Hippolytus Critical Analysis

Topics: Aphrodite, Hippolytus, Theseus Pages: 3 (1002 words) Published: February 12, 2013
Free Will Versus Control in Phaedra’s Outburst and the Nurse’s Rebuttal in Euripides’ Hippolytus (373- 480) In ancient Greek culture, it was believed that humans were in control of their own destinies and actions despite being subject to the whims of the gods. However in Euripides’ Hippolytus this belief is shown in a contradictory light, especially concerning the character Phaedra, for she lacks free will, due to Aphrodite using her as a pawn in her plan to kill Hippolytus. Though Phaedra refuses to speak of this affliction, lest her reputation be called into question, she experiences an incident where her Nurse’s prying into her degenerative state leads to an outburst. This outburst, and the subsequent conversation, serves not only to reveal critical background information on Phaedra’s character, but also outlines key themes that sheds doubt on the belief that humans are in control of themselves. The Nurse discusses the nature of free will and how it is viewed in Greek culture. In Phaedra’s outburst, she outlines the steps she took in her attempt to achieve sophrosune in order to control her passion. As well, Phaedra and the Nurse discuss the nature of divine control and the technique Aphrodite uses to control people. The Nurse’s rebuttal to Phaedra’s outburst reveals that free will is useless when pitted against a god. In her speech directly after Phaedra’s outburst, the Nurse outlines the method Aphrodite uses when interacting with humans: “She goes gently after the one who yields, but whomever she finds thinking extravagant and proud thoughts, she takes him and you can’t imagine how badly she treats him” (Euripides 444-447). This portrayal of how Aphrodite uses her power over passion directly conflicts with the very idea of free will. Free will is, by definition, the power to make one’s own decisions unconstrained by external forces (Free Dictionary) and this portrayal shows that Aphrodite is interfering...
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