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In "The Bacchae" why does Pentheus despise their dancing, lusting and chaos?

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meechee | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 28, 2009 at 4:56 AM via web

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In "The Bacchae" why does Pentheus despise their dancing, lusting and chaos?

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troutmiller | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:27 AM (Answer #1)

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Pentheus does not believe that Dionysus is a divinity.  He believes that what the women are doing is for a false god and that it is immoral.  When the women went to the woods to begin their worshipping, Pentheus was abroad. However, he heard about their actions and upon his return he jailed many of the mad women and was working on capturing all of them.  He was too stubborn to go along with Tiresias and Cadmus.  They tried to convince Pentheus not to upset the god, but like a typical tragic hero, he was too blind to see the truth.

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benso | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 22, 2009 at 1:05 AM (Answer #2)

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In the Bacchae, female superiority is a major theme. Dionysus himself is presented to us as effeminate male. Teiresias and Cadmus who are old but well respected individuals dress in female clothing and dance on the hills. Dancing, lusting and chaos would all have been thought of as irrational in the eyes of a fifth century Athenian male, the audience of the tragedy. This irrationality was exclusively thought to be a female characteristic. However this is what the play is about. It stands as a protest movement against the rational of civic ideology, represented by Pentheus. Dionysus represents disorder or the other and for that reason he is pictured as foreign and having female attributes( long locks, youthful appearance etc.) He is himself jailed however he breaks free of his bonds. This could be seen as a metaphor for caged emotion. As a result of suppression, emotion will eventually break free with deadly consequences.

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