Hippolytus: Seneca, Euripides, Ovid

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Liz Soolkin
Hippolytus: Seneca, Euripides, Ovid
The story of Hippolytus, a man wronged and killed by his own stepmother is a myth retold by many different writers. For this paper, I have chosen to discuss the myth as retold by Ovid, Seneca, and Euripides. Each multiform has a few distinct differences that impacts the meaning of the myth as whole. While reading each myth, the reader receives a completely different sense from the story, a conclusion that is unique to each story. The difference in each retelling that changes the meaning of the story most significantly is the stepmother, Phaedra’s role and the emphasis each author places on her character in his form of the story. The variations in the portrayal of her character provide each story a different meaning; a large portion of the meaning comes from the reader’s ability or inability to relate to Phaedra; this ability depends on the author’s portrayal of her and her actions. Seneca’s version of the story of Hippolytus’s death is called Phaedra. Before even beginning to read the narrative, the reader understands that Phaedra is the main character in the story; the main conflict of the story is one between her and her stepson. She does everything in her power to get Hippolytus to sleep with her: she asks the nurse to convince him and even tries to do so herself after fainting in his arms. She does not seem to care about his strong morals or her own morals. Aphrodite’s curse on her has led her to be so determined to sleep with her stepson that she ignores her ideals and the ideals of Hippolytus. When she is rejected, she spreads the lies about Hippolytus having raped her and lives to see the consequences of those lies; though she is in control of the situation and could physically stop the story from ending tragically, she does nothing to prevent her stepson from being cursed by his father. She is alive when Hippolytus’ mangled corpse is brought to her and her husband, Hippolytus’s father, Theseus. Only...
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