42 pages 1 hour read



Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 428

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Character Analysis


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

Hippolytus, after whom the play is named, is a mythical hero associated with Athens and Troezen. He is the son of Theseus, the king of Athens, and a former Amazon woman (usually called either Antiope or Hippolyta, depending on the source). Hippolytus is portrayed as a devoted follower of Artemis, the Greek goddess of nature and hunting. This is unusual, as Artemis was typically a goddess of young women. As part of his devotion to Artemis, Hippolytus rejects women and dedicates himself to hunting. This extreme devotion makes Hippolytus very dear to Artemis, but also earns him the hatred of Aphrodite, who feels that his behavior dishonors her.

Hippolytus takes great pride in his sense of virtue and purity, and sometimes this pride looks much like arrogance. In one scene, Hippolytus even goes so far as to characterize himself as the most virtuous man alive:

You see the earth and air about you, father?
In all of that there lives no man more pure
or temperate than I, though you deny it (993-95).

Hippolytus’s self-assurance, combined with his stubborn and uncompromising nature, are what lead to his downfall.