Hippolytus | Study Guide

Euripides

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Hippolytus | Stasimon 2 | Summary

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Summary

The Chorus of Women relays the story of Phaethon, the son of Apollo. Phaethon rode the sun chariot and almost lost control of the burning orb and destroyed Earth. Zeus regretfully killed Phaethon with a thunderbolt to save the planet from destruction. The Chorus wishes they could escape from the tragedy in Theseus's house to more loving and calm waters. The women lament Phaedra's fate and that she was brought here from her loving homeland of Crete to face such a horrible end. They declare Aphrodite's plan is successful and describe Phaedra's suicide by hanging herself above her marriage bed.

Analysis

The story of Phaethon deals with an inexperienced youth finding himself far beyond his abilities and needing to be saved by one of the gods—the rescue causing the young man's death. This may be a parallel to Hippolytus's situation: he is an innocent young man who does not have the maturity to deal with a deeply complicated situation. The tale also foreshadows the ruin of Hippolytus (as implied by his name) who is unable to control the horses of his chariot when they are startled by Posidon's sea creature.

The Chorus is distressed by what has been happening to Phaedra and her decision to kill herself; the women long for a calmer time when they can simply enjoy the fruits of the gods' Earth. But they know Aphrodite's curse will be played out until she has her revenge. The Chorus laments the fall of the queen, and how one so loved by her homeland and her king came to Athens only to be destroyed by Aphrodite. They describe in detail how Phaedra kills herself and why she chose such a tragic ending: "She has chosen good name rather than life," they sing, "she is easing her heart of its bitter load of love." One's honor and reputation are important in Athens, and despite the facts of the curse she has endured, Phaedra knows any hint of infidelity—especially such an immoral strain involving a stepson—would ruin both her Cretan family's name and the reputation of the king and their children.

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