In Greek mythology, Phaedra (Ancient Greek: Φαίδρα - Phaidra) is the daughter of Minos and Pasiphaë, wife of Theseus, sister of Ariadne, and the mother of Demophon of Athens and Acamas. Phaedra's name derives from the Greek word φαιδρός (phaidros), which meant "bright".
Though married to Theseus, Phaedra fell in love with Hippolytus, Theseus' son born by either Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, or Antiope, her sister. Euripides placed this story twice on the Athenian stage, of which one version survives. According to some sources, Hippolytus had spurned Aphrodite to remain a steadfast and virginal devotee of Artemis, and Aphrodite made Phaedra fall in love with him as a punishment. He rejected her.
In one version, Phaedra's nurse told Hippolytus of her love, and he swore he would not reveal her as a source of information. In revenge, Phaedra wrote Theseus a letter that claimed Hippolytus raped her. Theseus believed her and cursed Hippolytus with one of the three curses he had received from Poseidon. As a result, Hippolytus' horses were frightened by a sea monster and dragged their rider to his death.
Alternatively, after Phaedra told Theseus that Hippolytus had raped her, Theseus killed his son and Phaedra committed suicide out of guilt for she had not intended Hippolytus to die. Artemis later told Theseus the truth. In a third version, Phaedra simply told Theseus this and did not kill herself; Dionysus sent a wild bull which terrified Hippolytus' horses.
In literature 
Phaedra's story appears in several major works of literature, including:
- Euripides, Hippolytus, a Greek play
- Seneca the Younger, Phaedra, a Latin play
- Jean Racine, Phèdre (1677), a French play.
- Miguel de Unamuno, Fedra (1911), a Spanish play
- Eugene O'Neill, Desire Under the Elms (1924), an American play
- Marina Tsvetaeva, Fedra (1928), a Russian play
- Robinson Jeffers, Cawdor (1928), an English long poem
- Algernon Charles Swinburne, Phaedra, an English lyrical drama
- Salvador Espriu, Fedra (1938), a Catalan play
- Marguerite Yourcenar, "Phaedra" a short story from Fires (1957)
- Mary Renault, The Bull from the Sea (1962), an English novel
- Frank D. Gilroy, That Summer, That Fall (1967), retelling of Phaedra and Hippolytus
- Tony Harrison, Phaedra Britannica (1975), an English verse play
- Per Olov Enquist, Till Fedra (1980), a Swedish play
- Sarah Kane, Phaedra's Love (1996), Gate Theatre London
- Charles L. Mee, True Love (2001), modernized adaptation of Euripides' Hippolytus and Racine's Phèdre.
- Frank McGuinness, Phaedra (Donmar Warehouse, 2006)
In music 
Phaedra is also the subject of a number of musical works, including:
- Hippolyte et Aricie, opera (tragédie en musique) by Jean-Philippe Rameau, 1733
- Fedra, opera by Simon Mayr, 1820
- Fedra, opera by Ildebrando Pizzetti, 1909–1912
- A character in L'abandon d'Ariane by Darius Milhaud, 1928
- "Some Velvet Morning", Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, 1967
- Phaedra, album by Tangerine Dream, 1974
- Phaedra, song cycle by Mikis Theodorakis
- Phaedra, a cantata by Benjamin Britten, 1976
- "Phaedra's Meadow", song on the Blue Rodeo album Are You Ready, 2005
- Phaedra, opera by Hans Werner Henze, 2007
In film 
- Fedra (1909), silent short film directed by Oreste Gherardini with Italia Vitaliani (it) as Fedra, and Carlo Duse and Ciro Galvani
- Phaedra (1962), based on Euripides' play, directed by Jules Dassin with Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins
- Phädra (1967), based on Racine's play, directed by Oswald Döpke (de) with Joana Maria Gorvin (de) as Phaedra and Rolf Henniger (de) as Hippolyt; Lina Carstens as Phaedra's nurse
- Freida Pinto portrayed Phaedra in Immortals (2011), loosely based on the Greek myths of Theseus and the Minotaur and the Titanomachy.
- The Athenians maintained a small shrine high on the south slope of the Acropolis devoted to Aphrodite 'for Hippolytus' (Karl Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks, 1959:243).
- Odyssey iv. 274.
- Fedra (Dramma mitologico dell'Antica Grecia) (1909) at the Internet Movie Database
- Phädra (TV 1967) at the Internet Movie Database
- Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, London (1873). "Phaedra"
- Virgil, Aeneid VI.445; Ovid, Metamorphoses XV.497
Media related to Phaedra at Wikimedia Commons