Hippolytus as a tragic hero in Seneca’s Phaedra:
The character of Hippolyltus:
Answer: Hippolytus is one of most important characters of the Senecan tragedy, Phaedra. His parents are Theseus and Antiope. He is a flat character, though Seneca has taken ample care to draw the character in detail. He remains unchanged throughout the play. He is misogynist a hater of all the woman race and may be called a youth has devoted himself to single life and never thinks of manage and love. He is especially notable for his austerity. Theseus, his father, is the cause of his horrible death. He believes in his wife who misleads him and Hippolytus is destroyed terribly. Hippolytus is a stern youth and he never shuns sternness all through the play, Phaedra. He maintains his austerity from the beginning to the end.
In the beginning of this play when we meet this youth first, he appears as a lover of nature and worshipper of Diana, the goddess of hunting. He has a keen interest in the pastoral atmosphere and rustic life. He remains very near to nature. This is a remarkable trait of his character.
His father, Theseus, leaves behind his stepmother, Phaedra, and goes to the underworld to help his friend and remains there for long four years. The young queen Phaedra feels sad, morose and desolate in the absence of her husband. She turns to her stepson, Hippolytus, and falls in love with him. It is an illicit love and the Nurse makes her aware of the consequences. This love is excessive passion for him and there is no way out but to commit suicide with immoderate passion she approaches Hippolytus who cannot follow her intention in the beginning. He is a misogynist and wants to live a single life. Nothing could deter her?
“He has no heart, he dedicates his youth to single life, marriage is not for him which prove him a true Amazonian”. This is how the nurse describes him. In Act II when the Nurse meets Hippolytus it becomes clear that he likes this austerity and variety has no attraction to him. He remains immutable as a hard rock. The narration of the Nurse about the attractions and charm of the married life goes unheeded. The youth cannot be moved. Sexual pleasure has got no meaning for the youth. He eulogizes the happiness found in the rural atmosphere, and urban life has got no charm for him. This rural life is without sin, deception. The Peacefullife canbe found in rural atmosphere, and exposes his hatred against women in the following lines be found lines:
“Woman, say what you will,
Is the prime mover of all wickedness”.
All the wise suggestions and arguments of the Nurse go in vain and the youth remains firm and unmoved. Hippolytus remains all through austere and firm. He discards the amorous advances of Phaedra with hatred and declares that he has no love for her. He says that his sword will do full justices to the shameless act. He emphasizes that he will never fulfill her prayer. He draws his sword but throws it away calling it contaminated with her touch.
The basic traits of his character are his austerity, innocence, firmness. He is immutable, nearer to nature. He is a typical and predictable character. He is not a tragic hero of the Shakespearean plays but his austerity may be called the tragic flaw of Hippolytus. He is the hero of this tragedy.