Passage two: Dionysus and Pentheus’ exchange, 206 to 209
Passage three: Dionysus’ final speech, 241 to 242
Euripides’ The Bacchae explores the polarities of logic and impulse that are both inherent in human nature within a world fatally lacking in balance. In evoking the very extremes of both rigorous rationale and primal instinct, the folly of a linear worldview is tragically rendered.
In the Chorus’ emphatic exaltation of Dionysus and utter devotion to Bacchic worship in passage one, the ‘rapturous rhythm’ and lush natural imagery embraces the liberating release of the logical mind. Breaking from the traditional role of the Chorus to reflect the audience’s response, Euripides embodies his Chorus with that utter reverence for the God of ‘revel and rapture’ that was still controversial in his time. The Chorus’ abandon of rhythmic structure for the impulsive ‘frenzy’ to urge ‘On, on! Run, dance, delirious, possessed!’ captures their absolute freedom in Bacchic worship. This wild abandon takes form in the captivating lure of music, as its ‘wild beat’ drives forward the pace and vehemency of tone, becoming ‘stung with the maddening trance/of Dionysus!’ There is a trance-like quality to this music as its repetitions climaxes in the exclamations ‘Sing to the rattle of thunderous drums/Sing for joy,/Praise Dionysus, god of joy!’ and becomes an expression of reverent passion unburdened by weighty contemplation. No longer constrained by the structures of language or their roles within a patriarchal society, the women have turned from the rigours of societal norms to more primal instincts, expressed in the animalistic image of ‘Swarming’ as they leave their homes and escape ‘to the mountains!’ This liberating state of mind is inextricable with nature, which is embraced in its dual capacity for beauty as well as violence. As the chorus crescendos to its epode, these polarities become graphically vivid as the...