The Bacchae

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The Bacchae (Greek: Βάκχαι / Bakchai; also known as The Bacchantes) is an ancient Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, during his final years in Macedon, at the court of Archelaus I of Macedon. It premiered posthumously at the Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BC as part of a tetralogy that also included Iphigeneia at Aulis, and which Euripides' son or nephew probably directed.[1] It won first prize in the City Dionysia festival competition.

The tragedy is based on the mythological story of King Pentheus of Thebes and his mother Agavë, and their punishment by the god Dionysus (who is Pentheus' cousin) for refusing to worship him.

Contents

Background

The Dionysus in Euripides' tale is a young god, angry that his mortal family, the royal house of Cadmus, has denied him a place of honor as a deity. His mortal mother, Semele, was a mistress of Zeus, and while pregnant, she was killed because she looked upon Zeus in his divine form. Most of Semele's family, however, including her sisters Ino, Autonoe, and Agave, refused to believe that Dionysus was the son of Zeus, and the young god is spurned in his home. He has traveled throughout Asia and other foreign lands, gathering a cult of female worshipers (Bacchantes), and at the start of the play has returned to take revenge on the house of Cadmus, disguised as a stranger. He has driven the women of Thebes, including his aunts, into an ecstatic frenzy, sending them dancing and hunting on Mount Cithaeron, much to the horror of their families. Complicating matters, his cousin, the young king Pentheus, has declared a ban on the worship of Dionysus throughout Thebes.

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