The Bacchae

What are Pentheus' flaws in Bacchae?

Euripides Bacchae translated with notes by Paul Woodruff

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For one, Pentheus has a clear hamartia. This word is most commonly translated as "tragic flaw," but is more accurately described as an "error in judgment" or a "missing of the mark."

The King makes the error of errors by trying to defy the god Dionysus. This big old mistake results in the King being ripped limb from limb by his Bacchus-crazed mother, Agave. A Messenger reports that just before Agave had her bloody way with Pentheus, he pleaded, "Have mercy on me, Mother, and because of my mistakes don't kill your son" (225). Did you catch the key word there? Pentheus admits to making a "mistake." Yep, sounds like a hamartia to us.