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Phaedra (mythology)

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Alexandre Cabanel Phèdre

Phaedra (1880) by Alexandre Cabanel.

In Greek mythology, Phaedra (Ancient Greek: Φαίδρα - Fedra) is the daughter of Minos and Pasiphaë, sister of Ariadne, wife of Theseus and the mother of Demophon of Athens and Acamas. Phaedra's name derives from the Greek word φαιδρός (phaidros), which meant "bright".

Though married to Theseus, Phaedra fell in love with Hippolytus, Theseus' son born by either Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, or Antiope, her sister. Euripides placed this story twice on the Athenian stage, of which one version survives. According to some sources, Hippolytus had spurned Aphrodite to remain a steadfast and virginal devotee of Artemis, and Aphrodite made Phaedra fall in love with him as a punishment.[1] He rejected her.

In one version, Phaedra's nurse told Hippolytus of her love, and he swore he would not reveal her as a source of information. In revenge, Phaedra wrote Theseus a letter that claimed Hippolytus raped her. Theseus believed her and cursed Hippolytus with one of the three curses he had received from Poseidon.[2] As a result, Hippolytus' horses were frightened by a sea monster and dragged their rider to his death.

Alternatively, after Phaedra told Theseus that Hippolytus had raped her, Theseus killed his son and Phaedra committed suicide out of guilt for she had not intended Hippolytus to die. Artemis later told Theseus the truth. In a third version, Phaedra simply told Theseus this and did not kill herself; Dionysus sent a wild bull which terrified Hippolytus' horses.

Phaedra in literature

Phaedra's story appears in several major works of literature, including:

  • Euripides, Hippolytus, a Greek play
  • Seneca the Younger, Phaedra, a Latin play
  • Francesco Bozza, Fedra (1578), an Italian play
  • Jean Racine, Phèdre (1677), a French play.
  • Miguel de Unamuno, Fedra (1911), a Spanish play
  • Eugene O'Neill, Desire Under the Elms (1924), an American play
  • Marina Tsvetaeva, Fédra (1924), a Russian play
  • Robinson Jeffers, Cawdor (1928), an English long poem
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne, Phaedra, an English lyrical drama
  • Salvador Espriu, Fedra (1938), a Catalan play
  • Marguerite Yourcenar, "Phaedra" a short story from Fires (1957)
  • Mary Renault, The Bull from the Sea (1962), an English novel
  • Frank D. Gilroy, That Summer, That Fall (1967), retelling of Phaedra and Hippolytus
  • Tony Harrison, Phaedra Britannica (1975), an English verse play
  • Per Olov Enquist, Till Fedra (1980), a Swedish play
  • Matthew Maguire, Phaedra (1995), an English play
  • Sarah Kane, Phaedra's Love (1996), Gate Theatre London
  • Susan Yankowitz, Phaedra in Delirium (1998)
  • Charles L. Mee, True Love (2001), modernized adaptation of Euripides' Hippolytus and Racine's Phèdre.
  • Frank McGuinness, Phaedra (Donmar Warehouse, 2006)
  • Karol Horák, House of plasticene (2007), a Slovakian play
  • Phaedra is a loose archetype for a fictional namesake, Phèdre nó Delaunay in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy novels.
  • Building 25, Anyone Can Edit... Phaedra (Brisbane Festival, 2011)

Phaedra in music

Phaedra is also the subject of a number of musical works, including:

  • Hippolyte et Aricie, opera (tragédie en musique) by Jean-Philippe Rameau, 1733
  • Fedra, opera by Simon Mayr, 1820
  • Fedra, opera by Ildebrando Pizzetti, 1909–1912
  • she appears as a character in L'abandon d'Ariane, "Opéra-Minute" by Darius Milhaud, 1927
  • "Some Velvet Morning", Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, 1967
  • Phaedra, album by Tangerine Dream, 1974
  • Phaedra, song cycle by Mikis Theodorakis
  • Phaedra, a cantata by Benjamin Britten, 1976
  • "Phaedra's Meadow", song on the Blue Rodeo album Are You Ready, 2005
  • Phaedra, opera by Hans Werner Henze, 2007

Phaedra in film

  • Phaedra (1962), based on Euripides' play, directed by Jules Dassin with Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins[3]
  • Freida Pinto portrayed Phaedra in Immortals (2011), loosely based on the Greek myths of Theseus and the Minotaur and the Titanomachy.



  1. The Athenians maintained a small shrine high on the south slope of the Acropolis devoted to Aphrodite 'for Hippolytus' (Karl Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks, 1959:243).
  2. Homer, Odyssey iv. 274.
  3. Phaedra (TV 1962) on the Internet Movie Database.


This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Phaedra (mythology). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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