The Bacchae

Social Image in Euripides' Bacchae 12th Grade

In the ancient Greek tragedy Bacchae, Euripides reflects the pivotal role of social image on the emotions and decisions of both gods and mortals. Throughout the play, Dionysus recollects the complex circumstances of his upbringing as the child of Zeus and a mortal, Semele. Despised by Hera even before he was born, Dionysus had to be birthed by Zeus in secret for his own protection: “But right away Zeus, son of Cronus,/ took him and hid him in chambers of birthing,/ tucking the baby inside his thigh/ fastened together with golden pins/ to hide him from Hera” (94-98). The effects of Dionysus’ secretive birth extend to his controversial recognition by the Thebans, who generally doubt his legitimacy as a god. Consequently, this also contributes to Dionysus’ desire to take vengeance on Thebes and its king, as he proclaims, “This city has to learn, by force if need be,/ what comes of its resistance to my rites./ And I must save the honor of my mother,/ by showing humans I am son of Zeus” (39-42). Unlike all of the other gods and goddesses, Dionysus does not receive an abundance of sacrifices and worship; Euripides reveals that Pentheus, King of Thebes, instead dissuades his citizens from participating in rites in Dionysus’ name....

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