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Chorus Character Analysis

Every Greek tragedy has a chorus, a group of singers whose role is to watch as the action unfolds and offer reactions in the form of odes that were probably sung. They represent an audience-within-the-play. In this play, young Troizenian women make up the chorus and so their songs are often about topics of love and sexuality.

Chorus Quotes in Hippolytus

The Hippolytus quotes below are all either spoken by Chorus or refer to Chorus. 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 817-1119 Quotes

Eros, Desire! Our eyes perplex and cloud over
When your essence dissolves within them,
Your assault waves of crushing delight
Pour into hearts marked by you for destruction.

Related Characters: Chorus (speaker)
Page Number: 817-820
Explanation and Analysis:

Having overheard the exchange between Phaidra and the nurse--and being therefore in-the-know about Phaidra's love for Hippolytus--the Chorus speaks these lines about the power of desire.

Here, we get another glimpse at how desire is viewed in this play as a force radically beyond mortal control. The intervention of desire into the mortal psyche is violent: it's an "assault" of "waves of crushing delight" which enter "hearts marked . . . for destruction." Desire is viewed as a paradox--it is at once ecstatic and delightful at the same time that it is devastating and destructive. Mortals thrive on the hope and ideas of ecstasy afforded by the mechanism of desire, but they are simultaneously crushed by the magnitude with which it exerts control over their lives.


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Lines 1728-2208 Quotes

What the gods did to you
Fills me with rage – O Graces, goddesses
Of beauty and kindness,
You have given – why did you do it? –
A hard life to an innocent man.
You cut him off from his home and country
To travel depressed and alone.

Related Characters: Chorus (speaker), Hippolytus
Page Number: 1774-1780
Explanation and Analysis:

After Theseus has condemned Hippolytus to exile, the Chorus wonders why the Gods have given Hippolytus such a difficult fate.

The Chorus believes Hippolytus, and considers him an innocent man (of course, they know the truth of Phaidra's actions)--they therefore wonder how the gods could let his fate unfurl into such a painful, undeserved punishment, after all of his piety, abstinence, efforts to purify his mind, and fundamental innocence (knowledge to which the gods are privy). Here, the Chorus's view on fate comes front and center: Hippolytus is fundamentally not responsible for his fate, for fate is directed by the gods. Though Hippolytus is somewhat responsible for his fate--his prideful negligence of Aphrodite being the impetus for his misfortune--his noble way of conducting himself seems to suggest that he merits no punishment, or at least not such a brutally harsh punishment. Whether we think that Hippolytus is or isn't responsible for his fate, the Chorus seems to think he isn't. They say that the gods have "given" a difficult life to an "innocent" man--they think of Hippolytus as the passive receptor of something (fate; a hard life) delivered to him, beyond his control, by the gods.

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Chorus Character Timeline in Hippolytus

The timeline below shows where the character Chorus 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
Cities and Place Theme Icon
...group of huntsmen, carrying weapons and accompanied by dogs. He leads the huntsmen and the chorus of Troizenian women in a poetic hymn in praise of Artemis. To complete the prayer,... (full context)
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
After they depart, the chorus of Troizenian women sings an ode that introduces the scene to come. Phaidra, they say,... (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
...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 for Phaidra. (full context)
Lines 1120-1368
Cities and Place Theme Icon
While the audience waits for the outcome of Phaidra’s plan, the chorus sings another ode. They wish to be far away from the horrors they are witnessing,... (full context)
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
When the chorus finishes singing their ode, the nurse calls out for help from within the palace. She... (full context)
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
...palace open, revealing Phaidra’s dead body and the rope still around her neck. First the chorus and then Theseus utter words of grief that narrate their own emotional reaction. Theseus, in... (full context)
Lines 1728-2208
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Cities and Place Theme Icon
While Hippolytus’ fate befalls him offstage, the chorus sings another ode. They reflect on what the loss of Hippolytus means to them and... (full context)
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... (full context)