Phaedra (Seneca) - Wikipedia
(Pomeroy) Within the plays, it would seem thematic issues of a woman's downfall will commonly be connected to a relationship with a man. In HIPPOLYTUS. As punishment, Aphrodite caused Hippolytus' stepmother Phaedra to fall . Now the playwright has the problem that the story of a victim being. In this reading, both Phaedra and Hippolytus remain chaste and share some of Phaedra's desire for her stepson, for example, violates her marriage vows with . Hippolytus' misogyny is a problem in the play, complicating interpretations of.
Through a creative use of monologues, he places the audience inside their heads at their tortured moments. In his religious views he differs essentially from Aeschylus and Sophocles. With Euripides the gods are not moral powers, and fate is not so much the result of a higher dispensation as a perverseness of accident. The lack of grandeur is also a point which distinguishes him from his great predecessors. Instead of their sublime ideas he gives us maxims of worldly wisdom, often to all appearance dragged in without close connection to the plot.
The motives of action are not so pure as in Aeschylus and Sophocles, and the characters of the heroes are not raised above the level of ordinary life, but brought down to it. He seems to be overly fond of pointing out the faults of his women heroes. His plays pay more attention to the course of politics than his predecessors'. In deference to the democratic leanings of his public, he makes his kings cruel tyrants, without dignity or majesty, and the heroes of the Peloponnese, in particular, he treats with unconcealed dislike.
His dialogues contain show-pieces of rhetoric and sophistic argumentation. He was eventually very popular with his contemporaries, and has been still more so with succeeding generations. The tragedians of the next age made him their model and pattern without qualification, and the Roman poets preferred paraphrasing his dramas to those of the other tragedians. The number of his tragedies is variously given as seventy-five, seventy-eight, and ninety-two.
Eighteen have come down to us: The Bacchae was written in Macedonia in the poet's last years, and performed after his death at the same time as the Iphigenia at Aulis. From as early as the sixth century B. These thinkers are conventionally called Presocratics. The names of three Milesian philosophers are known to us: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, who are generally called 'the Milesians'.
We know of their teachings not first hand from their own works, which have not survived, but only from references to them in the works of Aristotle and other authors. Their main interest as philosophers is indicated by the term commonly applied to the Milesians and later Presocratics in Greek literature: The physikoi sought the basic substance of the universe, but in addition to science they were also interested in ethics and the criticism of contemporary religion.
This kind of speculation was continued in Ionia, Italy, Sicily and elsewhere by Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus and finally by Anaxagoras, who came to Athens in the middle of the fifth century.
The greatest contribution of these philosophers was their application of rational analysis to the world, which earlier had been viewed only in mythical terms. As Cicero explains in his Tusculan Disputations: The traveling teachers called Sophists, whose teachings had an enormous influence on the thought of the fifth century B. Perhaps because of the mutually contradictory answers offered by the Presocratics as to the nature of the universe, the Sophists turned from theoretical natural science to the rational examination of human affairs for the practical betterment of human life.
This approach to life began to undermine the mythological view of the world evident in poetry with its emphasis on the involvement of anthropomorphic deities in the natural world and in human action. Divine causation was no longer the only explanation of natural phenomena and human action. Most Sophists were non-Athenians who attracted enthusiastic followings among the Athenian youth and received large fees for their services.
Sophists flocked to Athens no doubt due to the favorable attitude of Pericles towards intellectuals. Pericles was a staunch rationalist; he had been trained in music and political affairs by Sophists. He was associated with the great sophist Protagoras of Abdera and two important Pre- Socratic: Zeno of Elea and Anaxagoras of Clazomenae.
The latter taught that the universe was governed by pure intelligence and his assertion that the sun, moon and stars are red hot stones and not gods led to his prosecution for impiety. Perhaps the best illustration of Pericles's rationalism is a story told by Plutarch of how Pericles, when an eclipse of the sun generally considered a bad omen frightened the helmsman of his ship, held up his cloak before the helmsman's eyes and asked him if he thought that this was a bad omen.
