Nurse pesters Phaedra forcing a confession. Nurse vehemently states, “Cypris
(Aphrodite), you are no God… You have ruined her and me and all this house.”
The nurse tells her all hope is not lost; there are magic love charms, spells of
enchantment: various remedies for her love-sickness.
Phaedra makes the nurse swear to secrecy. However, she betrays that promise and
Hippolytus goes into a long rant about women and all of the trouble they cause. He
concludes with cursing them.
The chorus describes Phaedra’s life. Growing up in Crete marriage to Theseus
curse of Aphrodite.
She hangs herself, choosing a good name rather than life; in the process easing her
heart of its bitter and incestuous lo