Faithful band of slaves, come to our aid! HIPPOLYTUS

Oenone conceives of a preemptive strike against Hippolytus even though we learn in the next scene that he has no thoughts of exposing Phaedra.

Phoebus, the father of Phaedra’s mother, Pasiphaë.


PHAEDRA CHORUS of Athenian citizens. [1121] If thou still keepst thy hate, why are thy cheeks wet with tears?

O abominable race, yielding to no laws of a better land!

This marks the mid-point, a nearly cataclysmic event in the middle of the story that shifts the internal balance of the main character.

However, for the ancient Greek audience, the carefully maintained moral purity in Hippolytus’ character did serve to tell the story of how he came to be a worshipped cult figure in the city of Troezen.
Then that dire comrade of high estate, inordinate desire, steals in; wonted feasts no longer please, nor houses of simple fashion or modest cups. Will he give up his hate for thee, when ‘tis for hate of thee, perchance, he repels all women?

Or should it please thee to shoot thy arrows into the sky, in Parthian fashion, none will come down without its bird, but, deep fixed in the warm breast, will bring prey from the very clouds. Classics scholar Philip Whaley Harsh points out that in the course of the extant play, Hippolytus’ character remains consistently self-righteous.

How glorious was he then!

Graves, Robert. He can’t admit to any mistakes, faults or errors in judgment. PHAEDRA Mendell, Clarence, W. Our Seneca.

Have pity on her who loves –.

And what would maddened Phaedra with the naked sword? Do thou, in the vigour of thy youth’s first bloom, rule o’er the citizens, strong in thy father’s power; take to thine arms thy suppliant, and protect thy slave. The chief part of my guilt is long since accomplished; too late for me is modesty – I have loved basely.

How pleasing is the manly sternness of thy face and the severe dignity of thine old-seeming brow!


[574] Oft-times does Love put curb on stubborn hearts and change their hate.

Now let the fire consume these limbs. Hatcher, Jeffrey. Has his glorious beauty come to this? Pirithoüs. His breast and dewlap are green with clinging moss, and his long flanks with red seaweed are spotted.
No wind was blowing on the briny sea, from no quarter of the clam sky came the noise, but a self-born46 tempest stirred the peaceful deep.

of the Sun.

Come now, savage monsters of the deep, now, vast sea, and whatever Proteus has hidden away in the furthest hollow of his waters, and hurry me off, me who felt triumph in crime so great, to your deep pools. We see him viciously act out the mistakes we know he will regret, and then tragically confront the truth of his errors.

NURSE Wheat. [877] No means of death shall be granted unto thee.

A Companion to Greek Tragedy. [741] Let fame compare with thee30 all ancient beauty, fame, admirer of the olden time; as much fairer does thy beauty shine as gleams more brightly the full-orbed moon when with meeting horns she has joined her fires, when at the full with speeding chariot blushing Phoebe shows her face and the lesser stars fade out of sight. [863] Unbar the closed portals of the royal house. Warlike Mars invented new modes of strife and a thousand forms of death. Thus, Seneca has set up his philosophical lesson.

– auspices tha well befit a guest from hell. Me let thy thunder smite, pierce me, me let thy swift-darting fire consume.

[777] Why seek desert places? Fierce was he and impatient of the yoke, lawless in love, leader of an untamed herd; yet he did love something.

[236] Will he stop for thee and yield himself to thy caresses? [591] Why dost thou shun the sweet boon of life restored? O childlessness, bitter misfortune for broken years! Why doth hallowed love dwell ‘neath lowly roofs and the general throng have wholesome impulses? Why heap fresh infamy upon thy house and outsin thy mother?

if Theseus has escaped Pluto, Hippolytus has gone to fill his place. Thou wouldst know him of Amazonian breed.

Hippolytus’ moral purity may make him look good on the surface, but it is also what inspires the wrath of Aphrodite. Theseus has already used two of his wishes, the first when he set out from Troezen to Athens, and the second when he was in the labyrinth. Sinis. This, truly, is the madness of that warlike race,42 to contemn Venus’ laws and to prostitute the long-chaste body to the crowd. [854] Phaedra holds unbending purpose of self-murder; she scorns our tears and is on the very edge of death. Phaedra wrote to him, confessing her love and suggesting he pay homage to Aphrodite with her. Translated by Miller, Frank Justus. The second, known to us as simply Hippolytus, was originally called “Hippolytos the wreath bearer,” or Hippolytus Crowned.[3].

Luna. Not so swifty are the meadows, beauteous with early spring, despoiled by the hot summer’s glow, when with solstitial fire midday rages, and the nights sweep headlong in their brief course.

[874] A chaste woman dreads her husband’s ears alone.

