The Bacchae | Study Guide

Euripides

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The Bacchae | Stasimon 2 | Summary

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Summary

In the second ode, the chorus chastises Pentheus and Thebes alike. In three parts, they retell Dionysus's birth story, contrasting it with Pentheus's own, less regal, beginning; the chorus claims he descends from a serpent. They then call upon Dionysus to free their leader, the stranger, and punish Pentheus. Finally, the chorus ponders where their god may be—perhaps Nysa, Olympus, Pieria, or on his way to Thebes from Olympus.

As the soldiers surround the chorus, the ground begins to rumble. Thunder rolls, lightning flashes. An enormous quake begins, and the palace collapses.

Analysis

The chorus's focus is on justice. In the events immediately following their song—thunder and lightning—they find evidence of their faith. They provide a contrast between Dionysus's divine ancestry and Pentheus's mortal one, revealing their conviction that divine justice is superior to man's law. The chorus's plea for help from Dionysus reveals not a simple fear of Pentheus—they are confident Dionysus can easily overpower him—but a sense of injustice. They claim to be "fighting oppression," and call upon their god to dispense justice.

Although Cadmus's line is divine, his daughter, Agave, married Echion, one of the Sparti that sprung from the dragon's teeth Cadmus had sown into the earth. The chorus considers Echion something of a mutant—clearly "not a moral man, but some bloody monster." Dionysus is increasingly associated with nature, whereas Pentheus, here, is presented as something unnatural. The thunder and lightning at the end of the stasimon confirms the chorus's viewpoint.

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