chapter  3
7 Pages

The 'Hippolytus'

But at this point a number of questions begin to arise. Why is Hippolytus so chilly a figure? As a recoil from Phaedra he was very dramatic, and the romantic atmosphere he brought with him from the hunt was very picturesque, but as the chief actor in the second part of the play is he not rather a disappointing character? Is he not too negative, protesting his pre-eminent purity a little too much l And why is Phaedra forgotten? The dramatic motif of the opposition between his nature and Phaedra's disappears. There is no suggestion that her personality, so prominent in the first part, remains active in the second; no suggestion that her death works at all in his mind; no pity or remorse or hatred is seen in him. In fact, Phaedra's letter seems to be no more than a mechanical link between her tragedy and his. Having in Phaedra so tragic a subject, why did not Euripides base his whole play on it? As it is, not only does the Hippolytus lack real unity, but its rhythm goes the wrong way, from the very dramatic Phaedra to the less dramatic Hippolytus; and even that useful body the chorus, by saying nothing about Phaedra in the second part, does nothing to conceal the division of interest. Finally, what are the goddesses for? Is Euripides taking all this trouble only to tell the Athenians that in his opinion Aphrodite and Artemis are not worth worshipping?