Upon receiving a negative answer, Pericles then asked the helmsman whether there was any difference between his holding up of the cloak before his eyes and the eclipse of the sun except that the eclipse was brought about by an object larger than the cloak i. Pericles was no doubt applying knowledge he had obtained from Anaxagoras, who is generally credited with being the first to explain the true cause of solar eclipses. Pericles's rational approach to life and that of his circle of friends was as unpopular as his democratic politics among conservative groups in Athens, but it must have encouraged Sophists from all over the Greek world to flock to Athens as a potentially fertile ground for their teachings.
Most Sophists claimed to teach arete 'excellence' in the management of one's own affairs and especially in the administration of the affairs of the city. Up to the fifth century B. The Sophists claimed to be able to help their students better themselves through the acquisition of certain practical skills, especially rhetoric the art of persuasion. Advancement in politics was almost entirely dependent upon rhetorical skills.
The Athenian democracy with its assembly ekklesiain which any citizen could speak on domestic and foreign affairs, and the council of five hundred bouleon which every Athenian citizen got a chance to serve, required an ability to speak persuasively. The Sophists filled this need for rhetorical training and by their teaching proved that education could make an individual a more effective citizen and improve his status in Athenian society.
Although there were many differences among the Sophists in terms of their specific teachings, it is safe to say that there was a common philosophy which many Sophists shared and which permeated their teachings.
The most prominent element in this philosophy was skepticism 'a doubting state of mind'. The skepticism of the Sophists took various forms: The relativity of truth was the basis of Protagoras's rhetorical teaching.
He trained his students to argue on both sides of a question because he believed that the whole truth could not be limited to just one side of a question. Therefore, he taught his students to praise and blame the same things and to strengthen the weaker argument so that it might appear the stronger. These techniques are based on the belief that truth is relative to the individual.
Arguments on both sides of a question are equally true because those debating a question can only truly know those things which exist in their own mind and therefore cannot make a definitely true statement about objective realities outside the mind phenomenalism. Truth is what it appears to be to the individual. Since it is not possible to know what is absolutely true, there is only one standard left by which to determine correct action: If an action is advantageous to the individual, then it is good.
This idea was sometimes employed by the unscrupulous to justify morally questionable behavior, but Protagoras apparently was opposed to an indiscriminate use of this principle. His belief in the relativity of truth did not prevent him from believing that in making moral decisions one can still distinguish between an action which is morally better and one that is morally worse. The Sophists were also interested in the cultural development of man as a member of society.
The Sophists saw man himself as a product of nature, but society and civilization as artificial human products. On one hand, man is a natural creature subject to certain laws of nature which he cannot help but obey. On the other hand, he lives in a society, the rules and structure of which have no roots in nature and are based only on custom. The distinction here apparent is one between nature physis and custom or convention nomosa commonplace antithesis in fifth century literature popularized by the Sophists.
One of the great controversies of the fifth century was whether the gods, human society and distinctions among human beings such as Greek and Barbarian, master and slave, were the result of physis or nomos, nature or custom. Before the fifth century, human institutions and customs were generally seen as handed down by the gods and part of the natural order of things, but contact with other civilizations began to make it evident that institutions and customs were different among different peoples and introduced the idea of cultural relativism.
According to this theory, societies create their own customs and institutions to suit their own peculiar needs and conditions. A graphic example of cultural relativism occurs in Herodotus's Histories 3.
In order to illustrate the point that everyone thinks his own customs and religion are the best, Herodotus tells the story of certain Greeks at the court of the Persian king who are shocked and disgusted when he asks them how much money they would require as an inducement to eat the dead bodies of their fathers. On another occasion with Greeks present, the king asked some Indians, who in fact did eat their fathers' corpses, what they would take to burn their dead as the Greeks do.
