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Bacchae [Greek text] by Euripides

Bacchae [Greek text]

by Euripides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This is Euripides' last and best play. The setting of Mount Cithaeron with its maenads, animals and more helps make this macabre and haunting tale unique among the authors works. I found the story bizarre, mysterious, and ultimately terrifying in the savagery of the group worshiping the god Dionysus.

The Bacchae reflects a far more traditional view of humankind and the gods than do many of Euripides’ plays. Dionysus in The Bacchae is still seen as a psychological force or as a state of mind (in this case, irrationality), like Aphrodite and Artemis in the Hippolytus. In this play, however, it is Pentheus, the “modern man” who uses reason to challenge the authority of the gods, who suffers most. At the end of the tragedy, Cadmus cites the fate of Pentheus as proof that the gods exist and that they punish those who resist them (lines 1325-1326).

The final words of The Bacchae are a restatement of the traditional Greek view that the gods act in ways that humankind does not expect and that human knowledge is therefore limited (lines 1388-1392). Not only is it a conclusion that would be appropriate for nearly any Greek tragedy, it resembles the endings of both Sophocles’ Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus. This traditional Greek belief that moderation is best because humankind’s knowledge is limited is central to the entire structure of The Bacchae. While Pentheus is punished for his stubborn resistance to the god Dionysus, his mother, Agave, who accepted the god, also suffers. I found this development to be a troubling aspect of the work; at the end of the play, Dionysus seems to be punishing both his enemies and his own followers. We need to remember that, for Euripides, Dionysus symbolizes irrationality. Those who exclude irrationality totally from their lives become stolid, unimaginative, and dull; when their carefully reasoned worlds collapse, they may be “torn apart” by irrationality, as literally happens to Pentheus in this play. Yet those who succumb to irrationality entirely are playing with madness, and they may eventually destroy what is most dear to them. With irrationality, as with everything, Euripides is saying, the middle way is best.

In dramatic terms, Euripides accomplishes a difficult task in The Bacchae. He manages to change the audience’s opinion about both Dionysus and Pentheus as the drama unfolds. When Dionysus first appears, he wins the audience’s favor: They are told that Pentheus is resisting the god unjustly and that Dionysus has come to Thebes in person to reward the just and to punish the guilty. By the end of the drama, however, Dionysus seems a fearful figure whose penalties are extreme and whose power destroys even those who embrace his cult. Pentheus, on the other hand, first appears as a brash, skeptical, and thoroughly unlikable individual. Yet by the end of the drama, the audience is likely to pity him because of the degree to which he has been punished. This ability to change an audience’s perspective in such a short time is one of Euripides’ finest accomplishments in this play.

The irrationality on display in this drama is something that I have had difficulty understanding. Not that I intend to deny the irrational, that is impossible as demonstrated by Euripides and many since, but I am unwilling to surrender to the enemies of rationality --ecstasy, infatuation, and unbridled nature. Somehow there must be a way to find what Aristotle would call a "golden mean". This play demonstrates the difficulty of that task was just as great in Ancient Greece as it is today. ( )
  jwhenderson | Aug 31, 2017 |
This edition (available through my library through Overdrive) is not great. Character names are abbreviated, the translator is not named, and there are no notes (none--as in zero).

So--I found it all a touch confusing. The edition did not let me link to vocabulary, and no notes explained the thyrsus, why Bacchus' followers are called Maeneads, etc etc.

Largely, though, this story seems to be 2 things:
1) a warning against the dangers of wine
2) a warning against not taking the gods seriously. ( )
  Dreesie | Nov 26, 2016 |
Druids. ( )
  JorgeCarvajal | Feb 13, 2015 |
This work explores what can happen to mere mortals when they reject the gods; Dionysus is not pleased that everyone denies he is the son of Zeus, so he decides to get his revenge. Bloody and disturbing, with a particularly nasty twist at the end. It has a vague whiff of a church hell-house play, except it was written before the age of Christianity. The play appears to be saying if you ignore the gods, or don't worship them enough, nasty things will happen to you - really nasty things. Some interesting one-liners. ( )
  Devil_llama | Jul 30, 2014 |
Bacchae is one of my favorite Greek tragedies. It is a hot mess of a family drama filled with deception, two kinds of blindness, a party in the woods, and good old-fashioned man killing. Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans) seeks out to prove to his mortal family (his mother, Semele, was human) that his father is Zeus and therefore he is a god, because his cousins and his aunts believe that Semele lied about his father and died as a result of that lie. Dionysus and other characters undergo various disguises, putting in question what is real and what is fake, as well as demonstrating a very real fear of women who are left to their own devices. It is both comical in terms of those who fall for disguises or disguises themselves, and it is tragic in terms of the violence involved. ( )
  est-lm | May 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (70 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Euripidesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Goodheir, AlbertTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bæckström, TordTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buul, Anne vanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dodds, E. R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Germers, AnnekeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koolschijn, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Milman, Henry HartTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murray, GilbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neuburg, MattTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tyrrell, Robert Yelvertonsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodruff, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

4 Plays: Bacchae / Helen / Ion / Trojan Women by Euripides

Nine Greek dramas by Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes by Charles William Eliot

Agamemnon; Choephori; Eumenides; The Persians; Prometheus Bound; Seven Against Thebes; and The Suppliants by Aischylos

The God of Ecstasy: Sex Roles and the Madness of Dionysus by Arthur Evans

5 Plays: Bacchae / Heracles / Children of Heracles / Phoenician Women / Suppliant Women by Euripides

Electra, The Phoenician Women, The Bacchae by Euripides

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First words
Look on me-Dionysus, Son of Zeus.
I've arrived here in the land of Thebes
I, Dionysus, son of Zeus, born to him
from Semele, Cadmus' daughter, delivered
by a fiery midwife—Zeus' lightning flash.
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Disambiguation notice
This is for texts of the Bacchae in the original Greek: DO NOT combine with translations into English or any other language!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0872203921, Paperback)

This translation is intended primarily for classroom use. It is aimed first of all at being clear and true to the basic meaning of the text. After that Paul Woodruff has tried to bring across some of the beauty of poetry given the chorus as well as the rhetorical power and cleverness of the dialogue and speeches. The translation of this play through manuscript is unusually troublesome; many lines seem to have fallen out during copying and storage over the centuries and many errors have been introduced Although the author has supplied a few lines to fill small gaps where the meaning is obvious, he has not devised speeches to make up for the lost passages at the end; instead the author has included an appendix with the main evidence that pertains to them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:44 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

This stunning translation by award-winning poet, Robin Robertson reinvigorates Euripides' masterpiece. Updated for contemporary readers, Robertson brings the ancient verse to fervid, brutal life, revealing a work of art as devastating and relevant today as it was in the fifth century BC.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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