Hippolytos in Reception Jarrid Keith Looney Royal Holloway University of London Ph. D. in Classics

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Mrs Robinson Before and After:

An Existential Character Analysis of

Euripides’ Hippolytos in Reception

Jarrid Keith Looney

Royal Holloway University of London

Ph.D. in Classics
Declaration of Authorship
I, Jarrid Keith Looney, hereby declare that this thesis and the work presented in it is entirely my own. Where I have consulted the work of others, this is always clearly stated.



Throughout this thesis, I will argue that the capacity of Euripides’ Hippolytos to survive is due to the exceedingly interesting characters that reside within it, and not because of a variety of moralistic lessons, which may be derived from the text through argument. The Euripidean characters of Phaidra and Hippolytos share a literary essence with each of their received counterparts, but their intertextual existences are as ever-changing as the eras in which they are rewritten. These characters, which are created by backward-glancing playwrights, have a future because of their absurdly believable situations, which may be analysed using various theoretical approaches. I have chosen the unfashionable philosophy of Existentialism for this study because Existentialism is, at its core, a comparative philosophy that pits traditional renderings of humanity (i.e. essence) against exceptional individuals who define themselves outside of the basis of said essence (i.e. existence). These characters, due to their individualized natures, are easily transferred in chronological periods. The fact that this is a tragedy concerned with humanity, sexuality, and individualization is the cause for its frequent restaging today.
In the first chapter, this thesis will begin with a survey of the academic literature that has been written on the reception tradition of this particular tragedy, and will be followed by brief overview of Existentialism and reasons for its implementation in this study. The subsequent chapters will provide a diachronic overview of a number of reimaginings of this story, which was first popularized by Euripides in 428 BCE. This thesis will examine the socio-cultural trends for each drama before analyzing the characters present in the works of Euripides, Seneca, Jean-Baptiste Racine, Mike Nichols, Brian Friel, and Sarah Kane, and will attempt better to understand how each version of Hippolytos and Phaidra are not only influenced by their antecedents, but continue to mould their successors.
Table of Contents
I Contexts 6

The Why and How of Analyzing Hippolytos in the 21st Century

II Euripides’ Hippolytos 45

We don’t know any other existence

III The Existential World of Phaedra after Euripides 104

Examine closely what my life has been

IV Mike Nichols’ The Graduate 166

You’ve known me nearly all your life

V Brian Friel’s Living Quarters 206

Because it’s the essence of it all, isn’t it?
VI Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love 225 I’ve lived by honesty, let me die by it
VII Conclusion 257

The More They Change, The More They Stay the Same

Bibliography 267



The Why and How of Analyzing Hippolytos in the Twenty-First Century


This thesis began as an idealistic first-year Ph.D. student’s desire to compile a comprehensive reception history of Euripides’ Hippolytos equivalent to those that have been prepared for Medea,0 Agamemnon,0 Herakles,0 and Antigone.0 It quickly became evident, however, that a project of this magnitude could not be given the thoroughness required within the formal requirement of a doctoral thesis. Due to such stipulations, the all-encompassing compilation project has been placed temporarily back on the shelf, and a new one has taken its place for the time being. A smaller spectrum of the total work requires writing before any further proceedings are to be taken. It is my job, as a researcher, to define the margins and boundaries into which this specific thesis will fall.

Before one begins to think about the reception of Attic drama and modernity so that one may scan the stacks of libraries, there is a short list of scholars that must be given priority: Brown, Burian, Easterling, Foley, Goldhill, Hall, Hardwick, Leonard, Macintosh, McDonald, Michelakis, Taplin, and Zeitlin. In my opinion, it would be academic suicide to contemplate modern stagings of Greek tragedy without referencing, at least, some of the works that have been published by these pioneers of the discipline. Of the myriad of publications that have been released in the field, the most impressive have emanated from the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama0 (henceforth APGRD), which is located in Oxford, and its digital database, which is a continually on-going research project that seeks to catalogue a global production history of ancient drama on the modern stage.

