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Bacchae

by Euripides

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1,1402017,623 (3.8)18
The Bacchae is the last and greatest of Euripides' plays. Its theme of the cost of resisting the gods who reside in human nature itself is still of immediate interest to audiences and readers and has inspired modern interpretations. Professor Kirk has made a translation which is both accurate and readable. This he supports with an analytic commentary and a substantial introductory essay which provide the Greek-less reader with essential background information and offer interpretation of a kind usually found only in Greek editions. This is a translation for students of Greek tragedy, particularly in courses on classics in translations or classical civilisation. It will also be useful for students of drama and of English and other literatures.… (more)
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» See also 18 mentions

English (14)  Italian (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I've read this before, but I just had to experience it again. I'm sure we've all had some experience with lunacy, whether in our reading or in the soft whisper of our lives. When I bring this story in to my imagination and let it grow, it becomes so horrifying that I can barely stand it. It may not be as flashy as anything modern usually is, but deep down, it cannot help but disturb. Crazy mobs? Impiety? Drunken revelry or plentiful bounty or peace from mortal woes? Or is it truly the bald-face madness of which is written? Is there truly any difference? *shudder* ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
There is something about Ancient Greek Tragedy that keeps me reading. Maybe its how the stories are both human, and alien. The Bacchae especially so- this is one my of the best I've read so far. The dichotomy of civilized vs wild, belief and un-belief. The story is also incredibly sad, Pentheus is torn apart by Maenads, starting with his mother. I'd like to learn more about Dionysus and his cult.

As for this edition, the translator, Stephen Esposito, did an excellent job. However, I'm not happy with the format. The footnotes are not numbered, instead, a small circle is used to indicated that line has a footnote. However, you need to know the line number to actually find the correct footnote. It takes too long to find the correct reference. The other problem with the footnotes is that some are important, others are not, symbolized by if the footnote is bolded, or not. Unfortunately, the circle symbol does not indicate this, so the unimportant information (like original style) is read by a reader the same as important information (Manliness in Greed Culture).

And, last, in the introduction and appendices, there is some history given about the story and the culture it came from. As always, a reader will find some items to be extremely obvious, other explanations to be very interesting, and last, the translator to be pulling explanations out of thin air. This isn't bad, a reader interested in these stories should understand that the psychology of Ancient Thebes (and ancient cultures, generally) that there are different interpretations, with really no way to know what the author was thinking. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Mar 29, 2020 |
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 |
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

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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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The Bacchae is the last and greatest of Euripides' plays. Its theme of the cost of resisting the gods who reside in human nature itself is still of immediate interest to audiences and readers and has inspired modern interpretations. Professor Kirk has made a translation which is both accurate and readable. This he supports with an analytic commentary and a substantial introductory essay which provide the Greek-less reader with essential background information and offer interpretation of a kind usually found only in Greek editions. This is a translation for students of Greek tragedy, particularly in courses on classics in translations or classical civilisation. It will also be useful for students of drama and of English and other literatures.

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