While readers of Euripides' Hippolytus have long regarded Phaedra's deltos as a mechanism of punitive revenge, I argue here that the tablet models itself on a judicial curse (defixio) and that its main function is to ensure victory for Phaedra in the upcoming “trial” over her reputation. In support of my thesis I examine three interrelated phenomena: first, Hippolytus' infamous assertion that his tongue swore an oath while his mind remains unsworn (612); second, Phaedra's status as a biaiothanatos; and third, Phaedra's claim that Hippolytus “will learn sophrosune” (731), a speech act that, I conclude, anticipates the silencing effect on Hippolytus of Phaedra's death and her writing.
Phaedra's Defixio: Scripting Sophrosune in Euripides' Hippolytus
I had the opportunity to present a much earlier version of this paper at the APA meeting in San Diego, The University of California at Santa Barbara, The University of Toronto, The American University of Paris, Brandeis University, The University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Leiden, and I have benefited from the audience responses at all of these places. For their constructive comments in writing, or for conversations that strengthened various points of my argument, I would like to thank Egbert Bakker, Anton Bierl, Christopher Faraone, John Gibert, Andromache Karanika, Richard Martin, Donald Mastronarde, Gregory Nagy, Alex Purves, Dylan Sailor, and Classical Antiquity's two anonymous referees. I am especially grateful to Mark Griffith and Leslie Kurke for seeing this paper through its many iterations and for significantly improving both its substance and its expression; whatever faults remain are, of course, my own.
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Melissa Mueller; Phaedra's Defixio: Scripting Sophrosune in Euripides' Hippolytus. Classical Antiquity 1 April 2011; 30 (1): 148–177. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/CA.2011.30.1.148
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