Euripides’ “Bacchae” and Its Profound Relevance
for the World of Today
An Illustrated Presentation by Dr. Lena Hatzichronoglou
The Bacchae is one of Euripides’ most profound plays, and it was presented for the first time in ancient Athens in 406 B.C. However, its meaning and ideas remain most relevant today, particularly in front of the troublesome issues that challenge our humanity in the present globally and personally.
The god Dionysus, the most ambiguous and mysterious Greek god, is the main character of this play; and through the way the human characters interact with him, Euripides explores and illuminates many eternal themes of our humanity like race, gender, power, intelligence, military superiority, religion, cultural understanding, ignorance, and above all the meaning of wisdom in the face of all these.
Throughout the play, Pentheus, the king of Thebes, threatened by the power of the God whom he does not understand, is trying to reduce him through weapons, the army, and imprisonment, fact which eventually leads to his own destruction and to that of the people he is trying to protect.
At the end of the play, Dionysus, who is the dramatic expression of the indestructible Natural Law, remains intact and most powerful than ever. The metaphor, of course, was intended for the ancient Athenians, whose hubristic imperialism was threatening to destroy the Greek World; but, we too can learn from it the meaning of true wisdom as we are faced with the threat of global destruction in our effort to reduce a world of ideas and natural law with our own power and weapons, and with our own perception of what constitutes racial, religious and cultural superiority.
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