In about 408 b.c.e., Euripides left Athens to accept the invitation of King Archelaus to write works for his court in Macedon. There Euripides died in 406 b.c.e. His final trilogy of plays, including both The Bacchae and Iphigeneia en Taurois (c. 414 b.c.e.; Iphigenia in Tauris, 1782), was produced in Athens by his son. Posthumously, he was awarded first prize for this trilogy, the fifth time that the poet had been so honored.
One of the reasons why The Bacchae may have been popular with its original audience was that it reflects a far more traditional view of humankind and the gods than do many of Euripides’ plays. Dionysus in The Bacchae is still seen as a psychological force or as a state of mind (in this case, irrationality), like Aphrodite and Artemis in the Hippolytus. In this play, however, it is Pentheus, the “modern man” who uses reason to challenge the authority of the gods, who suffers most. At the end of the tragedy, Cadmus cites the fate of Pentheus as proof that the gods exist and that they punish those who resist them (lines 1325-1326).
The final words of The Bacchae are a restatement of the traditional Greek view that the gods act in ways that humankind does not expect and that human knowledge is therefore limited (lines 1388-1392). It is a conclusion that would be...
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