Hippolytus

Phaidra Character Analysis

Phaidra is Theseus’ wife and Hippolytus’ stepmother. Medea, the heroine who is the subject of another Euripides play, is her ancestor. Before the play begins, a sexual desire for Hippolytus has taken hold of her, inspired by Aphrodite. Phaidra is suffers from her insatiable sexual desire, sick at its immorality, and desperate to preserve her reputation.

Phaidra Quotes in Hippolytus

The Hippolytus quotes below are all either spoken by Phaidra or refer to Phaidra. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of Hippolytus published in 1992.
Lines 1-425 Quotes

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:

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Lines 426-816 Quotes

I must hide it. Shame may be purified,
And it may be made completely noble

Related Characters: Phaidra (speaker)
Page Number: 503-504
Explanation and Analysis:

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I knew that my passion, indulged or not,
Would make me repulsive to others, especially since
I am a woman – our very sex is a disgrace.

Related Characters: Phaidra (speaker)
Page Number: 625-627
Explanation and Analysis:

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Your passion is what the god
Has chosen you to become. Accept it.
And though you suffer, be gallant about it.

Related Characters: Nurse (speaker), Phaidra
Page Number: 735-737
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 817-1119 Quotes

You couldn’t keep your mouth shut.
Because of you, after I die
My name will stink of depravity.

Related Characters: Phaidra (speaker), Nurse
Page Number: 1045-1047
Explanation and Analysis:
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Lines 1120-1368 Quotes

That is her signet, set in an arc
Of hammered gold, inviting me
To open it, a gesture full of her charm –
I’ll unravel the windings and crack
The seal. Let me just take in
Her last words to me.

Related Characters: Theseus (speaker), Phaidra
Page Number: 1307-1312
Explanation and Analysis:

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The truth is hideous. It sears and wrenches
And will not stay clenched in my throat.
To speak it out excruciates me,
But it must come. Ahhh!
Hear it, men of the city!
My wife was raped – by Hippolytus!

Related Characters: Theseus (speaker), Hippolytus, Phaidra
Page Number: 1337-1342
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lines 1728-2208 Quotes

I will reveal and you must face
The sexual passion of your wife,
Though what she did, seen in its own strange light,
Burns with her soul’s nobility.

Related Characters: Artemis (speaker), Theseus, Phaidra
Page Number: 1974-1977
Explanation and Analysis:

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And the maidens’ spontaneous songs
Will dwell on you with endless care.
And fame will find musical words
For Phaidra’s terrible love for you,
And that too will be known.

Related Characters: Artemis (speaker), Hippolytus, Phaidra
Page Number: 2159-2163
Explanation and Analysis:

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Phaidra Character Timeline in Hippolytus

The timeline below shows where the character Phaidra 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
...desire, or Aphrodite herself. In order to take revenge, Aphrodite states that she has infected Phaidra, Theseus’ wife, with desire for Hippolytus. She announces that Phaidra will commit suicide from her... (full context)
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...depart, the chorus of Troizenian women sings an ode that introduces the scene to come. Phaidra, they say, the queen of Troizen, has not eaten for three days, and longs for... (full context)
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Cities and Place Theme Icon
The nurse enters, supporting Phaidra, along with servants from the palace. After lamenting that she does not know the root... (full context)
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Cities and Place Theme Icon
Suddenly, Phaidra realizes what she’s said, and even though she hasn’t revealed the cause of her desire,... (full context)
Lines 426-816
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
The nurse attempts to find out what is afflicting Phaidra, but with no success. On the verge of giving up her interrogation, the nurse mentions... (full context)
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
The detective game continues, as the nurse makes guesses and Phaidra reluctantly leads her down the right track. It isn’t that Phaidra fears for her own... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
Phaidra begs the nurse to stop pursuing the truth, because she fears that the nurse will... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
This is the common fate of the women in her family, says Phaidra, and the nurse slowly catches on. It is the nurse who finally guesses the name... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
Addressing the chorus, Phaidra delivers a long speech detailing the history of her desire and the nature of her... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Phaidra resists such “seductive words” that threaten to destroy her honor. The nurse continues to push:... (full context)
Lines 817-1119
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Phaidra, leaning against the palace doors, groans about what she hears inside. The Koryphaios gets her... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...further, she reminds him of the oath of silence that he swore before hearing of Phaidra’s desire. In response, Hippolytus launches into a huge rant outlining his hatred for women. He... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Phaidra, though standing or lying elsewhere onstage, has heard Hippolytus’ rant and admits defeat. Hippolytus’ comments... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
When the nurse exits, Phaidra makes the chorus swear an oath, like the one that binds Hippolytus, not to reveal... (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... (full context)
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
...nurse calls out for help from within the palace. She wants a knife, to free Phaidra’s neck from the rope, but the members of the chorus waver back and forth before... (full context)
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
As soon as the chorus confirms Phaidra’s death, Theseus enters for the first time in the play. His crown of flowers indicates... (full context)
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
Family Relationships Theme Icon
At Theseus’ command, the doors of the palace open, revealing Phaidra’s dead body and the rope still around her neck. First the chorus and then Theseus... (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
Then, Theseus notices a wax tablet that Phaidra’s body holds in its dead hand. The Koryphaios makes a dire prediction when Theseus goes... (full context)
Lines 1369-1727
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...it. He imagines and refutes any argument that Hippolytus might use ahead of time. Would Phaidra commit suicide and frame Hippolytus just because she hated him as a bastard son and... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...he sees that this sort of talk isn’t convincing Theseus, he makes further points: that Phaidra was not so attractive as to motivate such a crime, and that it would have... (full context)
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...Hippolytus wishes that some witness had seen his behavior of the previous hours, or that Phaidra had not yet died. He swears to Zeus that he never touched Phaidra, nor even... (full context)
Lines 1728-2208
Desire, Sexuality, and Chastity Theme Icon
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...Artemis, high above the stage, appears suddenly. The goddess wastes no time telling the truth: Phaidra had a criminal desire for Hippolytus, who nobly and honorably rejected the nurse’s advances on... (full context)
Gods and Fate Theme Icon
Truth, Falsehood, and Reputation Theme Icon
...entire plot, and Theseus had no choice but to believe the accusation of the dead Phaidra. Because of a rule enforced by Zeus that no god can intervene with another, Artemis... (full context)