Hippolytus | Study Guide


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Course Hero. "Hippolytus Study Guide." March 15, 2019. Accessed August 6, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Hippolytus/.


Course Hero, "Hippolytus Study Guide," March 15, 2019, accessed August 6, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Hippolytus/.

Hippolytus | Quotes


Those who worship my power in all humility / I exalt in honor. / But those whose pride is stiff-necked against me / I lay by the heels.

Aphrodite, Prologos

In the first few lines of the play, Aphrodite hints at several themes: the relationship between gods and mortals and vengeance. In her opening dialogue, she makes it clear that as long as men worship her, she will honor them, but if they don't, she will destroy them.


Her suffering shall not weigh in the scale so much / that I should let my enemies go untouched.

Aphrodite, Prologos

Aphrodite admits it is unfortunate Phaedra—who certainly worships Aphrodite—will have to die for her plan against Hippolytus to be successful, but she will not let the tragic by-product stop her from getting revenge.


Men hate the haughty of heart / who will not be the friend to every man.

Servant, Prologos

The servant asks Hippolytus if he has heard this social rule and if he thinks this also applies to the gods. The servant uses this rule as a warning to the young man not to be disrespectful toward the gods—specifically Aphrodite—because the gods demand honor from mortals.


The life of humankind is complete misery: / we find no resting place from calamity.

Nurse, Episode 1

This dramatic irony occurs so early in the play as the nurse is merely griping about how difficult is to care for someone who is sick, like Phaedra. The nurse is speaking broadly about the toils of everyday life, exaggerating caring for a sickly queen with a "calamity." The audience knows Aphrodite is going to take revenge on Hippolytus and that Phaedra will also die as a result of the plan, resulting in "complete misery."


There is no remedy in silence, child.

Nurse, Episode 1

Another instance of dramatic irony, only this applies to two future events. Here the nurse is trying to get Phaedra to tell her why she has stopped eating and appears so sickly. How can she help the queen get better if she won't tell her what ails her? Remaining silent is no remedy for Phaedra and Hippolytus. Phaedra so wants to keep her lustful feelings for her stepson secret that once Hippolytus learns of it from the nurse, Phaedra feels the only way to avoid being shamed is to kill herself. Silence also ultimately leads to Hippolytus's death by his own father: he refuses to break his promise of secrecy about Phaedra's feelings even when it could help him prove that he is innocent of raping Phaedra.


Love is like a flitting bee in the world's garden, / and for its flowers destruction is in its breath.

Chorus of Women, Stasimon 1

The Chorus of Women has just discussed Aphrodite's son Eros, the god of love, and how his actions can cause calamity for mortals. They conclude their song with this line, reflecting on the damage being done to Phaedra, Hippolytus, and Theseus because of Phaedra's feelings of love for her stepson.


Lust breeds mischief / in the clever ones. The limits of their minds / deny the stupid ones lecherous delights.

Hippolytus, Episode 2

After learning of Phaedra's feelings for him, Hippolytus goes on a vicious rant about the evils of women. Here he suggests that smart women—like Phaedra—are the ones who cause mischief in marriage, whereas stupid women aren't smart enough to think of doing such things. This reinforces previous statements Hippolytus has made about women and why he will never marry. The situational irony in his words is that both Aphrodite, a god, and Phaedra, a clever woman, would act in order to bring Hippolytus to his death.


Our wisdom varies in proportion to / our failure or achievements.

Nurse, Episode 2

The nurse has just betrayed Phaedra by telling Hippolytus the queen is in love with him. This was her idea to help Phaedra, but it backfired immensely. Here the nurse acknowledges her error but points out that had her plan worked, the queen would be praising her wisdom. This may be Euripides's comment on the questionable notion of "wisdom"— it is a completely conditional idea depending on the success or failure of the outcome.


But in my death I shall at least bring sorrow / upon another, too, that his high heart / may know no arrogant joy at my life's shipwreck.

Phaedra, Episode 2

Phaedra reveals her plan to take revenge on Hippolytus in her decision to kill herself. Though Phaedra was cursed by Aphrodite to fall in love with her stepson, she found Hippolytus's response to learning of her feelings—and his absolute hatred of women (especially one like Phaedra)—extremely offensive. This angered her greatly. She finds her stepson's piousness to be arrogant, and while the audience certainly sympathizes with the situation she has found herself in, she exchanges her feelings of love for anger and vengeance.


Call back your curses, King. ... / Else you will realize that you were wrong / another day, too late.

Chorus of Women, Episode 3

The Chorus knows this was all the work of Aphrodite and that Phaedra made up the rape to take vengeance on her stepson. They try to warn Theseus—like the servant tried to warn Hippolytus in the Prologos—not to act so rashly when petitioning the gods, especially asking Poseidon to grant one of the three wishes he gave the king. The Chorus has seen the indifference of the gods. They fear for Theseus when he finds out the rape allegation was a lie and he has lost his son as well as his wife.


You walked with gods in purity immaculate? / I'll not believe your arrogant boasts: the gods / are not at all so stupid as you think.

Theseus, Episode 3

After accusing Hippolytus of raping his wife, Theseus attacks his son for being a hypocrite with this sarcastic comment. He says Hippolytus alleges to be chaste and pure and wants only to live in nature with the god Artemis, but here he has committed a brutally violent sexual act against his own stepmother. Theseus knows the gods can see through his son's piety, a dramatic irony as it is the god Aphrodite who has plotted these events.


I would not have banished you to exile! I / would have killed you if I thought you touched my wife.

Hippolytus, Episode 3

Hippolytus insists he is innocent and asks his father what reason he would have to commit such a crime. When that doesn't work, Hippolytus appeals to his father's reason and love for his son: if he really believed Hippolytus did this, why didn't the king kill him immediately? Does he hesitate to kill him because he knows this is not an act his son could commit? Hippolytus says he would've wanted to kill Theseus immediately if their roles were reversed.


I have reverence for [Hippolytus] and for the gods: / I neither rejoice nor sorrow at these evils.

Theseus, Exodos

After learning that his son has been injured and is near death, Theseus expresses the complexity of his feelings: he loves his son, though he committed a horrible crime, and he honors the gods like Poseidon who granted his curse against Hippolytus. Because there is nothing positive about what has happened, Theseus is emotionally empty—he is not happy about what happened but he feels it was the right thing to do. Euripides appears to be displaying the complicated moral relationship mortals must negotiate when engaging the power of the gods.


No [god] may fly in the face of another's wish: / we remain aloof and neutral.

Artemis, Exodos

Artemis's claim about not helping Hippolytus because it is the custom of the gods not to interfere with other gods' actions may be Euripides's criticism of the indifferent nature of the gods toward mortals. The gods intervene in the life of humans frequently, for good or ill. Hippolytus was one of Artemis' most cherished humans, yet she allows his death so as not to interfere with Aphrodite's revenge plot. Euripides paints Artemis as similarly indifferent as all other gods, no matter Hippolytus's beliefs about her supreme nature.


Don't bear a grudge against your father. / It was your fate that you should die this way.

Artemis, Exodos

Here Artemis appears to provide the neat and tidy ending that Euripides so frequently employs in the Exodos of his plays. She tells Hippolytus to overcome the horrible actions of his father in causing his death and forgive him—because there was really nothing Theseus could do about it. Hippolytus was destined to die as a result of his offending Aphrodite. This seems strange coming from Artemis, who loved Hippolytus dearly.

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