Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Pentheus’s palace

Pentheus’s palace. Home of the Theban ruler Pentheus, Dionysus’s cousin, in front of which the action of Euripides’ play takes place. The palace represents the social structure of Thebes and the power of its king. For this reason the god drives the women of Thebes, who had refused to accept Pentheus willingly, away from the palace. The women worship him in the countryside, that is, beyond the boundary of Thebes. This place provides a way for Aeschylus’s Greek audiences to connect with the plot of this exotic play. When Dionysus is captured and brought before the palace, Pentheus questions his divinity and imprisons him in the palace as a fraud. In retaliation, Dionysus demonstrates his power and divinity by destroying the palace and driving Pentheus insane. The destruction of the palace illustrates the ability of the god to dominate human civilization in general and Theban society in particular. The tension between the worlds of Pentheus and Dionysus is further emphasized by the place of Pentheus’s death, which occurs offstage. Savagely torn apart by the women of Thebes, including his own mother, the king dies not in his city but in Dionysus’s realm, the countryside.

Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

Greece in the 5th century B.C. was a collection of many small, independent city-states, each called a ‘‘polis.’’ While these tribal...

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Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Climactic Plot Construction
Classical Greek tragedians were the creators of climactic plot construction, a form of playwriting...

(The entire section is 951 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

5th Century B.C.: The Athenian democracy which evolved during the 5th century B.C. is considered to be the first of its kind in the...

(The entire section is 593 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

Research the agriculture and economy of Greece in the 5th century B.C. What products did the Greeks export? Which did they import? How was...

(The entire section is 313 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

The Bacchae has inspired a handful of operas, including at least three that are available on CD: Szymanowski’s King Roger...

(The entire section is 165 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Eighteen of Euripides’s plays have survived, each of which contains elements of the dramatist’s non-traditional style that raised...

(The entire section is 492 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)

Kerr, Walter. God on the Gymnasium Floor, Simon and Schuster, 1971, p. 42.

Kroll, Jack. Review of...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Euripides. The Bacchae of Euripides. Translated by Geoffrey S. Kirk. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979. Provides a translation and notes that are useful to anyone new to Euripides’ last complete play. Kirk provides a notable comparative text to other classic and ground-breaking versions of Euripides’ play.

Euripides. The Bacchae of Euripides. Translated by C. K. Williams. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1990. This version of the play is useful primarily for Martha Nussbaum’s introduction, which presents an alternative view of the play and sets it in relief against another Greek tragedy.


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