Hippolytus

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Aphrodite Character Analysis

Aphrodite is the goddess of love and desire. In the play’s opening, she announces what will happen: Hippolytus has failed to respect her, as he is too much devoted to virginity, and will pay the consequences. Though she does not appear again after that. She is depicted as a jealous, vengeful goddess.

Aphrodite Quotes in Hippolytus

The Hippolytus quotes below are all either spoken by Aphrodite or refer to Aphrodite. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Oxford University Press edition of Hippolytus published in 1992.
Lines 1-425 Quotes

The power I possess is sex, passion, love,
Which you mortals, in honoring me,
Celebrate in your diverse ways.

Related Characters: Aphrodite (speaker)
Page Number: 1-3
Explanation and Analysis:

Aphrodite speaks these lines at the very beginning of the play, when she appears above the stage and reveals her dislike for Hippolytus.

Aphrodite has the power to make mortals fall in love with whomever she selects, an ability which she boasts of here and which she will inflict upon Phaidra as part of her plot to bring Hippolytus to ruin. Exercising control over perhaps the most intense human emotion--love--as well as the very mechanism of desire or longing, Aphrodite commands the psychological motor that is necessary to want to do or achieve anything in life at all. This speaks to the magnitude of Aphrodite's power: she holds the fundamental key to human motivation, and as such can effectively program a human's desire to the extent that their entire fate becomes centered around the object of their longing. By altering a mortal's mind, Aphrodite can nearly "pre-program" that mortal's fate, as she does here with Phaidra and Hippolytus.

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Because I prize my purity
I keep clear of [Aphrodite]…

Related Characters: Hippolytus (speaker), Aphrodite
Page Number: 164-165
Explanation and Analysis:

Hippolytus speaks these lines in response to his servant, who argues that Hippolytus should worship Aphrodite with as equal a sense of ardor as he shows Artemis.

Hippolytus strives to avoid the qualities associated with Aphrodite's divinity: erotic desire, lust, and bodily passion. As he later reveals, he has little interest in sex, and commits himself to keeping his internal mental life tranquil and undisturbed by the possibly tempestuous psychological effects of sexual desire. He strives to avoid precisely the situation into which Phaidra has fallen at the hands of Aphrodite: total psychological chaos caused by "sinful" desire, a desire that pushes her to suicide (though we learn that this desire is not her own invention, and thus she is more victim than not).

Lines 426-816 Quotes

Aphrodite,
Sea goddess, share this adventure with me,
Though I have my own tactics
And these, once set in motion,
Once I share them inside with a certain young friend,
Will carry our affair to its climax.

Related Characters: Nurse (speaker), Hippolytus, Aphrodite
Page Number: 811-816
Explanation and Analysis:
Having devised a plan to make Phaidra feel better, the nurse invokes Aphrodite to support her endeavors. The nurse has given up on the possibility of getting Phaidra to see things her way, and so decides to follow her strategy herself . Yet, she invokes for help the very goddess responsible for Phaidra's downfall--perhaps out of total disregard for Phaidra's understanding of the situation, or out of faith that Aphrodite has good intentions in causing Phaidra to fall in love with Hippolytus. Either way, the nurse's plan proves catastrophic; not buying into Phaidra's sense of total responsibility for her sinful desire, the nurse accepts the involuntary nature of Phiadra's longing and thinks that satisfying it is the best way to end her despair.
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Aphrodite Character Timeline in Hippolytus

The timeline below shows where the character Aphrodite appears in Hippolytus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1-425
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
...from Athens. The audience sees the palace doors, in addition to two statues, one of Aphrodite and another of Artemis. Aphrodite herself appears to the audience, high above the stage, to... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Aphrodite vents her anger about Hippolytus, the bastard son of Theseus. Her charge is that Hippolytus... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
...gods just as it is to humans, he urges Hippolytus to worship the statue of Aphrodite standing next to the one of Artemis, lest he appear arrogant to that powerful goddess.... (full context)
Lines 426-816
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
...wishes for the end of her own life, so great is Phaidra’s crime, and mentions Aphrodite’s great power. The chorus agrees that the situation is miserable, but they show more sympathy... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...that the nurse will reveal the truth. Meanwhile, the nurse utters a secret prayer asking Aphrodite to help her achieve success in her secret plan. (full context)
Lines 817-1119
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
...palace, the chorus sings an ode that elaborates on the enormous powers of desire and Aphrodite. The Greeks, the chorus sings, pile up huge sacrifices of cattle in shrines in order... (full context)
Lines 1728-2208
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
When the messenger exits, the chorus sings a brief song to Aphrodite, recognizing her power over all things. Then Artemis, high above the stage, appears suddenly. The... (full context)
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...guilt. When Theseus now wishes for death, Artemis offers some condolence, revealing that it was Aphrodite who devised the entire plot, and Theseus had no choice but to believe the accusation... (full context)
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...mind”, and Hippolytus feels moved to hear her voice. Both father and son agree that Aphrodite has caused the ruin of the entire house, and Hippolytus empathizes with Theseus, telling him... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
Cities and Place Theme Icon
Artemis promises to take revenge on Aphrodite by shooting one of Aphrodite’s most beloved mortals with an arrow. Meanwhile, to redeem the... (full context)