The Battle of Love and Law
You are young; Then be young! Free that heart! Salute the night. With fire and revelry! Let Bacchus lift. That heavy load of sadness from your soul. Life is to be. As punishment, Aphrodite causes Theseus' wife, Phaedra, to be overcome . Hippolytus dreams of a city in which love, marriage, and sex are. Phaedra has just revealed her desire for Hippolytus, and the nurse and a more balanced view of women and men in relation to erotic desire.
I was going to say morality, but my feeling is that celibacy is not actually a question of morality because there is actually nothing wrong with sex.
Hippolytus - Greek Tragedies - An Introduction
It is like many of the other good things on this Earth, namely that it is good but it can be quite destructive if not respected.
So what we seem to see here is the struggle between sexuality and celibacy. It is once again something that is all too common in our society. It is unacceptable to be celibate, as seems to be the case here. Our society believes that we are fools if we chose a path of celibacy, where as in this play, celibacy angers Aphrodite.
However, the catch is that celibacy is accepted by Artemis and I also suspect that Athena is celibate as well. I guess that the one reason that celibacy is looked down upon has nothing to do with sexual pleasure and everything to do with the failure to procreate.
This is something that does come out in the Bible, especially when we have one of Judah's children in the book of Genesis spilling his seed on the ground and then God punishing him when he does so.
Remember that twice in Genesis God commands humanity to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth with progeny. I wish to finish off on the nature of death. When Hippolytus dies Artemis comes to comfort him in his final hours. It is not a quick death - it is a long, slow, and painful one, namely because he was trampled by his horses.
Anyway the tragedy of the situation is that despite his lifelong devotion to Artemis it is clear that he is not going to be spending his afterlife with her. In fact this is clearly spelt out in the text. I suspect that that was not originally a Greek concept, and was probably inherited from the Middle East. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all have the concept of spending the afterlife with the deity. With the Greeks, and I suspect the Romans, this is not the case.
Mind you, the Greeks did believe in reincarnation, but I suspect that this was not going to happen to Hippolytus though we do know that Achilles did go to the Elysian Fields, which is the closest one can come the Greek concept of Heaven.
Phaedra becomes an interesting sort of parallel character to Hippolytus. She has also committed herself to a kind of chastity—though she feels eros in a way that Hippolytus might not, she refuses to act upon it for the sake of her reputation and good name.
Rather than bring shame to herself and her family, she tries to kill herself by refusing to eat. This self-inflicted punishment is particularly interesting in that it implies a desire for control. Phaedra is, in her own way, obsessed with the law and its clear-cut demands. In fact, Phaedra is so supportive of the law that her support turns into a hatred of women similar to that of her stepson.
Quote of the week – Phaedra
I realized full well that I was that object of universal detestation, a Woman. A foul curse on the woman who first committed adultery with strange men! How in the world can they look their husbands in the face, without quaking for fear lest the darkness, the partner in their crimes, some day take voice; or the walls of their chamber? A World Without Eros Phaedra, like Hippolytus, wants to live in a world in which eros does not interfere with the carrying out of nomos—and nomos, for her, is very linked with the idea of reputation and societal custom.
Hippolytus rejecting Phaedra, by Jozef Geinaert Her mother, Queen Pasiphae, had an adulterous affair with a bull and gave birth to the legendary Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster. Whatever Happened to Theseus?
phaedra and hippolytus
This brings us to a new question: He is central to the decisions of the other characters, and yet he is absent for the better part of the play. Theseus is a particularly interesting character in that for all intents and purposes, he seems to be a great bastion of nomos.
Despite being king of Athens, he does not consider himself exempt from the law. By this example alone, Theseus seems as obsessed with the law as are his wife and stepson; and yet, there is a side to him that is not quite that committed. After all, Hippolytus himself is proof that Theseus has committed adultery and has had children out of wedlock we must remember, too, that Hippolyta is not the only woman Theseus kidnapped—he has committed this crime more than once.
Moreover, there is an implication in the play that Theseus is not adhering to the laws of legitimacy and succession. In many ways, Theseus has insulted the ideals of lawful marriage and family just as much as Hippolytus—Aphrodite could easily consider him an enemy. Theseus is thus considered to have a dual-paternity this is part of what gives him his heroic strength and bravery. Hippolytus is the particular devotee of Artemis, which we are to realize means that he worships this goddess to the exclusion of the other gods.
Although the text indicates that Phaedra writes the letter to avoid the shame that public knowledge of her desire would bring, we can also read this as an act of revenge against the man who so cruelly rejects her. The play concludes with a final promise of revenge from Artemis. People customarily worshiped all of the gods rather than choose whom they wanted to obey.
A patron god or goddess would have been acceptable; indeed, heroes with specific patrons populate many Greek myths. However, insulting a god by refusing to worship him would have been suicide, which the play so aptly demonstrates.
One of the more famous myths about Artemis features the goddess punishing a mortal man, Actaeon, who sees her bathing. Due to the similarities between the goddesses, we can read them as foils for each other: This reading can help us understand how the two goddesses relate to each other and, more generally, about the relationships between the Olympian gods.
Their interaction typifies the relationships between the gods, which range in disposition from tolerant to hostile. Susceptible to human emotions such as jealousy and anger, the gods seem little different than the mortals who worship them. Even her appearance betrays her impropriety. Worried that Hippolytus will dishonor her by sharing her story, she commits suicide and leaves the letter accusing Hippolytus of rape to ensure that Troezen remembers her virtue and honor.Ancient Greek Theater performance: Hippolytus - Euripides, tragedy
Her words, however, betray her passion. The spear is blatantly phallic, and her invocation of a weapon used in the hunt alludes to Hippolytus, whose favorite pastime is hunting. I pray that love may never come to me with murderous intent [ The viciousness of love plays out in the rest of the drama as Aphrodite destroys the lives of Phaedra, Hippolytus, and, by extension, Theseus. Lust breeds mischief in the clever ones. The limits of their minds deny the stupid lecherous delights.
Women had to raise children as well as manage the household, which included the family stores and capital. A stupid wife would be incapable of adequately managing the household.