Seneca's Phaedra Dissertation Or Thesis Complete

Length: 5 pages Subject: Sports - Women Type: Dissertation or Thesis complete Paper: #73476178 Related Topics: Infidelity, Passion, Working Mothers, Mother
Excerpt from Dissertation or Thesis complete :

¶ … Seneca's Phaedra:

[609] Mother -- that name is too proud and high; a humbler name better suits my feelings. Call me sister, Hippolytus, or slave -- yes, slave is better; I will endure servitude. Shouldst thou bid me walk through deep-drifted snows, I would not shrink from faring along the cold peaks of Pindus; shouldst thou send me through fire and midst deadly battle ranks, I would not hesitate to offer my breast to naked swords. Take thou in my stead the sceptre committed to my care, accept me for thy slave; it becomes thee to bear sway, me, to obey thine orders. It is no woman's task to watch o'er royal cities. Do thou, in the vigour of thy youth's first bloom, rule o'er the citizens, strong in thy father's power; take to thine arms thy suppliant, and protect thy slave. Pity my widowhood -- Seneca's Phaedra tells the story of Phaedra who is wife to the King of Athens, Theseus. In the play, Phaedra becomes enamored and lustful after Hippolytus, her stepson. This is where one can see the artistic exploration of tragedy through the onset of all-consuming lust for one that should be forbidden. The play does an excellent job of showcasing Phaedra as a knowing and willing participant in the pursuit and lust for Hippolytus. Instead of simply being portrayed as an all too familiar feminine archetype, Phaedra instead goes after Hippolytus in a scheming and sinister way. Lines 609-617 of the play show just how potentially detrimental mother and stepmother sexual transgressions can be.

The relationship between stepmother and stepson as showcased through Phaedra and Hippolytus confounds and blurs the restrictions of their relationship. This being defined through precise nomenclature. How Phaedra strives to generate and define a new identity as well as a new name for herself and her relationship to Hippolytus, the object of her lust is clearly shown within the beginning part of the line grouping. On Phaedra's insistence, she desires for Hippolytus to call her a slave. As previously remarked in the beginning of the play, Phaedra's mother, Pasiphae was cursed to fall for a bull much like Phaedra was doomed to fall for Hippolytus.

The preordained lust then generates a complex situation for both parties as Hippolytus becomes entrapped and confused by the relationship that is beginning to spiral with Phaedra. Phaedra, who blames her lust on the bestial nature of her conception, takes her passion to the next level and traipses towards the worst path. The worst path is not just seen in Phaedra's lust for her stepson, but also in her husband Theseus.

Theseus himself set onward to the underworld to take and rape Persephone, clearly showing his lack of loyalty to his wide. Perhaps if the lines of husband and wife were not so blurred, then stepmother and stepson would have fared a better fate. So there are several forces working against Phaedra when it comes to the unlawful lust over her stepson, Hippolytus.

The first is the bestial ancestry Phaedra possesses due to her mother mating with a bull. The second is the god's influence that began both mother and daughter's curse. The third is the infidelity of Theseus to Phaedra. All of these influences come together to generate a perfect storm of tragedy for both Hippolytus and Phaedra.

Phaedra throughout the play listens and ignores the council of her nurse. It is this council that leads Phaedra to commit many of the unscrupulous actions seen throughout the play, the ones seen in the lines mentioned, and the one that leads to Phaedra accusing Hippolytus of rape and causing his untimely death. His death then sparks Phaedra's confession, to which prompts Phaedra to commit suicide. Lust then is the engine that propels the tragedy of Phaedra. Lust and passion are then what leads people into pain and hateful damnation.

When analyzing line by line, the first line, when Phaedra insists on being called a slave than a mother, this line has many strong implications. Slave denotes losing willpower, freedom. In a sense as explained earlier, she is lost to her urges and to her pre-destined fate to fall for Hippolytus. So when she goes and announces her desire to be called slave, this is her way of openly acknowledging her relinquishment of her will and fully giving into her desires.

When she states slave is better, and that she will endure servitude, is stating she would be willing to pay the price of being with him through complete and utter relinquishment of self and identity. Slaves were considered the lowest social class in Roman society. When Phaedra gives into her carnal passions, in a way she approached the base level of her feelings....


To walk within deep-drifted snows seems arduous and painful, yet Phaedra equates the pay off, being with Hippolytus, as more than enough reward. Physical pain means nothing for Phaedra, compared to the emotional pain and sexual need of not having Hippolytus. She continues by adding other scenarios like fire, and war.

The lines including fire and war offer the image of the breast, naked breast that was seen in the first lines of the play when she offers up her life to Hippolytus. This disregard for her nakedness not only sexualizes her "feats" but also provides another level of desperation that she possesses. It also implies she would rather die in the name of Hippolytus than to be without him, just like at the beginning of the play.

When Phaedra then introduces the image of the scepter, and reiterates slave, it offers Hippolytus full power and control of her. Phaedra wants Hippolytus to give her orders, to make her take orders and to forever be under him, in his care. It's submissive and aggressive, almost like an S&M scenario. She wants to be a slave and to be controlled because she has lost all control.

Phaedra further degrades herself by suggesting women do not have place over dominion of cities. Theseus is king of Athens and thus Phaedra queen. When she states she is a woman, something less than him, this also further degrades her, making her seem like less than dirt as she is a woman and a slave. He, the son of a king, should protect her and in doing so, she would be and do everything for him. This trade off seems like a desperate cry for attention from Phaedra and completely encircles her in the all consuming passion she has for her stepson, Hippolytus.

The language and the reiteration of slave, followed by the eventual devolvement of her relationship with him is a great parallel of Phaedra's initial resistance to her passions and then her subsequent offer of utter debasement to Hippolytus. It began with her desire to change her relationship with Hippolytus as mother to slave. And then it continued from queen, to unfit and incompetent woman who needs protection. And guidance. The transition followed by the gradual decline is very indicative of the whole scope of the play as well as the actions of Phaedra as the play progresses. Phaedra downward spirals and in that downward spiral, she becomes the slave woman she described when talking to Hippolytus in those lines.

There is such high passion, emotionality, and violence embedded into the play and exemplified in the lines chosen. The beginning scene of Hippolytus hunting and then in anger drawing his sword to Phaedra is almost seen as Phaedra taking power even though it appeared as though Phaedra gave her power away. Much like the lines expressed, Phaedra seemingly wished to relinquish her power to Hippolytus but then in actuality wanted to take power of her life and her desire by submitting to her passion and doing something to try to actualize her desires.

Most women in literature are portrayed as quite reserved, almost owing their identity to being virtuous and austere. Phaedra is the opposite of that. She is aggressive and pursues someone rather than being pursued. She is masculine in action and pretends to be passive in order to get what she wants, although she fails to with Hippolytus. This rejection of the feminine archetype for a more masculine one under the guise of feminine submissiveness is a great way to portray a different kind of woman and an entertaining perspective.

Women at times are too afraid to pursue their desires and even though Phaedra's desire it a punishment of Aphrodite to Hippolytus for spurning her, much like he did to Phaedra, it still is something that Phaedra gives into and chooses to realize. The lines then showcase this struggle and then final conclusion and provides a sort of outline and foreshadowing of things to come. It provides indication and tension that the play is famous for.

In conclusion, Seneca's version of Phaedra is an exploration of human emotion…

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