chapter  2
Death of Hippolytus
WithAmy Wygant
Pages 35

Hippolyte, that is, has alleged designs upon Phèdre, and the difference between the ancient tragedy and the modern one is precisely in the design: the modern tragedy is designed to be a problem of designs. In general, the only actual colours mentioned in Phèdre are red and black. Reddening always means blushing with shame, as in Hippolyte's 'Je commence à rougir de mon oisiveté'. Black and blackening weigh down the tragedy's second half: only one form of 'noir' appears in the first 827 lines, while, after the return of Thésée, blackness is used eight times. The manner of Hippolyte's death has been a subject of great fascination for Phèdre's readers from the moment of its première. The monsters relation to Phèdre's monstrous passion has been enthusiastically explicated, Neptune's participation as the god of horses as well as of the sea has been emphasized, and the cruel irony of Hippolyte's very name has been pointed out.