The Hippolytus was part of only five trilogies for which Euripides was awarded first prize. One of the reasons for the success of this play may be that the Hippolytus is far more traditional in structure than many other Euripidean tragedies. For example, both Theseus and Hippolytus himself follow the pattern of the tragic hero described by Aristotle in Poetics: They are neither perfectly good nor purely evil but, while generally virtuous, suffer because of a flaw in character or by committing some mistake. Moreover, the play’s emphasis upon the need for restraint in all human endeavor echoes the sentiment of the widely quoted Greek proverb, “Nothing too much.” Theseus and Hippolytus are thus guilty of hubris (usually defined as excessive pride, insolence, and self-righteousness), which would have been regarded, even by the most conservative of Euripides’ critics, as a fatal flaw of character.
Nevertheless, Euripides has made several important innovations in this work. First, his view of the gods is not at all the same as that found in traditional Greek religion. Aphrodite and Artemis, although they appear on stage in human form, are largely personifications of lust and chastity. It is the conflict between these competing forces that brings about the tragedy of Phaedra and Hippolytus; the inability of these characters to find a balance between the desires represented by Aphrodite and the goals represented by Artemis...
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