42 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 428

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.


Literary Context: The Myth of Hippolytus

Content Warning: This section of the guide contains references to violence, sexual violence, and death by suicide.

In its most basic form, the myth of Hippolytus describes how Phaedra, the wife of Theseus, falls in love with her stepson Hippolytus. After Hippolytus rejects her, the devastated Phaedra accuses him of raping her (or attempting to rape her). Theseus, furious, has his son killed before finding out the truth; Phaedra ultimately takes her own life.

The myth of Hippolytus belongs to the collection of stories surrounding the exploits of the Athenian hero Theseus. In fact, Theseus’s most famous exploit—the slaying of the Cretan Minotaur—lies in the background of the myth, for Phaedra, Theseus’s wife, is the daughter of Pasiphae, the queen of Crete who gave birth to the Minotaur when she slept with her husband’s prize bull. Also in the background is another one of Theseus’s important exploits, namely, his forays in the land of the Amazons, where he met the Amazon queen who became the mother of his son Hippolytus. There was also a hero cult of Hippolytus that was highly important in Athens as well as Troezen, the city in the Argolid where Theseus was said to have been born and in which Euripides’s play is set.