Essay on The Bacchae

1038 Words 5 Pages
In The Bacchae, Euripedes portrays the character of Pentheus as an ignorant, stubborn, and arrogant ruler. These character flaws accompanied with his foolish decisions set the stage for his tragic downfall. Pentheus' blatant disregard to all warnings and incidents, which prove that Dionysus is truly a god, lead him to his own death. In the end, his mistakes are unforgiving and his punishment is just.

     Throughout the play, the audience cannot help but feel merciless towards Pentheus. In his opening scene, Pentheus does not heed the warnings bestowed upon him by Teiresias and Cadmus. Before Pentheus even meets Dionysus, Teiresias offers him wise advice:

'So, Pentheus listen to me. Do not mistake the rule of
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Pentheus rejects these omens and throws Dionysus in prison. In return, Dionysus destroys his palace, bringing it 'crashing to the ground' (34). By this point, one would think Pentheus would realize his mistake, give in to Dionysus, and recognize his divine powers. However, Pentheus is too ignorant and stubborn to make the correct decision. At this point, the audience views Pentheus in a negative way and is able to see that the plot will not end well for Pentheus. The only suspense that Euripides leaves the audience waiting for is to see what further tragic mistakes Pentheus will make before his death.

     Dionysus, rather mercifully, gives Pentheus one last chance to save himself from his horrible fate. This opportunity comes when a herdsman returns from Mount Cithaeron delivering his eyewitness version of the events he encountered. He proclaims the women

'cradled young gazelles or wild wolf cubs in their arms and fed them at their full-blown breasts that brimmed with milk…struck a rock and water gushed from it as cool as mountain snow…drove a stick into the ground and wine came bubbling up….scratched the soil lightly with their fingers and white streams flowed, while from their ivy-crested wands sweet honey dripped like sparkling dew' (40-41).

He then tells how Agave saw them spying and all the women went crazy. One woman could 'sink her nails into a cow, with its udders full, and lift it, bellowing, high above her head.' The herdsman

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