How do the gods in The Bacchae by Euripides make the characters' lives harder or create obstacles for them? How do the gods in Orestes by Euripides create obstacles for the characters but at the end help them, too?

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In both The Bacchae and Orestes, the relationship between gods and mortals is presented as problematic and fraught with tension. Ultimately, it is important to remember that in the case of Orestes, both Orestes and Helen blame their previous actions on divine will: it was Apollo that commanded Orestes to murder his mother, just as it had been divinely fated that Helen run off with Paris. That their actions were divinely ordained, however, does not protect them from censure and condemnation: thus, Helen is widely loathed for her role in starting the Trojan War, while Orestes and Electra face the specter of execution (even as Orestes is tormented by the Furies).

In the end, Apollo does rescue Orestes from execution, while also saving Helen from death (in order that she can be raised to divine status). However, even here, the play might be read as raising questions on the legitimacy of divine justice. After all, while Apollo does eventually come to Orestes's aid, his rescue only appears at the end of the play (after considerable turmoil has already ensued). At the same time, it should also be remembered that, while the death of Clytemnestra might have been divinely ordained, this does not erase the attack on Helen and Hermione, crimes which Apollo entirely ignores.

As for The Bacchae, here you can observe a particularly ruthless, and ultimately sinister, reading of Dionysus. In this case, the primary conflict lies between Dionysus and the House of Cadmus, most importantly the current king, Pentheus. Here, perhaps even more than in Orestes, one gets the sense that the playing field between mortals and gods is decidedly unbalanced. Dionysus almost seems to be toying with Pentheus: this can be seen, for example, in the scene where he allows himself to be captured, and then in the ease of his escape.

Later, their interactions will turn increasingly sinister, as Dionysus leads Pentheus to the Bacchae, intending his death. However, here, Dionysus's vengeance has an added element of cruelty to it, as it is Pentheus's own mother (herself possessed and under Dionysus's power) that leads the slaughter of her son and then returns to the city carrying his head (acts that will leave her stricken once she comes back to her senses). For their rejection of him, the house of Cadmus is essentially destroyed, and by its own members for that matter.

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