Confrontation of Pentheus and Dionysus in the Bacchae

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  • Topic: Dionysus, The Bacchae, Maenad
  • Pages : 2 (857 words )
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  • Published : February 5, 2013
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During a confrontation with Pentheus in Episode 2 Dionysus cautions him “Let fools be warned. Place no chains on me.” Explain the symbolic and thematic significance of that statement. There is an abundance of binding imagery in The Bacchae, especially significant in Pentheus’ sexual repression and his relationship with Dionysus. At the start, Pentheus is obsessed with instilling social order and containing his sexual desires, all the while completely oblivious to his true character. Through binding imagery, Pentheus’ repression is exposed and Dionysus exploits these weaknesses, ultimately leading to his destruction. The first time Pentheus appears in the story is when “evildoers” have invaded Thebes and he accuses them of honoring a god whom he does not believe exists (Dionysus). The ideals that are advocated by the Dionysian cult are all the values that Pentheus is both drawn to and fear: sexual promiscuity, freedom, and utter chaos. Upon his return, Pentheus orders all of the criminals to be chained up, bound “in iron fetters” in order to stop them from performing such blasphemous acts. However, Pentheus is utterly ignorant to the higher powers he is up against and his reliance on mortal authority only serves to highlight this foolishness. Just as Pentheus cannot simply stop the Bacchic movement by binding them in chains, he cannot simply repress his own feelings by trying to repress others more. It is here that Dionysus’ begins to actively exploit Pentheus’ character flaws through mockery. In fact, Dionysus’ powers magically remove the chains from the Maenads and mock Pentheus’ inability to understand the magnitude of the god’s power and authority. Dionysus mockery is evident in his willingness to remain bound under Pentheus’ superficial authority. The complete lack of power that Pentheus holds over Dionysus is almost comical in the face of his arrogance and lack of control. Through magically removing the chains from the Maenads and allowing them to resume...
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