maenad Questions and Discussion Topics:
The Bacchae

Identify the incentive moment, climax, and resolution of this play. Describe the characterization of Pentheus. Is there a hamartia in this drama? If so, what is it and how does it relate to Pentheus? Identify the peripeteia and anagnorisis.

How does Euripides make use of the myths and rituals of Dionysus in the action of the drama and in the portrayal of Dionysus as a character in the play?

In the introduction to the play in your text, William Arrowsmith states that the drama is constructed upon the opposition of sophia (wisdom, cleverness, skill, cunning) vs. amathia (profound ignorance, lack of self-knowledge, foolishness). There are, however, other oppositions in the play, all interrelated with this one—masculine vs. feminine, rational vs. emotional/passionate, athletic vs. effeminate, Greek vs. Asiatic. Analyze the play and characters in detail in terms of these opposites, explaining how the conflict of opposites is played out throughout the tragedy. Is there any ambiguity in these oppositions or are they presented unequivocally in simple terms of good vs. evil?

Describe the role of the chorus in this tragedy, including its character and the nature and function of the choral odes.

What is the ultimate tragic vision of this play regarding the following: man's relationship with the gods? the place of religion in human life? the importance of the irrational in the human psyche and in nature? What function do Teiresias and Cadmus play in the presentation of this vision? What is the function of Agave and Cadmus in the play's resolution?

November, 1999
Barbara F. McManus
CLS 267 Topics Page