The Indians' horror at this suggestion equaled that of the Greeks on the earlier occasion. Herodotus concludes this anecdote with a quotation from the poet Pindar: This was also the attitude of most Sophists with regard to the origins of the gods, human society and distinctions among human beings.
All these were considered by the Sophists as human creations designed to serve specific needs.Phaedra: A dialogue between Euripides and Sarah Kane (photos)
Thus, there began to grow up the antithesis between man-made law nomos and natural law which has its origins in unchanging nature physis. A modern example of a nomos is the agreement that a red traffic light means 'stop' while a green one means 'go', while an instance of a natural law is the law of gravity.
If a legislative body so ordained, red could mean 'go' and green, 'stop'. Under the right circumstances, the traffic light can be ignored with impunity.
On the other hand, the law of gravity cannot be repealed by man and compels obedience to itself. Although the physis - nomos antithesis was common in the teachings of most Sophists, their views of physis with regard to human nature could differ widely.
To some Sophists, the realization that all men have much the same human nature required the abolishment of all artificial distinctions among men, such as Hellene and Barbarian, master and slave.
Other Sophists saw human nature as an aggregate of man's animalistic inclinations to aggression and domination by physical strength. Human law nomos which restricted those inclinations was seen as an artificial constraint contrary to the natural order of things, created by the weaker members of society. This view was the philosophical basis of the rhetorical argument of "the right of the stronger" "might makes right" which is used by a number of speakers in Thucydides's History and which you will see advanced by the sophist Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic.
The Sophists who advocated this argument saw men in the image of animals in the wild and often recommended the animal world as a model for the human. According to this view, any attempt to constrain the natural human tendency of aggression is not only wrong, but useless.
Nature overrides any artificial constraints set up by man. Just as in the animal world, the strong will always be victorious over and dominate the weak. Not all Sophists, however, subscribed to this theory. Protagoras believed that men, left to their own natural savage instincts, would destroy each other.
In his view nomos, although only an artificial creation of man, enables men to survive and makes possible civilized communal life.
For example, a man charged with assault against a larger and stronger man could argue that it is not likely that he would have attacked such a person. On the other hand, if the man accused of assault were very large, he could argue that a man whose very size would make him a suspect would not be likely to have committed such a crime.
The intellectual revolution fomented by the Sophists also reached into the area of religion. Most Sophists saw the gods as creations of men. In general, Sophists were either agnostic or atheistic and saw the world as operating on the principle of natural rather than divine causation.
There was very little room in Sophistic thought for the old anthropomorphic gods. This, of course, is not to say that the gods disappeared from ancient Greek life because of Sophistic skepticism.
The Sophists and their students represented an intellectual minority. The average man, who could not care less about these avant-garde theories, distrusted intellectuals and regarded the agnosticism and atheism of the Sophists as irreligious and impious. Protagoras was an agnostic who claimed not to know whether the gods existed or not or anything about their appearance. Many other Sophists tended toward atheism. The sophist Prodicus taught that men deify those things which are important to human life such as the sun, moon, rivers, springs, bread Demeterwine Dionysusfire Hephaistos and water Poseidon and at the same time somewhat inconsistently from the modern point of view the discoverers and providers of bread, wine and fire also called Demeter, Dionysus and Hephaistos.
Thus the goddess Demeter was considered simultaneously to be bread and the provider of bread just as Dionysus and Hephaistos were similarly viewed with regard to wine and fire.
Another atheistic theory about the origin of the gods is attributed to a certain Critias, an associate of Plato, who was not himself a professional sophist, but whose views were closely allied with those of the Sophists. Critias asserted that the gods were a contrivance of governments to insure that men would believe that everything done on earth whether openly or secretly was seen by the gods and would consequently be discouraged from violating the laws of the state.
Otherwise, men, if not detected by other men, could break the laws of the state without fear of punishment. In this theory, belief in the gods brought stability to the state by providing sanction for its laws. Properly a name given by the Greeks to all those who professed knowledge, or a particular knowledge or a particular art. Hence the Seven Wise Men are often thus called; but the name was especially applied to the educated men of ready speech, who, from about the year B.
