Seneca's Phaedra

Some characteristics of Senecan Tragedy:

Episodes Unsuitable for Stage Production. Closet drama?

Pedantic and Rhetorical Recitals

Conventional Stoic moralizing

Far-fetched dialogues

Crude characterization and psychology

Bloody macabre

Fondness for religion, sacrifice and necromancy (ghosts)

No divine characters

"mythological conventionality"


Imitation of Euripides in Seneca's Phaedra

Hippolytus' worship of Artemis in 1st scene

Nurse and Phaedra

Messenger scene


Innovations of Seneca

No divine prologue

No deus ex machina

Action on human plane in Seneca, on divine plane in Euripides.

Phaedra does not hide her love from nurse.

Phaedra sollicits Hippolytus herself.

Theseus arrives before Phaedra dies and she tells Theseus herself about the rape.

Phaedra dies after Hippolytus because of her love for Hippolytus!


Themes in Seneca's Phaedra

Unnatural, perverted love (e.g., myth of Pasiphae and the Minotaur)

Disordered nature

Humans cannot free themselves from evil forces (cp. Phaedra and Atreus)

Questioning and doubting the gods ("Love is not a god." "Love as a sickness.")

Epicureanism of Hippolytus

Ages of Man (Degeneration of Human Life)

Evil Stepmother Theme