Study Guide

Dionysus, Pentheus, and Agave

  • Introduction

    To party, or not to party? That is the question. Well, it's the question of this wild and crazy myth anyway. When Dionysus, god of wine and revelry, tries to get the folks of Thebes to join his hard-partying cult, the party-pooping King Pentheus is not having it. The battle between those who want to let loose, and those who want to mind their P's and Q's is on.

    So yeah, maybe this story is super old, but there's no doubt this same fight still goes on these days. Just ask any kid who's ever been busted for having a house party while his or her parents were out of town. We guarantee the conversation/stern lecture that happens when they inevitably get busted is pretty darn similar to the basic argument of this myth:

    Parent: You broke every rule I ever laid down by doing this!
    Kid: You're too strict. Rules suck.
    Parent: Rules keep you safe!
    Kid: Lighten up.
    Parent: Lighten up?! You burnt down the garage!
    Kid: I was mad stressed, okay? You never let me do anything. Yeah, it got out of control, but I really needed to have some fun.

    As you can probably guess, Dionysus and Pentheus would be on opposite sides of this dispute. Dionysus would say that party-pooping parents are way too strict, and they ought to let their kids throw ragers whenever they feel like it. King Pentheus would say kids should stay locked up in their room eating Brussels sprouts all day.

    The story of Dionysus, Pentheus, and Agave shows that either of these extremes is a pretty bad idea. If people never have a chance to blow off some steam, eventually they'll explode. But if people spend all their time blowing off steam, their lives will get seriously out of control. Like with most things, the answer is in the middle.

  • Best of the Web

    Dionysus, Pentheus, and Agave Resources

    Movie or TV Productions

    Famous director Ingmar Bergman directs this film based on Euripides' The Bacchae.

    Dionysus, the Movie Star
    Click here to get the deets on a 2002 movie version of The Bacchae.

    Dionysus, the Movie Star (again)
    Yet another movie version of Euripides' play.

    Historical Documents

    Times Review
    The NY Times tells you what it thinks about the National Theatre of Scotland's production of The Bacchae.

    Bacchae Gone Public
    Check this announcement for a recent free production of The Bacchae by the Public Theatre in Central Park.


    Gospel Bacchae
    This trailer for the National Theatre of Scotland's production of The Bacchae is pretty dope.


    Bacchae for Your Ears
    Eyes too tired to read the myth? Just lay back and listen to this recording of The Bacchae.

    Metamorphoses for Your Lobes
    You can listen to all of Ovid's famous poem, including the parts with Dionysus, here.