Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




One of the oldest recurring western mythical traditions finds its roots in the Ancient Near East. At the core of this abiding tale is a high-ranking woman, often married, who attempts to seduce a young man, who spurns her. The affronted woman then accuses the youth of assault and either he or both meet a violent end. Often at the heart of each tale lies something monstrous about the potential union of the two individuals.

In the Greek and Roman tradition, one example of this "spurned-woman" motif manifests itself in the Phaedra-Hippolytus myth. No fewer than three ancient playwrights-Sophocles, Euripides, and Seneca--produced no fewer than four variations on this myth, altering characters' behavior, adding or removing the participation of the gods, and generally playing with combinations. There have been modem spins-offs, too, including Jean Racine's Phèdre and Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms. However, another modern resonance of the Phaedra-Hippolytus myth, more subtle and creative, and yet undeniably drawn on similar themes and characters lurks in the western canon: Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (MND).

Although Phaedra and Hippolytus themselves are physically absent from MND, the themes of their myth are so intimately interwoven in MND that close examination reveals their ghosts, silent and invisible, walking among MND's fairy folk. Because MND explores the Phaedra-Hippolytus themes in great depth, it both echoes and portends the destruction of Theseus' family, and therefore the Phaedra-Hippolytus myth.


Interdisciplinary Studies major.



Faculty Mentor

Mark Damen

Departmental Honors Advisor

Mary Leavitt