Hippolytus Summary

Hippolytus is a mortal prince who prefers chastity and hunting to the pursuits under Aphrodite’s purview. He therefore worships Artemis, goddess of the hunt and virginity, to the exclusion of Aphrodite, goddess of love. Furious at this slight, Aphrodite avenges her honor by causing Hippolytus’ stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him. When the horrified Hippolytus rejects Phaedra, she hangs herself out of shame, but not before writing a letter accusing her stepson of raping her. Upon reading the note, Hippolytus’ father, Theseus, curses his son, which leads to Hippolytus’ death. In the last scene, Artemis appears to reveal the truth to Theseus and comfort her dying protégé. Before she vanishes, Artemis promises to avenge Hippolytus’ death by inflicting a comparable punishment on Aphrodite’s next mortal favorite.