Phaedra's Charactor

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, January 1996

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Phaedra's anguish is first experienced by her in her own mind. Her sense of morality is so highly developed that, even before the drama begins, before she has acted, prior to her committing symbolic incest with her step-son Hippolytus, she is guilty. In her desire to absolve herself, she clings to the notion that as long as the crime lies buried within her, as long as her love for Hippolytus remains an abstract notion, no one will be aware of it and she will, therefore, be considered innocent by others. Once the secret has been revealed, it comes out into the open and has to be dealt with as a reality.

Because Phaedra feels her guilt so strongly at the beginning of the play, she is pictured as being at death's door, as suffering from some secret ill: unable to sleep, longing to see the day (Sun), 'Eternal chaos broods within her mind.'

Emotions are slowly consuming her. Such havoc manifests itself physically. Phaedra herself describes her state as weak, her eyes as dazzled and blinded by the light (day), which she despises and for which she also longs.

Strangely enough, Phaedra exhibits remorseful attitudes toward day and night. She hates blackness and yet is forever searching for 'the shadow of the forest'. This love-hate for these two powers describes symbolically her emotional state, the fear of revealing her secret which seems to constrict her very life flow, and her desire to confess her pain by cutting out the swelling inhibiting her life.

Phaedra, as both the daughter of Pasiphae and the granddaughter of Helios, possesses divergent characteristics of both. She inherited enormous insight and the judging principle from her grandfather. It was Helios who shed his light in the skies, dispersing the cloud which hid Venus and...