They have the merit of having popularized the interest in knowledge which had up to that time been confined within narrow circles, and especially of having contributed to the formation of eloquence. For they were the first to make style an object of study, and to institute serious investigations into the art of rhetorical expression. Their teaching was chiefly intended to give their pupils versatility in the use of speech, and thus to fit them for taking part in public life.
As the subject of their discourses, they chose by preference questions of public interest to persons of general education. The expression, however, always remained the important thing, while positive knowledge fell more and more into the background. Some of them even started from the position, that virtue and knowledge were only subjective notions.
Protagoras of Abdera, who appeared about B. Wherever they appeared, especially in Athens, they were received with the greatest enthusiasm, and many flocked to hear them. Even such men as Pericles, Euripides, and Socrates sought their society; and Socrates owed to them much that was suggestive in his own pursuit of practical philosophy, though, on the other hand, he persistently attacked the principles underlying their public teaching.
These principles became further exaggerated under their successors who did not think they needed even knowledge of fact to talk as they pleased about everything. Accordingly the skill of the Sophist degenerated into mere technicalities and complete absence of reason, and became absolutely contemptible. With the revival of Greek eloquence, from about the beginning of the 2nd century A. At that time the name was given to the professional orators, who appeared in public with great pomp and delivered declamations either prepared beforehand or improvised on the spot.
Like the earlier Sophists, they went generally from place to place, and were overwhelmed with applause and with marks of distinction by their contemporaries, including even the Roman emperors. Dion Chrysostom, Herodes Atticus, Aristides, Lucian, and Philostratus the elder, belong to the flourishing period of this second school of Sophists, a period which extends over the whole of the 2nd century. They appear afresh about the middle of the 4th century devoting their philosophic culture to the zealous but unavailing defence of paganism.
Among them was the emperor Julian and his contemporaries Libanius, Himerius, and Themistius. Synesius may be considered as the last Sophist of importance. Euripides grows at a time when the sophistic movement in Athens is prosperingand his work reflects the spiritual strife and ferment of the period. Euripides is considering as 'pupil of the sophists' and apostle of the sophistic movement from some scholars, but such a view is exaggerated. Euripides certainly watched with interest the intellectual movement of his time, he knew the ideas of contemporary thinkers and reflects many of these projects, but we should not think that always accepts them: The love- goddess uses the power that she exercises through vision -the eroticized vision to which she subjects Phaedra vv.
The force of eros that results in Phaedra's written tablets blurs the distinctions between seeing and hearing.
That distinction is completely swept away by a later aurai product of this eros, the bull's roar from the sea. This monstrous sound, emanating from celestial and chthonic spaces together vv. Phaedra's body, once famed for its beauty as v. Finally, as a bastard, Hippolytus faces an even more basic contradiction in his physical being. Phaedra's speech of vv.
In this way she reveals the power implicit in female sexuality and therefore the need for men to control it. For her, as for Aes- chylus' Clytaemnestra, Sophocles' Deianeira, and Euripides' Helen, a 10 Charles Segal woman's sexual transgressions or sexual jealousy spreads its destructive force outward from the house to the community as a whole.
Homer's Helen was the prototype, as Aeschylus fully recognizes see Agamemnon, vv. The dangers of this situation are already intimated on the microcosmic level of language in Phaedra's speech of vv. When Herodotus traces the Greek wars against barbarians to the love-affairs of women, he gives a lighter version of the same concerns, although his accounts of Gyges and later of the wife of Masistes are more serious exempla Herodotus, I,IX, Iliad, IX, sqq.
Whereas the King's son competes only in athletics vv.
This is the civic realm that the King's son rejects. In her concern for the civic context of her sons' future, she gives a new and unexpected turn to the dis- parity between surface and depth that focuses on the body, and specifically the female body. She compares time's revealing of base men to a mirror reflecting a young girl's features vv. Those among whom Phaedra would be seen are not the women to whom she com- pared herself in vv.
