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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.
Gods and Fate Theme Icon

Many ancient Greek tragedies, including those by the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (the author of Hippolytus), tell a similar tale: a character’s greatness, however impressive, violates a law of fate set by the gods, who in turn punish the transgression. Aeschylus’ play about Prometheus, who brings the invention of fire to the human race and is punished for it, provides a useful comparison. Hippolytus’ superhuman resistance to the force of desire, just like Prometheus’ transgression, causes the gods to take notice. Desire itself is the law or fate of human life, and the audience watches it destroy Phaidra from within before seeing Hippolytus killed for his arrogant rejection of it.

Aphrodite herself enforces this law. Appearing above the stage before the action begins, she tells the audience that Hippolytus will suffer because his chastity goes so far that it scorns her. The conclusion – the death of Hippolytus – is therefore never in doubt. In this view, the entire sequence of Phaidra growing sick with desire, committing suicide, and framing Hippolytus simply represent Aphrodite’s power and will. “All three of us,” says the dying Hippolytus of himself, Phaidra, and Theseus (Phaidra’s husband and Hippolytus’s father) “owe our ruin to that lone goddess” (2118). Why couldn’t Artemis, whom Hippolytus revered, rescue him? At the play’s end, Artemis tells us that there is an even higher law, maintained by Zeus, which prohibits one god from interfering with the plans of another. But she also promises the dying Hippolytus vengeance against Aphrodite, which makes the audience think of other myths and other conflicts between human characters and the gods that oversee them. In this way, the personal struggle with desire and chastity grows into a struggle between the gods, even as the gods control mortal’s fate.

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Gods and Fate ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Hippolytus related to the theme of Gods and Fate.
Lines 1-425 Quotes

The power I possess is sex, passion, love,
Which you mortals, in honoring me,
Celebrate in your diverse ways.

Related Characters: Aphrodite (speaker)
Page Number: 1-3
Explanation and Analysis:

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:

Because I prize my purity
I keep clear of [Aphrodite]…

Related Characters: Hippolytus (speaker), Aphrodite
Page Number: 164-165
Explanation and Analysis:

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:
Lines 426-816 Quotes

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:

Sea goddess, share this adventure with me,
Though I have my own tactics
And these, once set in motion,
Once I share them inside with a certain young friend,
Will carry our affair to its climax.

Related Characters: Nurse (speaker), Hippolytus, Aphrodite
Page Number: 811-816
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 817-1119 Quotes

Eros, Desire! Our eyes perplex and cloud over
When your essence dissolves within them,
Your assault waves of crushing delight
Pour into hearts marked by you for destruction.

Related Characters: Chorus (speaker)
Page Number: 817-820
Explanation and Analysis:

Mother Earth and Great Sun, whose light
Unfolds the freshness of the clear blue depths –
Could anything spoken be more repulsive?

Related Characters: Hippolytus (speaker)
Page Number: 914-916
Explanation and Analysis:
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:
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:

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:

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: