Hippolytus Vs Pentheus, Deserving Of Fates? Essay, Research Paper
Earning of Their Fates or Innocent Victims?
When arguing the statement, the character of Pentheus in the Bacchae is portrayed as earning his fate, whereas the character of Hippolytus in the Hippolytus is portrayed as an innocent victim of the god, I must both, agree and disagree with it. I would definitely agree with it on a shallow point of view, but would have to disagree with it upon dissecting both the stories. The stories tell of Hippolytus being killed for something he did not do, while Pentheus was killed for not accepting the god Dionysus. But when you look deep into the meaning of each story, the apparent black and white assumptions of innocents and guilt change from definitive to doubt to say the least.
When reading the story of Hippolytus, it would be very easy to label him as an innocent victim. His step mother, Phaedra falls for him, while he promotes celibacy. Instead of being praised for this belief his step mother, who commits suicide was found with a note framing him, telling of his love for her. Upon reading the note, Theseus, his father banishes him and prays to Posiedon to kill him. As Hippolytus leaves, he prays to Zeus to strike him dead if he has sinned and then a wave controlled by Posiedon hits him, almost rendering him dead. Artemis then tells everyone of his innocence, but Hippolytus ends up dying anyway. This may seem like a very open and shut case for him being an innocent victim, but when you look at Hippolytus throughout the story, I tend to think that he wasn’t as innocent as he was made out to be. Sure he never was infatuated with Phaedra, but he may have just been a victim of his own pride. Earlier in the story, he is warned to not just devote all his time to worshipping the goddess Artemis, but to also worship the goddess Aphrodite. He ignores these warning and sees them almost as a hollow threat and intensifies his worship for Artemis. Further along in the story, he ends up blaming Zeus for creating women and he also blames him after finding out about Phaedra’s feelings; which seems to me that he was even blaming Zeus for making her become infatuated with him. The infatuation was Aphrodite’s doing for lack of worship, not Zeus’. So even though Hippolytus did not sin toward Phaedra, he ends up sinning toward Zeus, by questioning his putting of women on the earth and blaming him for something he had no part in, and to Aphrodite by not giving her the respect she thought she deserved.
Then if read shallowly, the Bacchae also seems to be black and white, in the fact that the story tells of Pentheus earning his fate. The first step would be when strange things started to happen and the arrest of the stranger, Dionysus. Next, and the most important step in him earning his fate would be that Pentheus rejects the belief of Dionysus. Later on, more strange things happen, namely miracles and now Pentheus and Dionysus meet again, this time Pentheus is unable to reject him and starts to fall under his spell. They then meet for a final time and now Dionysus is in total control and humiliates Pentheus. When the chorus sees this, they invoke the “Swift hounds of Frenzy” to bring vengeance on Pentheus for failing to honor the gods. Pentheus is then finally killed by Bacchantes with the aid of his mother Agave. This seems to be a simple story of a man who rejected the gods and got what was coming to him, but if looked at on a deeper level, it may not be so simple. Sure Pentheus rejected Dionysus, but when they first met, Pentheus had no idea that Dionysus was a god since he was disguised as a stranger. Pentheus just did as probably all kings did, just assume he was right in his own belief because a king knows more then a stranger. It seems to me that Pentheus was more of an innocent victim in that he was just doing what all kings did at the time. Dionysus plays him like a fiddle which is shown when Pentheus’ authority becomes progressively lessened in relation to the power of the god, Dionysus. Dionysus continues his show off his power when the initial victim, himself, eventually becomes the aggressor or in simple terms the hunted becomes the hunter.
In conclusion, I believe the stories themselves tell of Pentheus as the deserver of his fate while Hippolytus is shown to be the innocent victim, but I believe the true meaning behind these stories are meant to be interpreted in polar opposites of the initial read through. Hippolytus actually ends up deserving his fate because he sinned against the gods and was too prideful of his own celibacy, while Pentheus was a victim of the social order practiced by humans, in that royalty was thought be above the peasants and strangers. So it seems as though Pentheus was tricked into his fate, while Hippolytus deserved his short comings due to his own faults.