Summary of Phaedra by Seneca

Summary of Phaedra

King Theseus of Athens and his friend Perithos visited the Hades of the Underworld four years ago. Their goal was to bring Persephone, the wife of Pluto, king of Hades, back to earth. After four years had passed and they had not returned to earth, Phaedra, the present wife of King Theseus, thought that her husband Theseus and Perithos had died in the underworld. Phaedra, meanwhile, is deeply attracted to her stepson, Hippolytus. Phaedra falls in love with her stepson. Although the stepmother’s attraction to the stepson is morally reprehensible, the tide of Phaedra’s passionate desire seems to have washed away all barriers to respect. Hippolytus, on the other hand, was indifferent to women. Hippolytus wants to lead holy living. He loves to play and hunt. Despite being a prince, he did not like to be in the royal court.

When Phaedra tells Hippolytus of her love, Hippolytus is surprised. Hippolytus is angry at his stepmother’s love affair. He rejects Phaedra’s love with intense hatred. Phaedra thinks that the love that was rejected became more intense. From Phaedra’s point of view, what a wonderful love affair, to Hippolytus, was an unimaginably inconsistent and unacceptable urge. Completely ignoring the call for unrequited love, Hippolytus leaves the palace in deep disgust.

Meanwhile, King Theseus returned from the underworld. He came and saw his wife’s plight. Phaedra informs her husband, King Theseus, that Hippolytus has taken away her modesty. Hearing this, Theseus, shocked and stunned, uttered a curse to his son Hippolytus and appealed to the god Neptune for Hippolytus’ death. As a result, the life of Hippolytus ended in a heartbreaking accident. The story of Hippolytus’ death reaches a climax.

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Seeing the corpse of Hippolytus, Phaedra breaks down in tears, and then Phaedra’s conspiracy unravels. Disturbed by the cruel consequences of love, Phaedra confesses her guilt to her husband. Theseus knew the real truth, that Hippolytus did not commit adultery with Federer, and that it was Phaedra’s love affair that forced Hippolytus to flee the royal court. Phaedra admits that because Hippolytus rejected her love, she slandered Hippolytus. Then Phaedra committed suicide out of remorse.

At that moment, King Theseus became a lost father in the death of his son. He is angry with himself because at his request the god Neptune killed Hippolytus. King Theseus could not find a place in the sea of ​​sorrow and despair. He had a strong hatred for Phaedra. Then, King Theseus ordered that his son’s burial be completed with state honors.

Phaedra, on the other hand, was buried in the hatred of Theseus, and his body was thrown from a great height and buried. Thus, in the overall consideration, this drama gave birth to a tragedy. The play concludes with the deepest sorrow and despair of King Theseus. (Summary of Phaedra)

Character Analysis


Wife of Theseus and Daughter of the Cretan king Minos and his wife, Pasiphäe.


Son of Theseus.


King of Athens and husband of Phaedra.


Nurse of Phaedra.


A member of Phaedra’s household.


Tutor and confidant to Hippolytus.

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