Hippolytus | Study Guide

Euripides

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Hippolytus | Stasimon 1 | Summary

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Summary

The Chorus of Women sings of Aphrodite's son Eros, the god of love who "brings bewitching grace into the heart." They are fearful of Eros's love powers and their abilities to destroy: "author of dread calamities/and ruin when he enters human hearts." They tell the story of Iole and the hero Heracles: Aphrodite makes Heracles fall in love with Iole, but he marries a different woman named Deianeira, who is suspicious her husband will leave her for Iole. Out of fear of losing him, Deianeira ultimately uses a poisoned shirt to kill Heracles. The Chorus suggests love has destructive powers: "Love is like a flitting bee in the world's garden, / and for its flowers destruction is in its breath."

Analysis

The Chorus warns the audience of love's sometimes destructive nature. Eros, who is closely associated with his mother Aphrodite, is perceived as one who makes people fall in love in a positive way. In contrast the Chorus tells of the darker side of Eros's abilities, which are already reflected in the play's action thus far. The story of Heracles and Iole is a cautionary tale and one Athenian audiences would have very well known before attending the performance of Euripides's play: the object of Aphrodite's actions is not always the only one affected; nor is the result necessarily what Aphrodite intends. While the gods' powers are mighty, Euripides seems to suggest that human action and reaction can impact what the gods intend to create: unfortunate results.

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