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The Bacchae By Euripedes English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1722 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The point of attack is when the soldiers catch Dionysus in his mortal form and bring him to Pentheus. They also expose an important information, that is, the Bachhic women that were held captives by Pentheus actually escaped. Pentheus speaks to Dionysus who he thinks is a mortal and tells him that he believes the Bacchic rituals are ridiculous and should be banned. Dionysus however defends that the rituals are sacred and information cannot be given to a person who does not believe in it. Dionysus says Pentheus is not initiated in the rites of Bacchus. Pentheus pays attention to Dionysus’ opinions on the rituals and rites and how all of the women and men of Thebes are lining up to celebrate the Bacchic rites. Nevertheless Pentheus does not like any of the things that are happening, and threatens Dionysus that he will be subjected to harsh punishments, such as cutting off his delicate hair and taking his thyrsus (wand) away. Pentheus is haughty and puts Dionysus in jail – the moment he does this – Pentheus’s ignorance is brought out to the audience, and therefore the point of attack happens.

What was the main conflict?  (The clash of opposing forces man vs. self, man, environment, natural forces, group, God, or group vs. group)

The main conflict of The Bacchae is the conflict of a god versus a mortal who does not believe in the existence of god. This can also be thought of as a conflict between the believers and the Non-believers-or a conflict between reason and unreason. The godly role is played by Dionysus, our protagonist character, who is trying to convince Pentheus and the people of Thebes that he exists and is not a mortal but is indeed a god. Pentheus does not believe that Dionysus exists as Semele was burnt for lying that she mated with Zeus in the first place. Dionysus is there to convince Pentheus of the truth, however if he is not able to succeed then the consequences could be severe.

What was the climax in the play?  (The point at which one or the other of the forces is favored; the point at which events must turn in one direction or another. Not necessarily the “high point”  Sometimes referred to as a “reversal” or a “discovery.”)

The climax is representing the cliff hanging point of the play. When Pentheus decides to dress up as a woman in order to see the women of Thebes observing the Bacchae rites. Dionysus advises to not fight with the women of Bacchae first; as there would be too much bloodshed, dressing up as a women and spying would be easier. Dionysus finally leads to the climax, exclaiming that he has Pentheus and he now can finally kill him, death is his only punishment. Dionysus wants to ensure that Pentheus goes insane and then his own mother will kill him as deserved.

CHARACTERS:  Describe and name the physical, social, and psychological traits of the:

Protagonist — “agon” = struggle; the pro side of the struggle — often used to refer to the lead character in a tragedy.

Who was the protagonist and why do you think so?

Our main protagonist is in the form of Dionysus, the godly figure. I believe this is the case as he is trying to tell Thebes that he has came to prove that Semele was not burnt for lying that she did not mate with Zeus as Pentheus claims but rather she was burnt because Juno wanted to be rid of her. Dionysus wants to prove to Thebes and Pentheus that he is indeed a god and that Pentheus is not paying the proper worship that is deserved. Pentheus is fighting against the gods and so Dionysus wants to prove his role in the struggle – the role of one who is good.

Antagonist — the anti side of the struggle — often the bad guy, but could be anyone / thing that struggles against the protagonist.

Who was the antagonist and why do you think so?

Our main antagonist, Pentheus, who is struggling against the point that a god named Dionysus indeed exists. Pentheus doesn’t believe Dionysus could be real, as he believes Semele was rather burnt for her lies of mating with Zeus. Pentheus does not want to open himself to the truth that Dionysus is a god, so for that he is struggling with the god side of the play.

What was the idea, theme of the play?  It is often allegorical or symbolic sometimes direct, sometimes indirect.  Plays may often be written about an idea, but the playwright will probably focus more on plot and character to get idea across — plays are seldom about an idea.

The idea of The Bacchae is to prove that Dionysus is indeed a godly figure and also to demonstrate the conflict between reason and the unreason. Many people believed otherwise that Dionysus may not be what he is, but Dionysus comes to Thebes dressed as a mortal only to prove to Pentheus, the antagonist of the play, and others that, yes, indeed he is a godly figure. Euripides is trying to get across the idea that in one nation, many people may oppose an idea, this idea being Dionysus’ sudden appearance and emergence as a god. Pentheus and some of the public of Thebes oppose the idea of observing the Bacchic rites and Dionysus is there to teach them that indeed he is a god. Dionysus first tries through kind means to prove he is a god; but when that doesn’t work he has to resort to the killing of Pentheus to prove his point to all of Thebes that princess Semele mated with Zeus and bore him; which makes him a divine figure to be worshipped.


