Study Guide

Dionysus, Pentheus, and Agave The Hero's Journey

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The Hero's Journey

Monomyth/ The Hero's Journey:

The Hero's Journey is a framework that scholar Joseph Campbell came up with that many myths and stories follow. Many storytellers and story-readers find it a useful way to look at tale. (That's actually putting it lightly. Some people are straight-up obsessed.) Chris Vogler adapted Campbell's 17 stages of a hero's journey, which many screenwriters use while making movies. Vogler condensed Campbell's 17 stages down to 12, which is what we're using. Check out a general explanation of the 12 stages.

The story of Dionysus, Pentheus, and Agave doesn't fit perfectly into the Hero's Journey structure, but we're giving it a shot. As the gross old saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Although most people would probably say that Dionysus is the main character of his story, "The Hero's Journey" doesn't work too well from his perspective. Although it still doesn't quite fit, it actually works better if you think about it from Pentheus' perspective. Here's how we've diced up the story:

Ordinary World

For King Pentheus, the ordinary world is his orderly city of Thebes, which he rules without any major problems. Yay for peace! Too bad it won't last.

Call To Adventure

Pentheus' cousin Dionysus shows up from conquering Asia. Dude says he's a god and that the whole town ought to start worshipping him and join in his wild, wine-soaked Bacchanals.

Refusal Of The Call

The King is not amused with his crazy cousin, and he tells the D-Man to go back to Asia if wants to be all weird and stuff. The call is thoroughly refused.

Meeting The Mentor

Pentheus' granddad, Cadmus, and the blind seer, Tiresias, show up and advise the King to allow the worship of Dionysus. Unlike a lot of mentor/mentee relationships, Pentheus does just the opposite.

Crossing The Threshold

The King is shoved across the threshold by Dionysus when the god of wine makes all the ladies in town, including Pentheus' mom Agave, go crazy and run to the slopes of Mt. Cithaeron to get their Bacchanal on.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

There's not really a lot of testing of allies and enemies here. Pentheus is pretty darn convinced that Dionysus is a Grade A enemy and locks the god up. This lasts like two seconds, though, because Dionysus just obliterates the jail with his super god power and puts a spell on Pentheus.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

After Dionysus puts a spell on his cousin, he convinces him that it's a good idea to dress up in the girly clothes of a Maenad and go spy on the Bacchanal. The march up the slope of Cithaeron totally counts as "The Approach to the Innermost Cave."


Uh yeah, Pentheus totally goes through an ordeal when the Maenads rip his arms and legs off, and Agave finishes the deal by tearing off his head. (Yikes!)


Pentheus' reward is being dead as a doornail. Hm, that doesn't seem like much of a reward.

The Road Back

The King's head makes the journey back to Thebes at the top of a stick carried by Agave. Not too fun a journey, if you ask us.


There's no real resurrection here, unless you count the fact that Agave snaps out of Dionysus' spell and suddenly realizes that she's killed her son.

Return With The Elixir

Pentheus doesn't return with any kind of elixir, but the city of Thebes sure gets one: wine! Dionysus has totally made his point. He's a god, and his wine-fueled Bacchanals are totally here to stay.

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