Phaedra and Enlightenment values Essay Sample

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The Enlightenment period was began shortly after the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and lasted through the 18th century. This was an “intellectual movement” and the writers of this period disapproved of religion and politics ruled by absolutism. “ The movement would question almost every aspect of social and political life in Europe”(Hunt, 522). The writers and scholars that had enlightened views were those who believed that all people are able to apply reason or critical thinking to all issues that may arise in their lives. The countries that were affected most by the Atlantic system were participants in the enlightenment movement, such as: Britain, France and the Dutch Republic (Hunt, 522). Jean Racine is the Author of a tragedy named Phaedra. The play “Phaedra” has many examples of Enlightenment values in it. The play deals with many human emotions such as; passion, love and I do believe that there is a dangerous level to all these emotions such as the play suggests. Human emotion can be very complex, as it is in this play.

Phaedra is filled with so much grief from having lustful feelings for her stepson Hippolytus. He on the other hand is filled with much grief and anxiety as well from the secret that he holds knowing that his stepmother Phaedra has deep feelings of love for him. It seems very heavy on both of their hearts to hold on to a secret such as this. Phaedra is clearly very much in love with Hippolytus and she lets this consume her mind body and soul. She goes as far as telling her husband, Theseus the King, that she was raped by Hippolytus. Phaedra is out of control at that point and the emotions that she feels for her stepson have made her irrational and make poor decisions. Her lies and deceit have tarnished many relationships in this story. The emotions that Phaedra has for Hippolytus are extreme, and I think that the events that occurred thus far show that emotions can be very dangerous if they spin out of control. On the other hand, emotions don’t have to be this dangerous most normal people do not have relationships with this much turmoil and being in love with someone is a joyous feeling. Feelings and emotions are an important part of human life and are what can add happiness and fulfillment in the lives of many. Human emotions are something that each and everyone of us possess.

The key is not to let your emotions drive you to cause harm to yourself or others. Emotions can be very dangerous if they are not kept under control. One could ask if emotions could be a sign of weakness, disease, lack of control, or lack reason. I think that this play depicts Phaedra’s emotions to show a sign of weakness because she loved so passionately that it clouded her judgment and she lost control of her emotions. This lack of control caused her to hurt everyone around her, even herself. For a person like her emotions can be very dangerous and toxic. Phaedra was in a very dark place in her life, her helplessness and her misery consumed her and showed great signs of weakness. Her irrational behavior and feelings lead to the death of Hippolytus and which drove her to commit suicide. She changed the lives of everyone around her because of her lack of reason.

Human beings are emotional creatures and passion, love and other feelings of emotion are a part of our make up. These feelings do not have to lead to negativity, these feelings can be a joyous part of life if kept under control. The fact that Phaedra was not able to control her sexual and emotional feelings for her stepson Hippolytus it lead to the tragedy in this play. She failed to control her emotions and this lead to the death of Hippolytus, a father losing his son (Theseus), Aricia losing the love of her life and Phaedra committing suicide. This all could have been avoided if Phaedra was in better control of her emotions. The play brings about awareness of having morals, purity and holding ourselves accountable for making the right choices. I think for these reasons the play is an example of enlightenment values.


Hunt, Lynn, First Hunt, et al. The Making Of The West, Peoples And Cultures, A Concise History. 3rd ed. Boston, NY.: Bedford/st Martins, 2010. Print. Lawall, Sarah. The Norton Anthology Of Western Literature: The Enlightenment Through The Twentieth Century. 8th. 2. New York: W W Norton , 2006. Print.

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