Language is used to: depart information, reveal characters, characterize, direct attention, reveal themes and ideas establish mood / tone, establish tempo / rhythm appropriate to character (again, “decorum” had nobility speak poetry, peasants speaking prose).

Describe the use of “diction” and or dialog in the play. (Try to think of this more as it would have been performed in Ancient Greece.  However, there are some clues in the video we saw.  Think about the use of language, how words are played with.  There are some double meanings and plays on words in the play.  Pentheus and Dionysos also changed how they spoke to one another.)

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Diction is used to express in The Bacchae the theme of the play and the mood of the dialogue. It may also be used as a tempo or rhythm for some of the characters, ex the Chorus. Let us take for example, the dialogue between Pentheus and Dionysus, the dialogue between the antagonist and protagonist not only establishes the mood and the feelings between the two characters but is also bringing out the theme. Moreover the tone of the dialogue can also be symbolic of the emotions, for example, how Dionysus’ anger is communicated through the tone. Euripides, the author is trying to use the dialogue in an artistic manner; dialogue seems to be a key element of the play to bring out the ideas.


The sound of the dialog, etc. musicality, rhythm, pace, etc. helps establish mood, characterize, lend variety, pleasurable.

Describe how music/song was used in the play.  (Try to think of this as it would have been performed in Ancient Greece not in the video we saw.)

Music song was used mostly in the chorus and the part where the messenger comes in. Sometimes we observe Dionysus using a sense of rhythm in his dialogue, contributing to the feelings of music song. The other two characters who use Music song are Cadmus and Teiresias.

Dionysus uses a sense of rhythm in the first passage of the play to express his feelings about Thebes and the people who do not follow the Bacchic rites or who do not listen to the fact that Semele indeed mated with Zeus and bore Dionysus; therefore Dionysus is indeed a god. Dionysus also uses a sense of musicality and pace to express his feelings about Pentheus, and how Penetheus fails to recognize Dionysus is a god needed to be worshipped.

The chorus is often using rhythm and musicality to come in and express a preface of what will happen next in the play, as a middle point before the next character is to come in.

Teiresias and Cadmus express a sense of rhythm in the passages where they talk about participating in the Bacchic rites. They appear excited with a sense of musicality, speaking in a sing-song manner.

The messenger using a sense of rhythm to deliver his lines about the holy bacchants.

Dionysus also uses a sense of rhythm and musicality to express the feeling he has when he has Pentheus finally under his clutches. The tone was also employed to communicate Dionysus’ anger at times.


Describe the costume, setting and blocking of the play.  How would it have been performed in Ancient Athens?  What would the actors have worn?  What did the stage look like?

The costumes may consist of togas, wreaths for the followers of Dionysus, and the thyrsus, the rod like pole the followers of Dionysus and Bacchae hold. The setting of the play is mostly held in Thebes where the tragic events take place. The blocking of the play would be Dionysus at the very front of the stage, as he is in the protagonist of the play, Pentheus behind him as he is the antagonist, and Cadmus would be positioned near Dionysus with Teiresias beside him. The Chorus would also be near Dionysus.

Those who are with Dionysus would have worn the outfit of a toga and a wreath around the head; they might have been carrying the thyrus to one hand. Those who are with Pentheus would have worn only a simple toga and maybe traditional Greek sandals.

The stage would have appeared as a symmetrical hemisphere, that is, a half circle. The shape of the stage represents the balance between two conflicting themes such as reason and unreason. That is, the Greek word “symmetria which meant a type of balance or proportion or mathematical symmetry between two opposing forces. Thus the stage was designed to echo the central theme of the play. Moreover the stage had a certain design, for example, wings or parados for actors to enter, special place for the orchestra and a backdrop called skene that was a type of building. Thus the stage was arranged to reflect the play’s themes.


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