The tragedies of Euripides are among the most admired works of Greek literature. They are valued especially in our own day for their sceptical attitude to authority and divinity, for their psychological complexity and for their sympathetic but unsentimental portrayal of assertive women. In this striking new monograph, Boris Nikolsky reinterprets a Euripidean tragedy which combines these qualities to the highest degree, the Hippolytus. Nikolsky questions the current gender and psychoanalytical approaches to Hippolytus and challenges the widespread interpretations of the play as being concerned with the irresistible force of love and the inevitability of punishment for those who underestimate its power. He reads the play in terms of its own culture and argues that Euripides' primary interest lies rather in the sphere of morality. Arguing from the dramatic structure of Hippolytus, its imagery and the problems of its production, the author proposes a new interpretation of the play's main theme: humans turn out to be not culprits but victims of fate, their will always tends towards virtue, but their natural weakness and the ambivalence of virtue itself lead them to wrong actions. In consequence, it is exoneration and forgiveness that are shown to be the highest and only pure moral values.
Introduction Chapter 1: Involuntary Faults, Exculpation and Forgiveness Chapter 2: Speech and Vision Chapter 3: The Quality of aidos and the Ambivalence of Virtue Chapter 4: The Virtue of Hippolytus and Phaedra Chapter 5: Humans, Gods and the Structure of the Dramatic Conflict Chapter 6: Images of Nature Chapter 7: Scenic and Dramatic Space Notes Acknowledgements Bibliography