A powerful family is brought to ruin, the consequences unforeseen and irreparable. The trouble begins with King Minos who asks the gods for a bull to be sacrificed so that he may become ruler of Kretos and surrounding lands. Poseidon sends him a gift of a white bull and instead of sacrificing it, King Minos keeps it. Poseidon is angry by his supplicant’s actions and as punishment glamour’s the king’s wife, Pasiphae to lust after the bull.
The story is told by Phaedra, Theseus’ wife, who witnesses first-hand, the rise and fall of her family. She grows up in a privileged environment, a princess and daughter of King Minos. From a very early age she knows the power her father wields, but is also aware his actions may have precipitated the misfortunes that followed.
She reflects on the different and disturbing events from a detached perspective. Her tone can sometimes be one of a spoilt child, then at other times resigned and on occasion shows an uncanny insight. This retrospective musing comes from her sighting of Hippolytos, her husband’s son from a previous marriage. She falls in love with him and finds it difficult to contain this secret and eventually tells her nurse.
Phaedra asks for Aphrodite’s help, even builds a temple, however Hippolytos spurns her advances. Shamed by her actions and by his revulsion, she poisons herself, leaving a letter to her husband writing that Hippolytos had raped her.
The story ends with her death.