The Bacchae

How is the Bacchae a Tragedy?

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The Bacchae is a tragedy about a family, but many critics argue it is more Agave's tragedy. Because she blasphemed Dionysus when she said Semele was not pregnant with the child of Zeus, she is one of the targets of Dionysus' vengeance. Possessed, she mistakes Pentheus for a wild beast and, with the help of her sisters and the other Maenads, rips Pentheus to pieces with her bare hands. She returns to Thebes, splattered with her son's blood and carrying his head impaled on a stick, believing that she has killed a lion. Cadmus, grief-stricken, speaks with her gently until the madness passes; only then does she look at the thing she carries.


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