The Prism Of Feminism As Regards The Myth Of Culture

Foley would most likely interpret Euripides’ Hippolytus through a feminist lens, specifically as the myth relates to culture. She tends to look at myths in such a way that explores how Greek women would engage in their communities and cultures, especially in religious practices. Foley is of the school of thought that the justifications for different societal behaviors arise from the widespread acceptance of myths within Greek culture and their application in day-to-day life. For Foley, the focus should not be on reestablishing patriarchal structures, but rather it should be on the empowerment of women.

If Foley were to interpret this work, she would most likely say that Euripides’ Hippolytus does more to reinforce the idea of patriarchy as opposed to empowering the female characters of the story. The conflict that gets the story started is an enforcement of the social norm of being in a partnership. The problem for Hippolytus begins when he denounces love and marriage, both of which are important to Aphrodite.

In society, falling in love and the concept of marriage are widely accepted, and even expected. When the main character Hippolytus rejects the concept of love and marriage, he thereby rejects the social system that says he has to follow that path. While Hippolytus does go against preexisting social structures, it ends up coming back to haunt him later. Since Aphrodite is so upset with Hippolytus for his decision, she decides to make his stepmother Phaedra fall in love with him in order to incur the wrath of his father through Poseidon.

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At the end of the play, Hippolytus ultimately meets his demise through his father’s hand. The fact that he ended up dead due to his defiance of the social order would be important to Foley, and would almost certainly be essential to her analysis of the work.

The death of Hippolytus serves as a warning to Greeks: do not defy the social order or you may end up losing your life. Winkler subscribes to a different school of thought than Foley. For Winkler, the spreading and application of myths to the lives of Greek citizens do not always reestablish the dominant order of things. He also claims that myth can be used to criticize hierarchical structures instead of reinforcing it. Winkler attempts to justify this claim by explaining that oftentimes women were “vital protagonists,” which means they are active characters as opposed to passive ones. In Winkler’s approach, he finds it necessary to note that most mentions of women in Greece were in fact written by and for men. This androcentric approach is important for Winkler because the way men talk about women changes based on who their audience is and how they want to be depicted to an audience. Winkler would likely look at the same points as Foley and come to a different conclusion. A key feature of Winkler’s analysis of myth includes the ability of individuals to use myths to break out of oppressive systems they may be in. Hippolytus is a very active agent throughout the play, making decisions that impact his life.

For Winkler, the character of Hippolytus is not a tragic hero who is bound to follow the societal conventions presented by Aphrodite, rather he is an agent of himself, working to break free from this system. A potential flaw in this line of thinking maybe that Hippolytus did in fact end up dead at his father’s hand due to the meddling of Aphrodite, signaling the victory of love and marriage over the independent spirit. In response, Winkler would most likely say that even though Hippolytus ended up losing his life, he still ended up “winning.” His father ended up admitting that he was innocent and Greek people would ultimately honor him through the years for his actions throughout the play. Winkler would say that this type of ending means that social norms were actually not victorious in the end, rather the main character was able to criticize the hierarchical order in his society and come out on top of it.

In the Theogony, Olympians were depicted as being somewhat above it all as far as mortals are concerned. They do not necessarily like humans; rather humans are merely ants to be used for the god’s entertainment. Euripides’ Hippolytus is both consistent and inconsistent with this depiction of the gods and goddesses of the Theogony. The character that is most consistent with the Theogony interpretation is Artemis. She does not really show up in the beginning of the play despite being an essential element of the conflict in the story. In fact, Artemis does not show up in a speaking role until line 1282 despite being mentioned numerous times throughout the work. Artemis’ lack of presence up until so late in the play may indicate that she has better things to do than meddle in the affairs of a mortal, or that she did not particularly care about the fate of Hippolytus until much later when Aphrodite made it personal and involved her.

Euripides’ Hippolytus is inconsistent with the depiction of the Olympians primarily through the character of Aphrodite. Aphrodite takes on an active role in the story from the first line and is the cause of all of the problems that ensue in the play. It is apparent that she cares a great deal what humans think of her since she was so egregiously offended when Hippolytus denounced love and marriage that she would want to ruin his life and ultimately lead to his death. This kind of active involvement is inconsistent with the notion of the gods as “above it all” and unconcerned with the affairs of mortals like is present in the Theogony. In a way, making the gods play an active role in the way that Euripides did is completely contradictory to their nature and makes their power seem significantly less than it is or it should be. Myth is supposed to be a reflection of how people should act/respond to situations, and Euripides appears to have gone a little bit too far in humanizing the character of the goddess Aphrodite to be consistent with the image of Olympians in the Theogony.

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The Prism Of Feminism As Regards The Myth Of Culture. (2021, Dec 13). Retrieved from

The Prism Of Feminism As Regards The Myth Of Culture
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