From the Greek tragedians and the Roman poets, the Western world has inherited the idea that love is an overwhelming and dangerous emotion that reduces the mind to a state of inconstancy and childishness. The destructive power of love is described with particular force by Euripides in Hippolytus. That play, it will be recalled, records the gradual disintegration of Queen Phaedra’s superego and ego under the impact of her love for her stepson. Euripides lets the nurse say to Phaedra, “The love queen’s onset in her might is more than man can bear,” and the chorus implores Aphrodite: “O never in evil mood appear to me, nor out of time and tune approach” (Coleridge translation). Sophocles lets the chorus in Antigone sing:

Love, unconquered in the fight, Love, who makest havoc of wealth, who keepest thy vigil on the soft cheek of a maiden; thou roamest over the sea, and among the homes of dwellers in the wilds; no immortal can escape thee, nor any among men whose life is for a day; and he to whom thou hast come is mad.