Michael Halleran’s translation of the Hippolytus should prove to be very helpful for those teaching classical literature in translation and is excellent value for the money. It is derived from his 1995 Aris and Philips edition, which contained a Greek text as well as translation and detailed notes and was geared towards a more advanced audience with some knowledge of Greek. For this edition for Focus, Halleran (hereafter H.) has revised his earlier translation in “hundreds of places” (preface, ix) to produce a more idiomatic rendering of the play for those who have no Greek. He also provides interpretative material which will be useful both for beginners in Greek tragedy and for somewhat more advanced students. The book is extremely well-organised and clear in its assembly and discussion of most, if not all, of the central topics connected with this play and Euripides’ work, although naturally a work of this kind omits some of the more technical problems of the play (e.g. there is no mention of the textual problems surrounding the gender of the Chorus at 1102ff.)
H’s introduction and short concluding essay manage to be both concise and thorough. The introduction is composed of sections of 2-5 pages apiece on the following topics: Euripides and his times, locating him in the context of fifth-century Athenian political and intellectual life; the Hippolytus in performance, which in a very short compass covers the main ground well; Hippolytus in myth and cult, and lastly the first Hippolytus. My only criticism of this last section is that a reader coming to the play for the first time would be led by H. to believe that we know rather more about the lost play than we actually do, and I would have welcomed an acknowledgement at least that Seneca can sometimes influence our assumptions on the nature of the lost Euripides.
The text is clearly printed and well laid out. Stage directions are included in the text and sometimes given further explanation in the notes that sit at the bottom of each page. These notes are generally helpful and are directed both at those who cannot be assumed to know, for example, that Cypris is Aphrodite (note on l.2) and at those who need more sophisticated comment (e.g. the note on l.17 explaining the potential sexual connotations of Hippolytus’ “consorting” with Artemis.) Any translator of the Hippolytus must contend with Phaedra’s notoriously tricky words about
In general, H.’s translation itself is very good, managing to combine smoothness with a close rendition of the Greek. I found very few jarring infelicities, although to this ear, “O you most evil one” (959, 1316) for
There are a few minor problems. I am unpersuaded by H.’s view that “much is made in the play of [Phaedra’s] Cretan past” (xxii) which seems an exaggeration, and I do not think that we must assume that Phaedra’s Nurse was a figure in the first play (p. xxiv.) I also felt that H. could perhaps have done a little more to emphasise the repeated language in the text: though his note on 806-7 points out the visual reversal between Theseus tearing off his garland and Hippolytus offering a garland to Artemis at 73, he does not point out, for example, that Hippolytus and Theseus both use the same phrase of dismissal