Hippolytus by Euripides

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What would a young man say or do if he learned that his step-mother had fallen in love with him?

In the play Hippolytus by Euripides, Hippolytus finds out that his step-mother has fallen for him. But what he doesn’t know is that the goddess Aphrodite has had her hand in these matters.

Hippolytus, the illegitimate son of Theseus, king of Trozen, has angered the goddess Aphrodite because he scorns love and women. Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, can do nothing for him, for Aphrodite has cast a love potion on Theseus’ wife, the queen Phaedra. When Phaedra falls in love with attractive Hippolytus, she is doomed by her own guilt and obsession. In classic Greek format, tragedy befalls Theseus’ house.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Euripides’ play. My only previous Greek drama experience was Oedipus Rex and Antigone, both by Sophocles.

In the introduction to my translation (via Project Gutenberg), I learned that Euripides’ plays showed less influence of the gods on human daily life. I didn’t notice that: it seemed Aphrodite and Artemis had a feud, and the downfalls of Phaedra and Hippolytus were the direct result. The humans were pawns, as in a game of chess. I suppose I must reread Sophocles to truly see the difference mentioned.

About the Translation

There were four translations among the six participants of the book discussion I went to, and that made it immensely interesting. I read the Project Gutenberg translation, which was very archaic: each line rhymed in a forced way. Others had “free verse” translations, which were much clearer upon reading and much more comfortable to read. I’d suggest trying one of those. Mine was a bit too much.

I Am (Officially) a Geek

I know: most book clubs are actually excuses to chat with friends. But I’ve been looking for a book group where I can have a real discussion (a group that is reading something other than _[insert vampire best-seller here]_). Therefore, I was glad to see that my library has a discussion group on “The Great Books” (which I do agree is a pretty limited list of “great books”).

Since I’d just started the Really Old Classics Challenge, I thought I’d jump into the discussion on Euripides.

As for the book group: The average age of the six members of the book group was probably 65. Since my age is included in that average (I’m in my 20s), let me just say everyone else was rather old. The lady next to me had flatulence. The guy across the room kept pulling on his ear to hear what I said. But you know what? I enjoyed the discussion.

I must be a real geek.

Are you a geek? Are you interested in a great books discussion near you? Visit greatbooks.org to find a group near you.

Why do you go to book clubs? Is it the brownies and the gossip? Or are you actually expecting a discussion about a book?

For the rest of October, I’ll donate 10 cents to World Food Programme for every (non-spam) comment I receive on any post of Rebecca Reads. See most post on Blog Action Day 2008 here. I’m also donating any proceeds (4%) from my Amazon Store.

Reviewed on October 17, 2008

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I bet those old people loved having you at “The Great Books” discussion.  Don’t you love old people who still have a thirst for knowledge? 

  • The book club at my library is the same!  I feel very young there even though I’m in my thirties!  There is only one man who comes regularly, and he has hated every book since I started going!  We have great discussions though.  I will talk about books with anyone–even my kids’ friends.

  • I’m in a book club with a group of ladies from my church and they all have me by at least 40 years!  (I wonder why there are fewer young women at these things?)  Anyway, my book club can really focus and have a good discussion one month and really lose it the next.  I sort of want a book club that is like an English class – a really detailed, thoughtful discussion of a piece of literature.

  • Rebecca, I’d never been part of a book group before I started a Classic Lit group at my library.  Because I’d never experienced the gossipy sort, I started right in on discussing the book in the same sort of way a freshman college class might – themes, symbolism, applications for modern life, motifs, social impact of the book, etc.  Everyone loved it.  We keep getting new members and it’s been nearly 2 years since I started it.  We have tons of young parents, singles, some middle aged people, and some elderly people, and about a third of the group is male, so we have some nice diversity.  We just voted on our 2009 reading list (which I posted here).

    Once, I saw that another group in town was reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, so I went to the group, and it was the food-and-gossip sort.  I was utterly astounded, and kept trying to bring up the book.  Only one other person in the group had read past the 20th page, though, so that didn’t work too well.  At the end, one of the ladies said to me, “You probably won’t come back, will you?” and I had to be honest – I won’t.  I want to learn, to think, to stimulate my brain at these groups.  I can socialize elsewhere.

  • Hm…that link didn’t work, sorry about that.

    Oh, I was also going to say, we’re reading a Really Old Classic in our group this year, too – the Aeneid.  🙂

  • Kathy, yes! It’s just what I was looking for!
    Chain Reader, I’m glad you found a library group too!
    Jessica, my church group is the “gossipy” sort of book club, although they are people all ages. Not what I’m looking for right now.
    Amanda, that library group sounds great! I would be horrified to go to a book group to find that no one had read it. I mean, I’d still go sometimes to hear discussion, but it sounds like they didn’t even intend to think about the book!

    (Amanda, I fixed the link; I added a “text editor” plugin where you just click the icon at the top of the text box to add html attributes; I guess that means you can’t type out the html codes….)

  • Hippolytus–wow! The reverse of Oedipus Rex.  I’m gonna have to read Hippolytus.  As for the warring goddesses: the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses are always feuding in the myths.  And they always use human affairs as their playing field to settle their issues. (The Iliad is an epic example of the gods working out their gripes with each other.  So much for paradise!)

    Side Note: I think Freud’s interpretation of Oedipus Rex ruined a good story.

  • blackin, I hadn’t thought of it as the reverse of Oedipus Rex, but I guess you’re right! I thought it was a nice change of pace in terms of reading. I think you’re probably right about Freud!

  • I loved this too Rebecca! I read it during the same ‘classics’ module I read Illiad et al. for. Medea is equally as good, so if you haven’t had a chance to read it, then I recommend you do.

  • I’m so envious! I really do love my book club and we really do have great discussions but some (not all!) of the girls are just there for the food and social time. Some of the others (like me) think of the social time as an added benefit that should come AFTER the real discussion.

    I tried to find a Great Books Book Club in my area last year. No luck. 🙁 And I just don’t have the time/energy to start one, unfortunately.

  • Robert Burdock, that’s the second recommendation for Media this month! I’m going to have to read it now!

    Heather J., ah, I’m sorry there isn’t one in your area! I’m trying to decide if I can justify the $$ I pay in babysitting….but hearing your disappointment that you don’t even have the option makes me want to just do it again anyway. I did have fun hanging out with other geeks for an evening.

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