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The Bacchae: Stasimon 2, Lines 519-575

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Stasimon 2, Lines 519-575

This choral hymn in three parts is a lament about the difficult times the Bacchae find themselves in. The Chorus begins by invoking Dirce. In Greek mythology, Dirce was the wife of Lycus and was devoted to Dionysus. After her death, Dionysus caused a spring to flow where she died, either at Mount Cithaeron or at Thebes. Dirce is referred to here as the offspring of “Achelous’ water”; Achelous was a river in Greece and also a god.
 
After this invocation, the Chorus recall the circumstances of Dionysus’s birth. They say that after Zeus snatched the unborn child from the flames that enveloped Semele, he not only named him Bacchus but declared that he was destined for Thebes. The Chorus then laments to Dirce that Thebes is now rejecting the god, and asks why this is happening. They sing that there will be a time when Thebes acknowledges the name of Dionysus (here referred to as Bromius).
 
In the next section, the Chorus denounces Pentheus as an inhuman beast who defies the “children of heaven.” They describe the offenses he has committed, chaining and imprisoning the followers of the god. They appeal to Zeus and then to Dionysus himself to descend from Olympus and kill Pentheus.
 
In the final section, the Chorus asks some rhetorical questions about where the god may be found, and answers them. He can be found on the mountains of Nysa and Olympus, in the land of Pieria and Lydia. He is, the Chorus implies, on his way to save them. The name given to Dionysus by the Chorus in this section is Evius. This is another name by which the god was known.)
 
Analysis
The purpose of this choral ode is to comment on what has gone before and prepare for what is to come. By emphasizing the sufferings of the persecuted followers of Dionysus, the Chorus fills out and reinforces emotionally the previous scene in which the oppression of the Bacchae was conveyed in a more spare manner. The second section of the ode offers some foreshadowing of what will happen when the god returns and Pentheus meets his fate. The Chorus presents a very sharp contrast between heaven and earth. Their opponent, Pentheus, is not even presented as a human being. He is a mad beast, a wild animal on the rampage. Pentheus, of course, thinks the opposite. He believes that he represents the best of humanity and the god merely appeals to the lower nature of man.
 
 




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