Euripides’ The Bacchae is a play about the cult of Dionysus, and more specifically about what happened to the city of Thebes after the king, Pentheus, prohibited the worship of Dionysus. The play begins with a lengthy monologue from Dionysus, in which he describes his birth, and journey throughout the East. As the first character to appear in the play, he also explains the reasons why future events will take place. He describes the actions of his mother’s sisters, his aunts, and the actions of the king, Pentheus. Dionysus is a vengeful god, and the message that this play sends to the audience is that “When insulted, gods do not forgive” (line 1818).
Aristophanes denounces the importance of the gods' influence on the actions of mortals. In the usual tragedy, the gods play an extremely important role towards the actions of the mortal characters. Through fear of the alternative and examples of the past, Athenians carried out their everyday lives under the guidance of the gods' wishes. Aristophanes challenges the audience, and Greek culture as a whole, by offering a different view on the answers and directions of life, than that of the gods. He denounces the parables and explanations to answers in life that involve the gods. Instead he explains that such things as the aerial whirlwind, and especially the clouds, are the reasoning behind all of natures actions. On the surface these comments were seen as a mockery and very humorous. Underlying this humor is a scary truth, most likely ignored by the congregations witnessing this play. How many times has a character in a tragedy been so willing to contradict the gods? Dominant characters like Creon and Prometheus have blatantly disobeyed the gods. The alternative explanations serve a hidden truth in the hearts of many of the Athenian people. This truth is always again repressed by the end of each play, tragedy or comedy; because their was too great of a fear to upset the higher beings.
In Euripides’ play The Bacchae, the ideals that were the foundation of Greek culture were called into question. Until early 400B.C.E. Athens was a society founded upon rational thinking, individuals acting for the good of the populace, and the “ideal” society. This is what scholars commonly refer to as the Hellenic age of Greek culture. As Athens is besieged by Sparta, however, the citizens find themselves questioning the ideals that they had previously lived their lives by. Euripides’ play The Bacchae shows the underlying shift in ideology of the Greek people from Hellenic (or classical), to Hellenistic; the god character Dionysus will be the example that points to the shifting Greek ideology.
One of the most well-known pieces of Greek tragedy is Euripides’s The Bacchae, a tale which chronicles the life and ultimate revenge that the Greek god Dionysus would take out upon his mortal family. Through this tale Dionysus can be viewed in multiple lights. He varied his appearance from that of a great leader, to that of a master of the great art of manipulation. With that said, no image was grander than how he showed that the great Greek gods are not known for being forgiving creatures. Dionysus proved this by being utterly brutal and relentless. With these actions, he showed that the gods should, in most cases, be well and truly feared for their potential retaliation and retribution.
In contrast, whatever desire for vengeance Philoctetes has towards those who wronged him, he can only direct it through curses and appeals to the gods because he has no reasonable hope of punishing Odysseus and the Atridae himself.
From birth, Dionysus showed his mysterious and dual personality. Zeus was attracted to his mother, Semele, a princess of Thebes, and visited her in human guise and she became pregnant. She was tricked by Hera into asking him to reveal himself in his divine glory, whereupon she was instantly burned in the thundering fires. From her smoldering body a vine grew to shield the fetus, a bull-horned child crowned with serpents. Zeus removed him and placed him into his own thigh, from where Dionysus was later born; hence he is called twice-born. To protect the new infant from Hera's jealousy, Hermes carried him to Ino, Semele's sister, as a foster mother, and she started to raise him as a girl. Ino and her husband were driven mad and killed their own children. Then the divine child was changed into a young goat, and taken by Hermes to be raised by the nymphs of Mount Nysa. He was tutored by Silenus, often shown as a drunken satyr (Powell, 243). From these beginnings we can begin to detect some of the recurring images in the Dionysian religion: the vine, whether grape or ivy; the polymorphic, shape-shifting nature of the god; the madness and violence he brings with him; the wildness of nature, and the mountain nymphs and satyrs.
In the Bacchae, Euripides questions the authority of god versus man and man's allegiance to the gods. Pentheus is caught in a unique struggle of maintaining authority in his own kingdom and keeping allegiance to his favored god Apollo. The appearance of Dionysus in Thebes raises a conflict for Pentheus in that he can not accept the authority of a god other than the one he has chosen to revere within his kingdom. Pentheus resists Dionysus supreme authority as a show of solidarity with Apollo and the laws of reason versus Dionysus and the disruption of civil order.
An interesting and important aspect of this Greek notion of fate is the utter helplessness of the human players. No matter the choice made by the people involved in this tragedy, the gods have determined it and it is going to come to pass. T...
The next scene brings Pentheus and Dionysus face to face. Pentheus starts the conversation thinking he has the upper hand because he has more power over the situation. 'Untie his hands. Now I have him in my net, no amount of agile tricks can help him slip away' (25). However, it is clear to the audience that Dionysus is in control. He is provoking Pentheus by responding with quick, saucy remarks. 'Those who look for filth, can find at the height of noon' (28). Pentheus becomes frustrated. He needs to feel in control so he begins to hurl threats at Dionysus, 'I'll throw you in my dungeon.' Throughout this scene, Dionysus drops numerous hints that he is indeed the son of Zeus, 'He (Dionysus) is here now. He sees what is being done to me' (29). He for...
Throughout Aristophanes’ “Clouds” there is a constant battle between old and new. It makes itself apparent in the Just and Unjust speech as well as between father and son. Ultimately, Pheidippides, whom would be considered ‘new’, triumphs over the old Strepsiades, his father. This is analogous to the Just and Unjust speech. In this debate, Just speech represents the old traditions and mores of Greece while the contrasting Unjust speech is considered to be newfangled and cynical towards the old. While the defeat of Just speech by Unjust speech does not render Pheidippides the ability to overcome Strepsiades, it is a parallel that may be compared with many other instances in Mythology and real life.