The Bacchae is a warning as to what can happen when an adherence to rules and order goes too far. When King Pentheus tries to impress his laws onto the ritualistic anarchy of the god Dionysus, the King, the city, and the rest of the countryside suffers. Sometimes pure law and order with no allowance for a little chaos can cause more damage than good.
Questions About Rules and Order
- What rules are broken within this play and by whom? How does this result in chaos and ultimately, restoration?
- Which characters in the play represent order? Which ones are associated with anarchy?
- What distinction does the play draw between the order of the gods and the order of man?
Chew on This
Pentheus's dedication to the laws of man neglects the much older laws of the gods.
One of the central ideas of the play is that humankind must find a way to balance its system of order with that of nature.