One of the most significant features of the mythology surrounding Theseus, the founder-king of Athens, is the extent to which the wild and the civilized as well as the human and the bestial are placed in continual tension with one another. This is why the mythology surrounding Athens’ founding family - from Theseus’ killing of the Minotaur to Phaedra’s scandalous love for the wild Hippolytus -is particularly conducive to postcolonial adaptation. The Argentinean playwright Alejandro Ullua’s play Hipolito y Fedra: la pasión desbocada, an adaption from Euripides’ Hippolytus, Seneca’s Phaedra and Racine’s Phèdre, first performed in Buenos Aires in 2005, utilizes the fullness of the tradition in order to engage many of the issues surrounding the unique circumstances of the postcolonial experience in Latin America. Most significantly Ullua includes an encounter between Theseus and the spirit of Minotaur at the beginning of a play whose primary plot involves Phaedra’s desire for Hippolytus. This paper will explore the significance of this scene within the wider context of the postcolonial Latin American reception of Greek tragedy by suggesting that the dialogue between Theseus and the Minotaur symbolically represents the postcolonial encounter between the former colonizer and the formerly colonized and highlights the corporeal and sexual nature of this encounter.
Most importantly, this paper will explore how the dialogue between Theseus and the Minotaur, (which is superficially concerned with processing their previous violent encounter) is ultimately linked to the exploration of illicit sexuality that is the primary plot of the play. This connection principally resides in the body of the Minotaur. This body is visibly Other, is the result of non-normative sexuality, and is conquered and destroyed by a hostile intruder into its natural space. Thus the Minotaur embodies (quite literally), the intersection between the postcolonial, the sexual and the corporeal. The dialogue between Theseus and the Minotaur constitutes an instance in which the Minotaur can acknowledge all of these subaltern aspects of his identity and confront Theseus, the model of the normative and powerful, immediately before Theseus once again uses violence as a means of reasserting the status quo upon which his power relies. The violence done to the Minotaur is, in this way, merged with the violence done to Hippolytus and the body of the Minotaur mangled by nature as a punishment for human disobedience is merged with the body of Hippolytus mangled as a consequence of his stepmother’s illicit love and his father’s lack of knowledge. Drawing on postcolonial theory, queer theory, and emerging research in “crip” theory (Disability Studies), this paper will explore how this connection lies at the heart of a retelling of the story that is both postcolonial and uniquely Latin American.