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The Bacchae | Study Guide


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The Bacchae | Section Summaries

See Section Summaries Chart

Timeline of Events

  • Ancient times

    Semele has an affair with the god Zeus, who kills her but saves her unborn child, Dionysus.

  • Some years later

    Dionysus, half-mortal and half-god, gains followers, called Maenads, throughout Asia.

  • Sometime later

    Dionysus possesses Theban women, the Bacchae, who run off to the mountains in response to his call.

  • Start of the play

    Dionysus and his followers from Asia, the Maenads, enter Thebes.

  • Immediately following

    Pentheus arrives in Thebes from a trip, distressed by the behavior of the Theban women.

    Episode 1
  • The same day

    Dionysus allows himself to be captured and taken to Pentheus.

    Episode 2
  • A little while later

    Dionysus breaks out of prison.

    Episode 3
  • Soon after

    Pentheus declares war on Dionysus and the Theban Bacchae, one of whom is his mother, Agave.

    Episode 3
  • Immediately following

    A messenger tells the story of how the Bacchae escaped capture and ravaged a nearby town.

    Episode 3
  • A short time later

    Pentheus dresses as a woman so he can spy on the Bacchae reveling in the mountains.

    Episode 4
  • A little while later

    Pentheus is caught spying, and Agave murders him.

    Episode 5
  • Soon after

    Agave learns she has murdered her own son.

    Episode 6
  • Immediately following

    Agave and Cadmus learn of their fates; she will be banished, and he will be turned into a snake.

    Episode 6

Section Summaries Chart

Section Summary
Prologos Dionysus, son of Zeus, enters. He stands before the royal palace at Thebes, disguised as a mortal, girlishly attractive ... Read More
Parados After Dionysus exits to join his Maenads, the chorus of nine begins to exalt their god. They call for everyone to remain... Read More
Episode 1 Tiresias, the old Theban prophet, arrives at the palace to meet his friend, Cadmus, the former king of Thebes. They plan... Read More
Stasimon 1 After Pentheus exits into the palace, Tiresias and Cadmus exit off to the mountains. The chorus members sing of Pentheus... Read More
Episode 2 Dionysus makes his return in the guise of the Lydian stranger, whose capture, the soldier tells Pentheus, was remarkably... Read More
Stasimon 2 In the second ode, the chorus chastises Pentheus and Thebes alike. In three parts, they retell Dionysus's birth story, c... Read More
Episode 3 An explosive light and Dionysus's divine voice from offstage tell the chorus their god has heard their calls. An earthqu... Read More
Stasimon 3 The chorus reviews the events of the last scene with relief, relating the story in terms of a fawn escaping a hunter's n... Read More
Episode 4 Dionysus's plan is nearing fruition. He beckons Pentheus to enter, and the young king emerges dressed as a female Baccha... Read More
Stasimon 4 The chorus, anticipating the impending bloodlust and gory murder, are excited. They invoke the "hounds of madness" to go... Read More
Episode 5 The second messenger arrives, one of Pentheus's servants. He declares Pentheus is dead. The chorus leader yells out prai... Read More
Stasimon 5 The chorus is ebullient over both the fact and the manner of Pentheus's death. They declare they should dance to "honor ... Read More
Episode 6 Still in the clutches of Dionysian possession, Agave returns to the palace. Boasting of her kill, she declares she will ... Read More
Exodos The chorus sings one final song about the power of the gods, singing "what people thought would happen" never happened, ... Read More
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