The latter is also the maie virtue claimed for Hippolytus in the father-son em- brace at the end vv. A woman's death by hanging, surrounded by lies and trickery vv. What Phaedra says of time's revealing base men in vv.
Just as we seem to be emerging into the light of truth, Artemis' language pulls us back toward the concealment practised in the first part of the play.
The injured body recalls Phaedra's concealed love- sickness in the first part of the play. When she does eventually bring forth to men the hidden disease of her body vv.
Phaedra (mythology) - Wikipedia
In a world where exterior and interior correspond, face-to-face meeting is a guarantee of honest and honorable behavior. In the Hippolytus the tragedy of both protagonists revolves about the loss of any such correspondence. That rupture of correspondence between speech and thought is just what destroys him vv.
The play's permutations of this rupture are various: As the last pair indi- cates, however, the dichotomies are unstable, and the terms shift to opposite sides of the contrast.
Rather than fleeing, she ecstatically welcomes the chance to die at his hand. Rather than following through, he refuses to gratify her. And finally, rather than being accused, the nurse immediately conspires to accuse Hippolytus of the crime. Now Phaedra and the nurse have gotten themselves in deep. And Seneca is well on his way in his illustration of the evils of human passion.
It is necessary at this point to bring Theseus back from the underworld, where he has been incarcerated as a result of his own giving in to passion. Phaedra claims she has been wronged but proceeds to coyly draw out the revelation of the perpetrator until Theseus cuts to the chase by threatening to torture it out of the nurse.
There is nothing in this account that adds to the reason vs. However, from this point on the drama degenerates into a disjointed sequence of regret and recrimination.
Wracked with grief and guilt, Phaedra admits her crime, accuses Theseus of doing worse than her, and then kills herself to be with Hippolytus in death. Theseus asks why he has been brought back from the dead to bear such misfortune and begs the gods to take him. Seneca has succeeded at illustrating his philosophical point in the context of an engaging and diverting drama. Having been raised in the Jansenist sect of the Catholic church, which believed in the natural perversity of the human will that can only be overcome by individuals who are predestined by divine grace,  Racine never left behind the need to offer moral instruction.
He makes this aim clear in his preface to Phedre: To do thus is the proper end which every man who writes for the public should propose to himself.
He even has the potential to be the sympathetic character, until we meet his stepmother Phaedra who is sick with an illicit love for him that she is working desperately to resist. In fact, she would rather kill herself than act on it. We want to see her demonstrated virtue prevail. The point of attack in the story comes with the news that Theseus is dead. In addition, Hippolytus now has the opportunity to approach Aricia without betraying his father. The second act begins with Aricia confessing to Ismene her love for Hippolytus.
This introduces tension since it puts Phaedra at a disadvantage. When Hippolytus professes his love to Aricia and is received favorably by her, the tension builds. When Phaedra then reveals her love to Hippolytus and is violently rebuffed by him, she becomes profoundly vulnerable. This marks the mid-point, a nearly cataclysmic event in the middle of the story that shifts the internal balance of the main character.
Indeed, Phaedra immediately changes from lovesick pursuer to scheming avenger. Oenone conceives of a preemptive strike against Hippolytus even though we learn in the next scene that he has no thoughts of exposing Phaedra.
While it is Oenone who does the dirty work of accusing Hippolytus of trying to rape Phaedra, there is no question that Phaedra is the one falling from grace throughout the second half of the second act.
When Phaedra tries to undo what she has done, begging Theseus not to harm him, Theseus lets out that Hippolytus claimed to be in love with Aricia. This makes Phaedra all the more vicious, resolving not to defend a man who has spurned her, lashing out at Oenone and cruelly sending her away.
Hippolytus (son of Theseus)
Her moral bankruptcy is complete, marking the end of the second act. First is his own natural regret at the loss of his son. He prays to the gods for a clearer understanding and observes that Aricia is holding herself back from telling him something.