Phaedra by Seneca

Phaedra was the wife of King Theseus and the daughter of King Minos of Crete. While Theseus and Pirithous, his friend, ventured to the Underworld to capture Persephone, she was left to run her husband’s palace and developed an unexplainable desire for passion. 

Her nurse told Phaedra to control her passion, for love can be terribly destructive. Phaedra explained that she was consumed by an uncontrollable lust and wasn’t being reasonable. Hippolytus, Theseus’s son and Phaedra’s stepson, became the object of her lust — despite the fact that he loathed her. 

When her nurse tried to reason with her, Phaedra declared that she would commit suicide, but her nurse begged her to reconsider. Her nurse prayed to the goddess Diana to soften Hippolytus’ heart and make him fall in love with Phaedra.

When Phaedra confessed her love to Hippolytus, he was appalled and drew his sword to kill her. However, instead of killing her, he fled into the forest and Phaedra accused him of incestuous lust and of trying to murder her.

Theseus then returned from the Underworld and found Phaedra about to kill herself out of grief. She told Theseus that Hippolytus had raped her and Theseus then called upon his father Neptune to kill his son. When Phaedra saw Hippolytus’ dead corpse, which had been brought to the palace by Neptune’s chariot, she revealed the truth and then fell on her own sword and died. 

Theseus uttered the play’s closing line: “As for [Phaedra], let her be buried deep in earth, and heavy may the soil lie on her unholy head!"
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