Hippolytus

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Statues of Artemis and Aphrodite Symbol Analysis

Statues of Artemis and Aphrodite Symbol Icon
Onstage, before the doors to the palace at Troizen, two statues stand during the entire length of the play. They depict Artemis and Aphrodite, 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.

Statues of Artemis and Aphrodite Quotes in Hippolytus

The Hippolytus quotes below all refer to the symbol of Statues of Artemis and 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

I have brought you this green crown,
Goddess, fresh from the scene
Where I spliced its flowers together,
A meadow as virginal as you are…

Related Characters: Hippolytus (speaker), Artemis
Related Symbols: Crown of Flowers, Statues of Artemis and Aphrodite
Page Number: 112-115
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Hippolytus enters the stage for the first time and approaches the statue of Artemis. Out of admiration for the goddess, Hippolytus adorns her statue with a crown of flowers he's taken from a meadow he considers "virginal." This reveals how Hippolytus views Artemis as pure, whole, and representative of chastity, as opposed to Aphrodite, whose association with sexuality and erotic desire he refuses to revere. The crown of flowers also shows the importance of offering material favors to the gods--they are integral to the act of worshipping the gods and maintaining good standing with them, thus avoiding punishment for hubris (pride or arrogance). Hippolytus leaves Aphrodite's statue bare, and this upsets her--only sealing Hippolytus's fate.

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Lines 1369-1727 Quotes

Daughter of Leto, you who were
Closest to me, my friend, my hunting partner,
Now I will go in exile
From radiant Athens.
I say goodbye to my city…

Related Characters: Hippolytus (speaker), Artemis
Related Symbols: Statues of Artemis and Aphrodite
Page Number: 1710-1713
Explanation and Analysis:

Hippolytus speaks this lines, in reference to Artemis, after he is condemned to exile by Theseus.

A highly devoted follower of Artemis, Hippolytus must now leave the city and grounds with which she is associated. That Hippolytus calls a goddess his "friend" and the person "closest" to him--considering a goddess to be closer to him than another mortal--shows the degree of his piety and prideful sense of being purer and closer to the divine than most people. Leaving his home, however, Hippolytus now assumes the lowly status of an exile, and must be geographically parted from the source of the very reason for his exile: Artemis, whose reverence and worship by Hippolytus, to the point of neglecting Aphrodite, inspired his and Phaidra's ruin.

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