Onstage, before the doors to the palace at Troizen, two statues stand during the entire length of the play. They depict Artemis
, and they serve as a constant reminder that these two gods dominate the action of the play. Characters also use the statues to send messages or prayers to the gods. For example, beginning in line 112, Hippolytus
lays his crown of flowers
by the statue of Artemis as part of his worship. On the other hand, beginning in line 811, the nurse
approaches the statue of Aphrodite and prays to the goddess of desire for help in her own secret plan – which is to try to convince Hippolytus to give in to Phaidra’s
desire for him. These symbols constantly remind the audience not only of the two goddesses that control the action, but also the two extremes of human behavior that they represent. Hippolytus has angered the gods because of his arrogant denial of sexuality, while Phaidra suffers and perishes because the force of sexual desire has so taken hold of her life. Since Artemis simply watched as Aphrodite controlled the fates of Hippolytus and others, Aphrodite’s statue emerges in this play as the more potent symbol, with the lesson that nobody should deny the force of desire. But at the end of the play, Artemis vows revenge, and so the audience is left to imagine another story in which the Artemis statue – the nobility or beauty of chaste living – gains the upper hand.