The Bucket List Book Adventure: Book 13 - Hippolytus

Dear Henry,

Book 13, Euripides "Hippolytus" of the Bucket List Book Adventure (read about that here), is done! Let me tell you all about it.

The playwright Euripides was an Athenian born around 480 BC. He began writing around 455 BC, and his first play was called Peliades.  Although he submitted works regularly to the Festival of Dionysus, he wouldn't win until 441 BC, the competition was dominated by Aeschylus and Sophocles during his early career. Ultimately Eurpidides produced more than 90 plays, and almost 20 survived today. 

He is considered one of ancient Greece's three great tragedians (with Aeschylus and Sophocles being the other two). 

The play Hippolytus was first performed at the Festival of Dionysus in 428 BC. The character of Hippolytus was a relatively new addition to Greek mythology, appearing in mid-500 BC, and it is thought that Eurpides wrote the first play about him.

Hippolytus of Athens was the son of Theseus and an Amazon named Antiope, who had been killed in a battle. Thesus was the son of the god Poseidon and Aegeus, the King of Athens.   Hippolytus was a huntsman and a horseman who revered the goddess Artemis. He had no interest in amorous relationships and refused to do homage to Aphrodite because of that. Needless to say, Aphrodite didn't appreciate his lack of adoration and swore vengeance. 

Some years after Antiopes death, Theseus married the daughter of Minos of Crete, Phaedra. Several years later, Aphrodite gets her revenge by causing Phaedra to desire Hippolytus.  

The play opens after Aphrodite cursed Phaedra with an overwhelming desire for her stepson. Phaedra has decided that the most noble thing would be to starve to death rather than succumbing to the urgings. Phaedra's nurse, however, attempts to intervene, approaches Hippolytus, and propositions him on Phaedra's behalf.  

Hippolytus refuses, and Phaedra, horrified and embarrassed, writes a note to her husband, Theseus, accuses Hippolytus of rape and then kills herself immediately.

Upon seeing the note, Theseus immediately exiles his son and curses him using one of the three favors granted to a son of Poseidon. Poseidon sends a bull to frighten Hippolytus's horses, which kill him.

Artemis appears after it's all over and tells Theseus the truth of the matter, mentioning that she couldn't have interfered with Aphrodite's actions but was going to take vengeance on one of Aphrodite's favorites in retaliation.

One of the things I noticed right away is the attitude toward Aphrodite. In Homer's Illiad and Odyssey, Helen is somewhat celebrated for following the will of that particular goddess, never mind that it caused a ten-year war and the deaths of thousands. However, in Hippolytus, no one really wants the gift of lust, and Aphrodite is a goddess that no one wants to deal with. Particularly as it is clear the aftermath of "worship" is death and destruction, and it seems that no one wants to be burdened with lust.

I'm incredibly disappointed in Phaedra. Her note was petty. 

I'm pretty disappointed with Artemis as well. All she could (or would?) offer was vengeance. And, of course, Posideon just let the curse fly without any kind of investigation. One wonders if it is worth paying homage to the Greek deities.

This wasn't one of my favorite plays. I had a hard time engaging with any of the characters. I don't think there was enough time spent on Hippolytus and far too much on Phaedra.  

Next is a story about the god Dionysys in Eurpides's play The Bacchae. I'll let you know what I think soon.

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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