Based on a legend first dealt with by Euripides (in Greek) and Seneca (in Latin) the action of the play centers on the tragic fate of Phaedra, wife of Theseus, the King of Athens, who falls passionately in love with her stepson, Hippolytus. At first Phaedra attempts to deny her attraction for the handsome young Hippolytus, but when word arrives that Theseus has been slain, Phaedra declares her love, much to the shock and dismay of Hippolytus, who is deeply enamored of another. When Theseus then returns unharmed, Phaedra realizes the extent of her grievous error, and she makes no attempt to stop her loyal servant, Oenone, from falsely denouncing Hippolytus as a would-be seducer. Furious, Theseus sends his son into exile—thereby setting in motion the inexorable series of events in which the lives of the characters spin wildly out of control and become subject to the will of the gods—who exact their tragic and inevitable retribution.
A brilliant new translation of Racine's last, and, greatest work, rendered into movingly expressive verse by the Pulitzer Prize-winning translator of Racine and Molière. Here the subject at issue is the tragic fate of a woman of noble lineage who is undone by passion, jealousy and guilt—and the implacable vengeance of the gods.