And thou, star of stars, O radiant Sun, dost thou behold this shame of thy race? THESEUS

When he has gained his spirit, and with full trail rehearsed his wrath, he darts forth, running swiftly, scarce touching the surface of the ground with flying feet, and stands, in grim menace, before the trembling steeds. His authorship of Hercules Oetaeus and Octavia is uncertain.

Wherefore in protection of my honour let me arm my hand. If ever there were a character due to be knocked off a pedestal, this is he.

He kindles the fierce flames of youth and in worn-out age he wakes again the extinguished fires; he smites maids’ breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms.

But Euripides was more than simply an exploiter of good material. They had no blind love of gold; no sacred boundary-stone, judging betwixt peoples, separated fields on the spreading plain; not yet did rash vessels plough the sea; each man knew only his native waters. [HIPPOLYTUS hastens to raise her in his arms.]

Theseus deeply regrets the death of his son and gives him the honour of a proper burial, although he deliberately refuses this same honour to Phaedra (a dire sentence in Roman culture). MESSENGER

PHAEDRA He seeks not in pride of wealth to be sheltered by a roof reared on a thousand pillars, no in insolence plates he with much gold his rafter-beams. Shrewd is the care of fathers. HIPPOLYTUS proceeds to assign the various tasks of the day to his followers.] Unless, perchance, even Pluto sits smiling upon love! 33. i.e. [PHAEDRA enters and falls as in a swoon.] Now come back to consciousness, my mistress.

My left hand shall be busied with the quiver and my right wield a Thessalian spear. If, because thy husband sees not the realms of earth, thou dost believe thy guilt safe and devoid of fear, thou errest. Lend ear to me privately a little while, I pray.

32. THESEUS Thou art the destroyer of thy home, hurtful ever, whether through love or hatred of thy wives.55.

He learned to drive the team of night and to wheel in narrower circuit, while the axle groaned beneath the car’s heavier weight; nor did the nights keep their accustomed length, and with belated dawning came the day. Referring to the torture of Tantalus. HIPPOLYTUS [384] But see, the palace doors are opening, and she herself, lying on golden couch, all sick of soul, rejects her wonted garments. Where are those features, that feigned austerity of the man, that rough garb, aping old-fashioned and archaic ways? NURSE Yawn, earth; take me, dire Chaos, take me; this way to the shades is more fitting62 for me – my son I follow. Ferguson, John. Being that he was a philosopher, Seneca’s overriding interest was in portraying dramatically the Stoic view that man should put aside passion and indulgence and conform his actions to reason in order to harmonize himself with the world at large. Phaedra’s disadvantage is increasing, making her more and more vulnerable, even though as Theseus’ widow she is in the greater position of power.

Will he give o'er Where Marathon her forest glades Canst bend as well the stubborn soul of him, Amidst the depths of hell and dreadful Dis, May he yet yield himself to Venus' laws. THESEUS


My prayers move not the gods; but if I asked impious things, how would they bend to answer!

Who that is wise would trust so frail a blessing? Since we aren’t likely to be sympathetic towards Hippolytus, with all his aloofness, we are provided with Phaedra, a truly unwitting victim of Aphrodite’s vengeful manipulations. NURSE

Pasiphaë. I am summoned to the woods. ‘Tis an accursed fire (believe those who have suffered) and all too powerful.

But as for me, what god, what Daedalus could ease my wretched passion? Theseus had wed Antiope, the Amazons, and of their union had been born Hippolytus.

Father, dost thou delay? [360] No hope is there that such suffering can be relieved, and no end will there be to her mad fires. But tell the manner of his end.

[1275] [To attendants.]

My impious breast is bare to the sword of justice, and my blood makes atonement to a guiltless man. MESSENGER

Out, sword, and mete her just punishment. She did but pollute herself with her shameful lust, and yet her offspring by its two-shaped infamy displayed her crime, though long concealed, and by his fierce visage the hybrid child made clear his mother’s guilt. In fact, it threatens to derail the whole drama until we learn that in her passing she has falsely accused Hippolytus. If fate compels, ‘tis pardonable to be wretched; but whoso of his own accord surrenders himself to misery and causes his own torment, he deserves to lose the happiness he knows not how to use. The mighty deep heaves up into a huge mound, and the sea, swollen with a monstrous birth, rushes to land.

The first “act” ends when Phaedra decides to take Oenone’s advice to win over Hippolytus for the purpose of joining forces against Aricia.

[325] Persia and the rich, fertile realm of Lydia saw the fierce lion’s skin laid aside, and on those shoulders, on which the royal structure of the lofty sky had rested, a gauzy cloak of Tyrian web. PHAEDRA NURSE His wife, Phaedra, is not entirely sympathetically portrayed, but she does seem to be a victim of her own emotions, and Seneca even goes so far as to imply that her tormented feelings and confusion may stem in part from Theseus’ harshness as a husband.

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