hippolytus

According to legend, Theseus and Hippolyta have a son together, Hippolytus. His story is perhaps best known from the version told in Racine's tragedy Phédre, written in 1677). This play tells the story of his affair with his step-mother, Phaedra, after his mother Hippolyta's death. In Racine's version, Phaedra is infatuated with her step-son. When she is falsely informed that her husband Theseus is dead, she declares her love to Hippolytus. When Theseus returns, he is told that Hippolytus forced Phaedra into the affair. Theseus kills his son, after which Phaedra takes her own life.

The tragic results of the union between Theseus and Hippolyta force us to see a certain irony to Shakespeare's choice of this couple to symbolise rational and mature love (V i 2- 22). The couple not only have an ill-omened future, but also promiscuous pasts.

Seen in this light, Oberon and the other fairies' blessing of the bridal beds (V i 377-409) may not be such a good sign.

Background information: