Two different characters at two different moments in the play wear a crown of flowers as a meaningful sign. When we first meet Hippolytus
, he has just returned from hunting in the wilderness with a band of huntsmen, and he places a crown of flowers by the statue
as a token of worship. He wove it together, he says, in a “meadow as virginal as you [Artemis] are” (115). Later, when it becomes clear that Phaidra’s
accusation has doomed Hippolytus and he goes into exile, the chorus
laments that Hippolytus will no longer place “wildflower crowns” for Artemis (1764). The crown represents Hippolytus’ commitment to chastity and virginity, and the beautiful nature with which those commitments are associated – and the goddess Artemis watches over all of these. The other crown of flowers appears when Theseus
returns from the oracle. The fact that Theseus is wearing such a crown means that the gods there gave him a favorable or optimistic response to whatever question he asked of the oracle. Unlike Hippolytus’ crown, Theseus’ comes with a deep irony: the gods made him hopeful even though disasters unfolded at home, including the death of his wife.