The Bacchae | Study Guide

Euripides

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The Bacchae | Stasimon 4 | Summary

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Summary

The chorus, anticipating the impending bloodlust and gory murder, are excited. They invoke the "hounds of madness" to go to the mountaintop, where Pentheus and Dionysus are headed. There the Maenads will be incited to do their worst. They sing about Pentheus's impending death, which they imagine to be similar to what happened to the herdsman's cattle. They then remind the audience of Pentheus's impiety, and call upon Dionysus to appear as a bull, a dragon, or a lion.

Analysis

Pentheus's impiety is not limited to his refusal to accept the new religion. It is also expressed by his prurient curiosity about the Bacchic rites—practices and beliefs he does not accept, yet which he wants to observe firsthand. The chorus considers him to be insane, "his courage founded on a falsehood," and his hubris driving him on to attempt to defeat the god. For these reasons, they want to see "justice manifest itself" in a violent end. The audience members of the play's time would likely align emotionally with either the curious Pentheus, who is titillated by an opportunity to see the forbidden, or the pious chorus, angered by sacrilege. Euripides's innovative technique of pulling the chorus into the action of the play pulls the audience into the conflict as well. A bloodthirsty chorus, ready to murder over religious beliefs—the chorus known to represent the common citizens, who were in the audience—is a bold move on Euripides's part.

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