The Bacchae Violence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue. We used Paul Roche's translation.
"Pentheus murdered in his mother's grasp
will come to know full well at last
Dionysus, son of Zeus, a god indeed" (170)
Dionysus lays his plan for punishment right out there. When Pentheus dies at the hands of his own mother it's no surprise. Of course, Euripides didn't risk ruining the ending for his audience since they all knew the myth anyway. The harsh violence of Pentheus's death is still pretty shocking, though, once the playwright gets done describing the grisly details. In ancient Greek tragedies, it was not what happened that the audiences came to see, but how it happened.
"Gripping his left hand and forearm
and purchasing her foot against the doomed man's ribs,
she dragged his arm off at the shoulder" (225)
Not only is Pentheus killed by his own mother, but he is also literally ripped apart. The horrific violence of this act is a punishment for both of them. It's also a spiritual act. Just as earlier in the play cattle were dismembered in the name of Bacchus, now a human being is sacrificed for the sake of the god.
"Celebrate my hunting prowess." […]
"Murder is what your tragic hands have done.
Beautiful the victim cut down by the gods:
the sacrificial feast you call me to and Thebes." (263)
Here we have the same violent act of Agave dismembering her son described in three different ways. Agave calls it hunting, while Cadmus relates it to murder and sacrifice. What's the difference between the three acts do you think? How do you separate one from the other?