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ΑΙΔΩΕ in Euripides' Hippolytos 373-430: review and reinterpretation*

  • E. M. Craik (a1)


Lines 380–7 have been much discussed, sometimes in isolation, without due regard for context in speech, scene, and play; and sometimes with regard primarily to the history of ideas, or of Greek moral values. Phaidra states that virtue may be subverted, despite knowledge, by pleasure, of which αὶδώς—dual, harmless and harmful—is an instance. A notorious problem of interpretation centres on the related questions of how αὶδώς, shame can be listed among ήδοναί, pleasures; and of what is meant by dual αὶδώς. The interpretation here advanced is bold, but in essence simple: in this context, αὶδώς is a euphemistic metonymy for ἔρως, which is harmless and pleasurable in its proper place (allied with sexual σωφροσύνη), but potentially troublesome or painful (bringing sexual αὶσχύνη).



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1 Quotations from Euripides are from OCT: Diggle i and ii, Murray iii. The following works are cited by author's name alone: Barrett, W.S., Euripides: Hippolytos, ed. (Oxford 1964); Claus, D., ‘Phaedra and the Socratic paradox’, YCS xxii (1972) 223–38; Conacher, D.J., Euripidean drama: myth, theme and structure, (Toronto 1967); Dodds, E.R., ‘The αίδώς of Phaedra and the meaning of the Hippolytus’, CR xxxix (1925) 102–4; Irwin, T.H., ‘Euripides and Socrates’, CPh lxxviii (1983) 183–97; Kovacs, D., ‘Shame, pleasure and honor in Phaedra's great speech (Euripides' Hippolytus 375–87)’, AJP ci (1980) 287303; Lombard, D.B., ‘Aspects of αίδώς in Euripides’, AC xxviii (1985) 512; Luschnig, C.A.E., Time holds the mirror. A study of knowledge in Euripides' Hippolytus, Mnemosyne Suppl. cii (1988); Manuwald, B., ‘Phaidras tragischer Irrtum: zur Rede Phaidras in Euripides' Hippolytos (vv 373–430)’, RhM cxxii (1979) 134–48; Michelini, A.N., Euripides and the tragic tradition (Madison 1987); Moline, J., ‘Euripides, Socrates and virtue’, Hermes ciii (1975) 4567; Segal, C.P., ‘Shame and purity in Euripides' Hippolytus’, Hermes xcviii (1970) 278–99; Snell, B., Scenes from Greek drama (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1964), Solmsen, F., ‘“Bad shame” and related problems in Phaedra's speech (Euripides Hippolytus 380–388)’, Hermes ci (1973) 420–5; Willink, C.W., ‘Some problems of text and interpretation in Hippolytus’, CQ xviii (1968) 1143; Winnington-Ingram, R. P., ‘Hippolytus: a study in causation’, Euripide, Entretiens de la Fondation Hardt vi (Geneva 1960) 169–98.

2 See Calder, W.M. III, ‘The riddle of Wilamowitz' Phaidrabild’, GRBS xx (1979) 215–36; also Gilula, D., ‘A consideration of Phaedra's εὔκλειαRSCC vii (1981) 121–33, Kawashima, S., ‘αίδώς and εὒκλεια: another interpretation of Phaedra's long speech in the Hippolytus’, SIFC iv (1986) 183–94 and cf. Braund, D.C., ‘Artemis Eukleia and Euripides' Hippolytus’, JHS c (1980) 184–5.

3 Cf. already Dodds 103–4 ‘each is the victim of his own and the other's submerged desires, masquerading as morality’ and now Gill, C., ‘The articulation of the self in Euripides' Hippolytus’ in Euripides, women and sexuality, ed. Powell, A. (London 1990) 76107, esp. 80–5; also Zeitlin, F.I., ‘The power of Aphrodite’ in Directions in Euripidean criticism, ed. Burian, P. (Durham NC 1985) 52111 and notes, esp. n. 80. For the underlying importance of marriage, so important in the final aetiology, as a compromise between unremitting chastity and unbridled lust, see Burnett, A.P., ‘Hunt and hearth in Hippolytus’ in Greek tragedy and its legacy: Essays presented to D.J. Conacher, edd. Cropp, M., Fantham, E., Scully, S.E. (Calgary 1986) 167–85. For other parallelisms, see Knox, B.M.W., ‘The Hippolytus of Euripides’, YCS xiii (1952) 331, repr. in Word and action (Baltimore 1979), and Frischer, B.D., ‘Concordia discors and characterization in Euripides' Hippolytus’, GRBS xi (1970) 85100.

4 See Cairns, Douglas, Aidos: the psychology and ethics of honour and shame in Greek literature (Oxford 1992), Freiherr von Erffa, C.E.Aidos und verwandte Begriffe in ihrer Entwicklung von Homer bis Demokrit, Philologus - Suppl. xxx. 2 (Leipzig 1937), and, on the connection of words of *aizd-root with obscenity, Henderson, J.J., The maculate muse (New Haven 1975) 35.

* For a general treatment of this passage, see my contribution ‘Tragic love, comic sex?’ A. H. Sommerstein et al. (ed.) Tragedy, comedy and the polis (Bari 1993). Earlier versions were presented at seminars in University of Glasgow, University of St. Andrews and University of Washington, Seattle. I am grateful to those who participated in discussion on these occasions; and especially to Professor A. H. Sommerstein for the opportunity to present a dual discussion of dual aidos. I have profited from the trenchant comments of an anonymous JHS referee, and am greatly indebted to Douglas Cairns, who has given generous help on many points both of substance and of detail.

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