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  1. Apr 2024
  2. May 2023
    1. The play is set in Troezen, a coastal town in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Theseus, the king of Athens, is serving a year's voluntary exile after having murdered a local king and his sons. His illegitimate son is Hippolytus, whose birth is the result of Theseus's rape of the Amazon Hippolyta. Hippolytus has been trained since childhood by the king of Troezen, Pittheus. At the opening of the play Aphrodite, Goddess of love, explains that Hippolytus has sworn chastity and refuses to revere her. Instead, he honours the Goddess of the hunt, Artemis. This has led her to initiate a plan of vengeance on Hippolytus. When Hippolytus went to Athens two years previously Aphrodite inspired Phaedra, Hippolytus' stepmother, to fall in love with him. Hippolytus appears with his followers and shows reverence to a statue of Artemis, a chaste goddess. A servant warns him about slighting Aphrodite, but Hippolytus refuses to listen. The chorus, consisting of young married women of Troezen, enters and describes how Theseus's wife, Phaedra has not eaten or slept in three days. Phaedra, sickly, appears with her nurse. After an agonizing discussion, Phaedra finally confesses why she is ill: she loves Hippolytus. The nurse and the chorus are shocked. Phaedra explains that she must starve herself and die with her honour intact and to save Theseus from shame. However, the nurse quickly retracts her initial response and tells Phaedra that she has a magical charm to cure her. However, in an aside she reveals different plans. The nurse, after making Hippolytus swear not to tell anyone, informs Hippolytus of Phaedra's desire and suggests that Hippolytus consider yielding to her. He reacts with a furious tirade and threatens to tell his father, Theseus, everything as soon as he arrives. Phaedra realizes disaster has fallen. After making the chorus swear secrecy, she goes inside and hangs herself. Theseus returns and discovers his wife's dead body. Because the chorus is sworn to secrecy, they cannot tell Theseus why she killed herself. Theseus discovers a letter on Phaedra's body, which falsely asserts that she was raped by Hippolytus. Enraged, Theseus curses his son either to death or at least exile. To execute the curse, Theseus calls upon his father, the god Poseidon, who has promised to grant his son three wishes. Hippolytus enters and protests his innocence but cannot tell the truth because of the binding oath that he swore. Taking Phaedra's letter as proof, Hippolytus proudly defends his innocence, saying that he has never looked at any women with sexual desire. Theseus does not believe his son and still exiles him. As Hippolytus is departing he swears that if he lying then Zeus should strike him down on the spot. The chorus sings a lament for Hippolytus. A messenger enters and describes a gruesome scene to Theseus; as Hippolytus got in his chariot to leave the kingdom, a bull roared out of the sea, frightening his horses, which dashed his chariot among the rocks, dragging Hippolytus behind. Hippolytus seems to be dying. The messenger protests Hippolytus' innocence, but Theseus refuses to believe him. Theseus is glad that Hippolytus is suffering and about to die. But then the goddess, Artemis, appears and rages at Theseus for killing his own son; she brutally tells him the truth and that Aphrodite was behind all their suffering due to her feeling disrespected due to Hippolytus's pride in his chastity: there was no rape, Phaedra had lied, his son was innocent. Theseus is painfully devastated by this revelation. Hippolytus is carried in physically battered and barely clinging to life. In the last moments of the play, Hippolytus forgives his father, kind words are exchanged between father and son, and then Hippolytus dies. Theseus is then left living to dwell on the fact that he killed his beloved son.

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      Title: Gender Roles and Tragic Consequences in Hippolytus

      The play "Hippolytus" by Euripides explores the complex dynamics of gender roles and the tragic consequences that arise from societal expectations and the manipulation of divine powers. The story revolves around the conflict between Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Hippolytus, a devoted follower of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. By examining key quotes and significant events, we can delve into the portrayal of gender roles and the repercussions they have on the characters within the play.

      At the beginning of the play, Aphrodite expresses her frustration with Hippolytus's refusal to revere her and his unwavering devotion to Artemis (2, 1-3). This sets the stage for Aphrodite's plan of vengeance, highlighting the power dynamics between male and female deities and the consequences of defying traditional gender expectations. The conflict between the two goddesses serves as a backdrop for the subsequent events that unfold.

      When Phaedra, Hippolytus's stepmother, falls in love with him due to Aphrodite's influence, it highlights the vulnerability of women in a patriarchal society and their susceptibility to the manipulation of divine powers (2, 6-7). Phaedra's unrequited love for Hippolytus becomes a catalyst for the tragic events that follow, illustrating the destructive consequences of crossing societal boundaries and challenging established gender roles.

      Throughout the play, Phaedra grapples with her forbidden desires and the notion of preserving her honor (5, 19-22). Her internal struggle reflects the societal pressures placed on women to adhere to strict moral codes and maintain their virtuous reputation. Phaedra's ultimate decision to starve herself and die to protect Theseus from shame illustrates the extreme lengths she is willing to go to uphold the expectations of female purity and chastity.

      The nurse, a secondary character, plays a significant role in circulating gender norms and contributing to the tragic outcome. Initially, she appears to be supportive of Phaedra's plight and offers a magical charm to cure her (4, 15-17). However, in an aside, the nurse reveals her ulterior motive, suggesting that Phaedra should yield to her desires (4, 16-18). This manipulation demonstrates the complexities of gender dynamics and the potential for women to contribute to the perpetuation of the patriarchal norms.

      Hippolytus, on the other hand, vehemently rejects Phaedra's advances and fiercely defends his chastity and loyalty to Artemis (5, 17-19). His refusal to yield to Aphrodite's power highlights his unwavering commitment to his chosen deity and his defiance of traditional gender expectations. Hippolytus's unwavering adherence to his principles ultimately leads to his tragic downfall.

      The false accusation of rape leveled against Hippolytus exposes the destructive potential of gender-based assumptions and societal biases. Theseus, Phaedra's husband and Hippolytus's father, believes the fabricated story and condemns his son to exile or death (6, 21-26). Theseus's inability to question the validity of the accusation reflects the deeply ingrained prejudices and expectations placed on women and men within the society.

      The tragic climax of the play occurs when Artemis reveals the truth to Theseus, exposing Aphrodite's manipulations and Phaedra's deception (9, 31-33). This revelation highlights the devastating consequences that arise from the manipulation of gender roles and the abuse of power by divine entities. The final reconciliation between Hippolytus and Theseus serves as a poignant moment, emphasizing the tragedy of a father's realization that he has killed his own son due to his blind adherence to societal expectations.

      In conclusion, "Hippolytus" delves into the complexities of gender roles and the tragic outcomes that arise from the manipulation of societal expectations and divine powers. The play highlights the vulnerability of women, the defiance of male protagonists, and the destructive consequences of rigid gender norms. By examining key quotes and pivotal events, we gain a deeper understanding of the portrayal of gender roles in the play and the profound impact they have on the characters' lives.