HIPPOLYTUS by Euripides

January 14 2019




  • Aphrodite
  • Artemis


  • Hippolytus
  • Theseus
  • Phaedra


  • Chorus of women of Trozen
  • Nurse attending Phaedra
  • Messenger


The story plays out in front of the royal palace of Trozen. Theseus spends a year in voluntary exile to atone for bloodshed. Artemis and Aphrodite are present as statues.

Aphrodite is the goddess of love and marriage. Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and chastity.


Aphrodite is mad at Hippolytus for refusing to marry. He is too in love with Artemis. As punishment, Aphrodite makes Phaedra, Theseus’ wife and Hippolytus’s stepmother, fall madly in love with him.

Now that Theseus wants to spend a year in Trozen, Phaedra, now close to Hippolytus, is driven mad and is slowly dying. Aphrodite plans to tell all to Theseus in anticipation that he may kill Hippolytus.

Hippolytus arrives from a joyous hunt, while Phaedra is dying. The women of Trozen wonder what illness befell her while her nurse brings her outside. The nurse is not pleased with the circumstances of Phaedra’s mysterious illness, because she knows she is hiding something. To get to the truth, she threatens Phaedra and eventually, the dying woman reveals her horrific infliction cause by Aphrodite’s anger. The nurse thinks she can fix her mistress by finding Hippolytus, so she leaves to fetch him. Hippolytus meanwhile rants about his great hatred for women and Phaedra overhears. There is only one thing she can do to preserve her honour: she soon hangs.

Theseus is come home to a dead wife. While grieving, Theseus finds the letter and goes wild with rage, it does frame his own son as a wifedefiler!

Due to his unknown birth, Theseus has three curses from Poseidon and he is now using one to curse his son to death. If he does not die here, he shall die by the second curse: on foreign soil.

Soon, Hippolytus arrives. His father quickly starts on his charges and Hippolytus is just as quick to challenges them. In an attempt to soothe Theseus, he swears to Zeus that he has not defiled his stepmother - Zeus is the keeper of oaths, how could Theseus not believe him?

Theseus however, is out of his mind and does not listen to oaths, just as Aphrodite has ordained. He soon banishes him.

“Your insufferable piety chokes me to death. What are you waiting for? Out of my land, I say!”

Hippolytus leaves dejected.

Not long after, a messenger arrives at the gates of Trozen’s palace to speak to Theseus. He has bad news: Hippolytus has made it to foreign soil and then a freak wave has scared his chariot horses and he was thrown off and is fatally injured. The messenger will bring his body to his father.

The Trozen women have seen the scene play out and now pray to Artemis. The goddess swiftly appears to Theseus to tell him the truth: Hippolytus is innocent of all charges and he, Theseus, has just killed his son. She too tell him that he will have pardon from the gods due to Aphrodite’s machinations.

Upon hearing the truth, Theseus is devastated. When the dying body of Hippolytus is brought before him, he begs forgiveness and Hippolytus, ever the pious man, grants it unquestioning. After this absolution, Artemis leaves and Hippolytus dies.