Essay On Morals In Hippolytus

1065 words - 5 pages

There are many themes throughout Hippolytus that could be interpreted as morals. However, as the differences in society and religion between our time and Euripides? time are so great, these morals are relevant in different ways to the Ancient Greeks and to us.Ancient Greek Audience: This tragedy would have first been performed at the City Dionisia, a very religious, if entertaining, festival, therefore it is unlikely that even Euripides, a playwright known for challenging accepted views, would leave out the main moral that occurs in most Athenian tragedies: that of honouring and respecting the Gods. In fact, this would have been the most likely moral to be picked up by the ancient audiences.The theme of respect towards the Gods is recurrent in the play, and most importantly, it is the first reason mentioned for the tragic events that follow.At the start of the play, Aphrodite explains that because of Hippolytus? disrespect towards her, he will be punished: ?This youth... calls me the most pernicious of the heavenly powers... for his contempt of me, I shall punish Hippolytus this very day.? Even at the very end, the gods, or more specifically Aphrodite, are still being blamed for causing the tragedy: Theseus: ?How often, Aphrodite, shall I in tears remember the wrong that you have done!? The theme of gods punishing men for disrespecting them is also picked up by the other divinity in the tragedy, Artemis: Artemis: ?men of evil ways, their house, their children, all we utterly destroy? At the other end of the command chain, even the servants know better than to insult those better than them, with one tactfully trying to warn Hippolytus of his mistakes before the gods realise: Servant: ?we should observe the honours due to the Gods.? Another moral within this story could be warning people not too be too proud. This is closely linked to the warning against disrespecting the gods, but can be applied to any situation. For example, Phaedra is willing to die in order to preserve her so far perfect reputation, saying ?I would not wish my right action to rest unknown, any more than to display my sin before the world.... I will never be known to bring dishonour on my husband or my children.? Hippolytus? downfall is, although planned by Aphrodite, his own fault for being so proud that he insults women to such an extent that one who loves him turns her love to murderous hatred, without realising that women have power of their own to hurt.Hippolytus calls women ?counterfeit coins, a curse on the human race... an evil pest... noxious weeds... hateful... evil....? The revenge constructed by Phaedra on hearing these insults, provoked by her ?situation? with Hippolytus, is reminiscent of Euripides Medea, from which the famous quote ?Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? is derived.The servant, wisely before any are aware of their impending doom, advises Hippolytus to ?Abhor pride, and avoid exclusiveness.? This characterisation of the servant could be linking the tragedy to that of Electra, in which Orestes marvels that such poor people can be so rich in kindness.However, Hippolytus does not realise that his pride caused his downfall, so he does not learn any lessons. Hippolytus still thinks he?s right at the end, as Artemis comes and praises him for his devotion and loyalty to her, however this contradicts the point of view put forward by Aphrodite in the prologue and throughout the play.Modern Audience: A modern audience however, is less likely to believe in the religious morals that the ancient Athenians would have seen, though they would recognise its importance due to the emphasis Aphrodite make on it in the beginning. Instead, we also ?learn? that it is wrong to jump to conclusions, to be rash and to judge too quickly.This can be found in many parts of the play: The nurse runs straight to Hippolytus with news of Phaedra?s love for him, neither stopping to consider Phaedra?s wishes, nor thinking her plan out beforehand. As a result, Hippolytus finds out, and he too acts rashly as he flies into a rage and starts insulting women. ?It is clear enough; he is calling her a ?filthy bawd,? abusing her as ?traitress to her master?s bed?.? Phaedra then kills herself, instead of allowing herself to be consoled by the chorus, and writes a letter accusing Hippolytus of ?entering [Theseus?] bed with violence,? and saying how she wishes ?to die: but how I?ll order it, is mine to choose.? In her fury at Hippolytus she does not wait to realise that if her plan fails then she will be dead and dishonoured, while if she does wait then she could find out if Hippolytus would keep the oath of secrecy he swore.Theseus refuses to listen to the counsel of others, and so loses a son on the same day he loses his wife: Chorus ?Believe me you are mistaken ? as you will learn in time? Theseus ?Impossible!?....Artemis ?You believed your wife?s lies without witness, now witness the world how you reap your own undoing!? A modern audience would also be less likely to believe in destiny so the fact that Hippolytus? downfall was planned by a goddess is largely irrelevant, especially as there are so many cases of hasty and foolish behaviour, from all the main characters, throughout the tragedy.Almost none of the characters portrayed in Hippolytus listen to each other, if they had then most of the tragedy would never have happened: Servant: ?Would you accept a word of good advice from me?? Hippolytus: ?Of course; it would show little wisdom to refuse.? Nurse: ?What do you dread?? Phaedra: ?That you speak word of me to Theseus? son.? Chorus: ?King Theseus, calm this perilous rage, and think what action will best serve your family.?


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