While searching through the APGRD, I found (at the time this research was conducted) records of 312 various productions related to Hippolytos, and some eighty different adaptations, spanning the media of theatre, opera, dance, and film, which tell (at least portions of) the Euripidean variant of the myth in performance. The archetypal Senecan dramatic version of the myth has apparently been utilized with far less frequency at a mere sixty-seven recorded times. Though this tale and its dramatic productions, on the available evidence, only compose approximately four per cent of the entirety of Greco-Roman performances in modernity, its history is not without significance. One noteworthy example follows: the earliest example of any ancient play being done outside of its original chronological period was a 1474 production of Seneca’s Phaedra in the Palais de Cardinal Saint Georges, France, of which we know little; for instance, it is not even known if this particular performance was spoken in French or Latin.0 The earliest modern telling of this myth that may be credited to the Greek archetype, however, was a performance entitled Hippolytus, which was staged nearly a century later in either 1552 or 1553 at King’s College, University of Cambridge; other than venue, title, and estimated date of this play, little is able to be said of its importance since (as our impressive, but incomplete database suggests) there is not another Euripidean staging for another 109 years, when a dramma musicale called La Fedra was staged in Spoleto, Italy. Unlike the work of its Greek predecessor, the play by the tutor of Nero0 was much more frequently staged until Jean-Baptiste Racine finally merged the two at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris, France on 1 January 1677 in his Phèdre. As I have previously suggested, however, the purpose of this thesis is not meant to serve as a comprehensive study in the reception history of Hippolytos, and, therefore, it will not be delving into the comparative popularity of Euripides and Seneca in different chronological periods.

Other than the empirical information that is stored within its database, the APGRD and its contributors have published a number of seminal works that are concerned with the history, staging, and interpretation of classical drama in the modern theatre. As previously mentioned, a number of these texts are massive reception studies concerned with one play or playwright, but this is not always the case. Dionysus Since 69,0 for instance, not only observes the phenomenon of Greek tragedy being performed more frequently in the past forty years than in any era in history outside of classical antiquity, but it also addresses why and how this is happening. The contributors argue that Greek tragedy has been utilized not only to address global issues such as gender politics (e.g. Bacchae), military involvement (e.g. Trojan Women), and ethnic/racial/national identification (e.g. Persians), but also to question the very nature of theatre and the human psyche. As the play I am interested in is not exempt from the trend of resurgence, the question ‘Why is Hippolytos pertinent today?’ must be addressed.

Upon reading this dramatized myth, one will be hard-pressed to find strategies for governing the state (unless one wishes to find examples of poor deliberation as negative exempla), but one may find policies by which to manage one’s own personal life and interpersonal relationships. By this, I am stating that no modern, democratic government would turn to this particular Euripidean Theseus or his dramatic successors when considering matters of foreign policy because little that he does or says is explicitly pertinent to the political sphere. Husbands and fathers, however, may turn to him when trying best to identify and understand their children, wives, and selves. Current, Western women may find it difficult to sympathize with the object of Phaidra’s love, but it is possible that they will see her as a paragon of self-denial who is only brought to destruction when her busy-body ‘friend’ pries her way into circumstances in which she does not belong. Today’s readers, who have been under a constant barrage from Christian ethics, may look at Hippolytos, and see a young man who was destroyed simply because it is the obligation of the righteous to suffer. Freudian psychoanalysts may view the same virginal character as a neurotic and sexually oppressed, homosexual narcissist who is brought to annihilation because of his own inability to cope with both his internal and external environments.0 Many academics may try to contextualize Hippolytos’ characterization within the social and psychological categories of Euripides’ day, and see him as having been punished for insulting a deity. I argue, however, that when trying to place Hippolytos into a category for study, it becomes exceedingly clear that the characters themselves are the driving force behind this play’s cultural longevity and stamina: this is a drama about interactions between members of the oikos (Gr. household) with little reference to the polis (Gr. city-state). Due to this personalized element of their nature, these characters are easily transposed from one moment in time to any other. The fact that this is a drama concerned with humanity, sexuality, and individual characters is the reason that it is able to be resurrected and staged with frequency 2500 years after its fact.

