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Cities and Place Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Hippolytus, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Cities and Place Theme Icon

Every ancient Greek play that survives from the era of Euripides was staged at an annual competition held in Athens. (Hippolytus won Euripides first prize.) Yet tragedies – unlike comedies, which were set in Athens – were customarily set in other Greek cities, because it did not bode well to depict terrible things happening to citizens of one’s own city. Therefore, even though Theseus is the mythical founder of Athens, Euripides set the play in Troizen, where Theseus was originally born. Still, when characters make reference to Athens, the audience would have understood that the events unfolding before them still affect their own city, where they regularly worshipped Hippolytus and other mythical characters. When Aphrodite announces at the beginning of the play that Phaidra first fell in love with Hippolytus when she saw him in Athens, for example, the Athenian audience feels even more invested in the tale.

Like all Greek tragedies, the play runs before a single background, in this case the palace doors of Troizen. Nevertheless, Euripides evokes new, unseen spaces in the imaginations of the audience and reader. When we first see Hippolytus, he has just returned from hunting in a beautiful pastoral scene, which he links with the chastity of his favorite goddess, Artemis. Addressing her, he calls the place “a meadow as virginal as you are” (115). Phaidra, even though she will commit suicide without leaving the palace again, longs for a similar natural place, which she associates with the man she desires. “Take me into the mountains,” she tells the nurse (316). But the drama of city and place reaches a climax when it comes to exile. Long ago, we learn from Aphrodite in the introduction, Theseus fled Athens with Phaidra when he “murdered a great man’s sons” (57). The theme repeats itself when Theseus banishes Hippolytus for the alleged crime of raping Phaidra, which means Hippolytus is offstage when Poseidon’s bull fatally wounds him. The messenger vividly tells Theseus the story of Poseidon’s bull, which effectively makes a distant, unseen event feel present in the minds of audience and reader.

Cities and Place ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Cities and Place appears in each section of Hippolytus. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Cities and Place Quotes in Hippolytus

Below you will find the important quotes in Hippolytus related to the theme of Cities and Place.
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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I must have said terrible things.
I’m so humiliated! I feel as though
I’m being violently shoved somewhere I must not go.
Where? My mind’s going, I feel unclean,
Twisted into this madness
By the brawn of a god who hates me.

Related Characters: Phaidra (speaker)
Page Number: 350-356
Explanation and Analysis:

After Phaidra's nurse pleads with her to speak about what's distressing her, Phaidra finally begins to describe the inner pain she feels--though she refuses to explain its cause. At first, however, she's in a nearly trancelike state, and rambles about her desire to be taken to a meadow.

Having been condemned by Aphrodite to fall into a sinful love with Hippolytus, Phaidra has been "violently shoved somewhere . . . By the brawn of a god" beyond her control. Phaidra knows that her feelings are morally wrong, but Aphrodite has the 'remote control' to her desire--and Phaidra cannot override Aphrodite's divine power. This explains the maddening sensation which Phaidra feels in her mind--she is entirely torn in two fundamentally opposed directions, a tearing that so radically separates her thoughts that the only solution she can think of is annihilating herself.

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.

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.