Power In Euripide's Hippolytus

951 Words 4 Pages
Euripides’s great tragedy Hippolytus tells the story of a young man and his family who fall victim to the displeasure of the gods.Because of its disproportionate on men and its disregard of female suffering, this play contains strong misogynistic undertones. The story begins with Aphrodite expressing anger over Hippolytus’s refusal to worship her properly. He instead devotes all of his time to hunting with Artemis, the patron goddess of virgins. Hippolytus claims that the reason for his distance from Aphrodite is his desire to preserve his purity.
Though this situation involves two powerful goddesses, Hippolytus is in the position of power. In essence, this scenario is two women fighting for the attention of a man. Hippolytus’s attention and
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Aphrodite is aware that Phaedra is “like to die”, but views her merely as a means to an end in her efforts to punish Hippolytus (39). Phaedra falls ill with horror and guilt over her intense love. Her pain is so intense that she believes that “it is better then / that [she] should die and know no more of anything” (248-249).
Phaedra is innocent and has nothing to do with Hippolytus’s conflict with the gods, yet her suffering is used as a vehicle to further the plot. She remains in this status even in death; her suicide is used to create emotional pain in Theseus that will motivate him to curse his son. This sends the message that female suffering is only valuable or noteworthy when it affects men.
Thankfully, Phaedra is not the only woman in the play. Her nurse and a chorus of servants gather round and try to help her with whatever is ailing her. This display of solidarity between women is rare. However it does not last long; Phaedra’s nurse decides to tell Hippolytus about her love, claiming it will solve the problem. When Phaedra expresses uncertainty at this plan, the nurse dismisses her, saying, “You are afraid of everything” (519). She continues on to tell Hippolytus about the problem, and Phaedra laments that she is “destroyed forever” (565) and that the nurse has “ruined” her (597). She dismisses the nurse in
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She transcribes a note claiming Hippolytus raped her and hangs herself. Theseus, Phaedra’s husband, returns home and sinks into grief upon finding her dead. His love for his wife was so strong that he feels that she “killed [him] in her own death” (810). When he reads the note, he grows furious as Hippolytus and banishes him, using a divine curse to condemn Hippolytus to death. He curses Hippolytus to wander and suffer, “draining dry a bitter life” (1049).
Once again, a woman’s death and suffering is used to create emotional growth in men and further the plot. Theseus’s grief takes center stage as he acts out on his anger. At this point, Phaedra’s suffering is a mere memory, and her suicide is nothing more than a catalyst for conflict between two men. Unlike the two main male characters, she never receives a sense of justice or reconciliation for the misunderstandings wrought between the family. Her character receives no closure at all.
At the climax of the play, Hippolytus gets into a horrible chariot accident and is mortally wounded. Artemis appears and explains the truth of the situation to Theseus. In Hippolytus’s final moments, father and son reconcile. Although Theseus’s actions lead to Hippolytus’s death, he frees his father “from all guilt in this”, and in turn Theseus apologizes for his rash actions

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