Though a handful of postgraduate essays have been written, why have no prominent classical receptionists focused on these individuals for the hub of their research? More importantly, why have so few even analysed the dramatic realisation of this myth in the fringes of their work? A perplexing example of this neglect for Phaidra takes place between the covers of Rebel Women: Staging Ancient Greek Drama Today,0 in which a dozen essays concerning the depiction of rebellious women in Greek drama are assembled. The book itself is trisected into groupings of ancient, Irish, and international productions in order to analyse the portrayal of Hellenic heroines, but Phaidra is addressed by name or deed, and never in detail, only a handful of times. I do not think she was consciously excluded; rather, I am concerned with why neither the contributors nor the editors chose to discuss her, since she meets the various criteria which make her appropriate for inclusion in the volume. Hippolytos has been adapted by contemporary Irish dramatists and retitled Living Quarters: After Hippolytus (Friel, 1977) and The Oval Machine (O’Connor, 1986). It has been reimagined on the international stage with famous adaptations including Phaedra’s Love (Kane, 1996), Phaedra in Delirium (Yankowitz, 1998), Ippolito o Fedra (Nenci, 2005), and Phaedra or Alcestis Love Stories (Penga, 2007) as well as a multitude of others. It is clear that Phaidra easily fits into the formal categories addressed in this collection of essays, but still she was slighted by the academic contributors and was forced into the background while Klytaimnestra, Iphigenia, Medeia, and Antigone basked, once again, in the limelight.

Maybe Phaidra’s absence from this particular book was due to her not meeting the criterion of being a heroine.0 This would be an interesting cause for exclusion because the ancient Greeks themselves did not have a feminine form of the word ‘hero’ until the time of Pindar.0 For the sake of argument, however, I will apply the same criteria of heroic status to women that have been applied to their counterparts (except, of course, for gender). In order to do this, I will be relying heavily on Deborah Lyons, and, therefore, will quote her at length.

Heroes are generally considered to be those who have one or more of the following attributes: heroic or divine parentage (e.g. Herakles and Helen); a close relationship—erotic, hieratic, or antagonistic—with a divinity in myth; ritual connection with a divinity, such as a place in the sanctuary or a role in the cult (e.g. Hyakinthos and Semele); a tradition or evidence of a heröon (hero-shrine) or tomb, sacrificial offerings, or other ritual observance (e.g. Hippolytos and Iphigeneia).0
If these were the standards that were applied when selections were made for Rebel Women, I still see no reason that Phaidra should have been neglected. In consideration to the first element of heroism, there are several ways in which Phaidra counts as eligible since she was not only the wife of an unquestioned hero (i.e. Theseus), but also claimed two divinities (i.e. Zeus and Helios) as her grandsires. As we move to the second criterion – a close relationship with a divinity – we need look no further than the prologue of Euripides’ Hippolytos. In these lines, Aphrodite informs us that Phaidra had founded not only a shrine to the goddess out of piety (37-43)0 (i.e. she has performed a hieratic role in relation to the goddess), but will also be destroyed by her (59-63) (i.e. she has performed an antagonistic role) in order to punish the brazen Amazon’s son for his slights against her divinity. She not only has an established relationship with Aphrodite, but also with Artemis. This is made clear when the Huntress0 awards her the honour of instituting the ritual tradition of a choral lyric performance in the closing episode (1606-9) of Euripides’ play. Finally, one must consider the hero-cult and heröons of Hippolytos himself: had it not been for the actions of Phaidra, Hippolytos would have never been elevated to the status of hero. Overall, I am implying that Phaidra deserves the title of ‘heroine’ not only because of her descent, coupling, and presence in ritual choral performances, but also because she is a catalyst in the promotion of not only Aphrodite, but also of Artemis and the eventual divine ascent of her stepson.

Finally, there is the likely possibility that most of the contributors to works in this discipline have marginalized this myth and the characters who enact its narrative because it does not seem as pertinent politically and societally as other myths of its time because it is so concerned, as I have suggested, with sexuality and individual relationships. This perception may actually hold some truth, but I am convinced that Hippolytos has reached further into the societal subconscious than it has been previously given credit. Throughout this thesis, it is not my wish to discredit exemplary texts and scholars in the field of classical reception; rather, it is my desire to encourage others not to slight Hippolytos when writing on the modern reception of ancient Greek drama. Perhaps this exercise can also offer some explanation as to why there has been a perceived lack of interest in academic writings about the actual stage characters of Phaidra and her counterparts in contemporary adaptations during the last few decades, which has seen the rise of classical drama performance reception.

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