DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: EURIPIDES' HIPPOLYTUS AND DASSIN'S PHAEDRA
As before, the class will divide into small groups (of no more than 5) for
discussion; each should choose as "reporter" a student who has not yet taken that
role. By Friday, Mar. 31, every student should have read the Euripides play and
viewed the film (Phaedra, 1962, directed by Jules Dassin, on reserve in the Non-Print
Media Center of Hornbake Library; it is over 2 hours long and will be shown to the
class as a whole on Wed., Mar. 29, from 1:00 to 3:15 in the Non-Print Media Center,
Room O). In reading the play and viewing the film, try to avoid what may be your
natural tendency to see Phaedra and the other characters as exceptional individuals,
whose actions are motivated by mysterious forces within their personalities. Focus
instead on the roles they play as males and females, and pay attention to the ways in
which these roles are imposed upon them, or at least reinforced, by the society in
which they live.
Each group will focus on a different character or issue common to the two works, but all groups should consider the following questions as they apply to the specific topics:
--What are the most important ways in which the play and the film differ?
(Don't just catalog the details, but consider how differences of plot and characterization contribute to differences of meaning. What do the differences tell us about the norms and values of the two cultures that produced these works?)
--What are the most important ways in which the play and the film are alike?
--Do the similarities outweigh the differences? Does the modern adaptation
1) The Hippolytus figure and his feelings about Phaedra. What does he value? How does he imagine male-female relationships? (Be sure to consider the meaning of the sports car in the film.)
2) The relationship between the Hippolytus figure and the Theseus figure. What draws them together? What keeps them apart? Think in terms of social and cultural norms as well as individual personalities. (It would be desirable if this group included at least one male student)
3) The Phaedra figure and her motivation. What does she value? How do her values correspond with the role in which her culture casts her? How do her values conflict with the values of Hippolytus and Theseus?
4) The Nurse figure and her relationship with Phaedra. What does she value? How do her values correspond with the role in which her culture casts her? How, and why, do her perspective and values differ from Phaedra's?
5) The role of the supernatural and/or "fate" in each work. Be sure to consider what
difference it makes that Artemis and Aphrodite are female, and that the sports car
and ship in the film are called "she."
6) Does the work as a whole present Phaedra and/or the other female characters sympathetically? Be sure to consider the use of the Chorus in the play and the minor female characters in the film.