Hippolytus in Drama and Myth: The Hippolytus of Euripides, a New Translation by Donald Sutherland

Hippolytus in Drama and Myth: The Hippolytus of Euripides, a New Translation by Donald Sutherland

Hippolytus in Drama and Myth: The Hippolytus of Euripides, a New Translation by Donald Sutherland

Hippolytus in Drama and Myth: The Hippolytus of Euripides, a New Translation by Donald Sutherland

Excerpt

No study of Hippolytus would be complete without some consideration of the myth on which Euripides has based his play. Apparently the relation of the unhappy principals has undergone no significant change at the dramatist's hand, though there may have been some alteration of chronology. It is probable, for example, that in his earlier tragedy Euripides allowed Phaedra to remain alive until after she had personally accused Hippolytus and effected his death, and we cannot say whether this version was closer to or farther from the myth as commonly told in Athens.

It has been customary for scholars to try to connect this story with that of Joseph and Potiphar's wife and with the Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers ," implying a common origin. While this kind of assertion can never be disproved, it seems to me both improbable and unnecessary. To begin with, the three tales are unlike in every respect save for the fact that the heroine for mingled motives of self-protection and vengeance falsely accuses the object of her unreciprocated passion. In neither of the non-Greek narratives does the woman kill herself; in neither is the relation involved that of stepmother and stepson. The dissimilarities are far greater than the one likeness, and there is certainly no way of proving influence. Given any society whatsoever in which a woman would incur reproach for unreciprocated advances and be blamed for infidelity to her husand, this kind of story is almost inevitable. Under less . . .

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