Dionysus And The Hunt In Euripides Bacchae

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Throughout Euripides’ Bacchae, “the hunt” is a central theme portrayed through the roles of the hunter and the hunted. The hunt is as much a part of Dionysus as wine and revelry. The chorus states in the epode “He wears the holy fawnskin / he hunts the wild goat/ and kills it. / He delights in raw flesh”, giving the audience a visual of how connected Dionysus and the primal nature of humans are (line 136). As is the way of Dionysus, the roles of the hunter and the hunted shift, blurring the lines between the two. As the play progresses, the distinction between man and animal, hunter and hunted, becomes harder to distinguish. Dionysus manipulates these roles to his choosing, exacting his vengeance on Pentheus. How Pentheus dies is a direct…show more content…
Pentheus, being a young man with hormones racing claims, “I would pay a lot of gold to see that sight” to which Dionysus responds “What? Are you so passionately curious?” knowing all to well he has blurred the lines between the hunt and the hunted by seducing Pentheus. (lines 812-13). To humiliate him on top of planning his death, Dionysus convinces Pentheus to dress in women’s cloth to spy on the women to which he later comments “But first distract his wits; / bewilder him with madness. For sane of mind / this man would never wear a woman’s dress; / but obsess his soul and he will not refuse. / After those threats with which he was so fierce, / I want him made the laughingstock of Thebes, / led through the town in woman’s form” (line 850-54). In a possessed state of mind, Pentheus dressed fully in women’s clothes with a lock of hair out of place, even said “It must have worked loose / when I was dancing for joy and tossing my head” as though he had not protested to the idea at all (line 929). Once Pentheus is possessed and in disguise, Dionysus reveals himself as the true hunter of the story and proclaims, “Women, our prey is walking into the new we threw. He shall see the Bacchae / and pay the price with death” (line…show more content…
Pentheus is caught soon after he begins to spy on the women. It is his mother who spies him first, as it is his mother who throws the first blow. In their possessed state of mind, the women have mistaken Pentheus as an animal, just like Actaeon was. In both Pentheus ‘ and Actaeon’s demise, the hunter became the hunted by the will of a god. Artemis turned Actaeon into a stag to be attacked by his beloved dogs while Dionysus possessed Pnetheus’ mother and aunts into believing he was a lion they slaughtered. The hunter/hunted theme of the Bacchae is a fitting metaphor of Pentheus’ death. Throughout the tragedy, Pentheus believed himself too important to frolic and worship Dionysus. Pentheus consistently thought he was hunting the Bacchae and their leader, though in truth they were out of his reach. His amathia leads to his destruction as it did for Actaeon. Both Artemis and Dionysus of gods of the hunt, masters of nature and wilderness. Actaeon and Pentheus did not give the gods the respect and worship they deserved, thinking they were similar to gods themselves. Men, who praise themselves and believe their intelligence to be on the level of gods, will surely fall to the will of the true gods they have spurned. In Dionysus’ revenge on Pentheus, he first destroys the pedestal that Pentheus has put himself on by first humiliating him in women’s clothes, and

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