Theseus is away at war leaving behind both his wife PHAEDRA, dughter of the Cretan Minos and the lust driven Persiphae, and Hippolytus, his son by Antiope, Queen of the Amazons.
PHAEDRA falls infatuatelly and hopelessly in love with his paragon of youth and like a wounded prey seeking its killer plays out an elaborate dance of death. Prompted by the Nurse, she confesses all to Hippolytus. He, revolted by her unbridled animal desires, insultingly rejects her. PHAEDRA cannot redeem herself on the branch of a spreading tree.
Upon his return, Theseus blames Hippolytus for his tragic event surmising him to have made the lascivious advances, calling upon him the wrath of Poseidon. Immediately Hippolytus is reported killed by a gruesome death. Hippolytus' faithful friend discloses the leter PHAEDRA wrote declaring her passion and the Nurse too reveals that it was she who goaded PHAEDRA on, trapping Hippolytus in a web normally woven by the other sex. For Theseus, this is the revenge of Aphrodite, goddess of love, because he abandoned Ariadne, PHAEDRA's siaster, on Naxos.
Photograph by Alastair Muir