Study Guide

The Bacchae Third Episode

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Third Episode

  • Pentheus busts out of the palace.
  • He sees Dionysus and demands to know how he escaped.
  • Duh, says the god, I told you I would.
  • Pentheus orders him recaptured and all the city's exits sealed.
  • Dionysus comments that that would all be a real waste of time.
  • A Herdsman enters.
  • He tells the King that he's come down from Cithaeron, the mountain where the rituals are happening. The Herdsman asks Pentheus if he's going to punish him for saying things that he doesn't want to hear.
  • The King tells him that he won't punish him for honesty.
  • The Herdsman goes on and describes the rituals he's witnessed.
  • He says he saw three groups of women lying on pine needles. One of the groups was headed by Pentheus' mother, Agave.
  • They weren't all naked like Pentheus implied earlier, however some of them were breast feeding baby animals. (What!?)
  • The women picked up staffs and struck the earth, making water and wine spout from the ground.
  • The Herdsman says that he and his fellows tried to capture Agave, but when the Herdsman laid hands on Agave she cried out to her fellow Maenads. They all went crazy and ripped the Herdsman's cows apart with their bare hands.
  • Understandably, the Herdsman and his buddies were freaked out and ran away.
  • The Herdsman says he watched the Maenads raid the villages at the foot of the mountain. They snatched up babies and looted people's houses. Their heads were on fire, but it did not burn them.
  • The villages through spears at them, but the attacks had no effect.
  • After they were done with their raid, the crazy ladies went back to the fountains and washed away the blood. The snakes in their hair licked their faces clean of blood.
  • The Herdsman tells the King that Dionysus must truly be a god for all of this to happen.
  • He points out that the god's gift of wine to Greece was a great thing.
  • The Chorus Leader tells the King that there is no greater god than Dionysus.
  • Pentheus still isn't buying it.
  • He orders all his soldiers to arm themselves to go and fight the Maenads.
  • Dionysus tells him that's a really bad idea. The god offers to take the King to watch the rituals for himself.
  • Pentheus is interested but suspicious.
  • Dionysus tells the King that he'll have to dress like a woman. If the Maenads discover he's a man, they'll surely kill him. Pentheus agrees and goes off to find his best drag outfit.
  • Dionysus announces that he's luring Pentheus to his death.
  • He also says that Pentheus will be beguiled so that he'll walk through town in women's clothes, humiliating himself in front of his people.
  • Dionysus says that soon Pentheus will be murdered by his own mother.

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