The Bacchae

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Edward Norton once said, “All people are paradoxical. No one is easily reducible, so I like characters who have contradictory impulses or shades of ambiguity. It's fun, and it's fun because it's hard.” In other words, just like people, character’s expressed in stories should be portrayed as inconsistent to make them be more human and realistic instead of just one-dimensional. In the play The Bacchae, by Euripides, the Dionysus is displayed as absurd in order for the audience to be provoked in a way to question what constitutes justice, forcing them to ask themselves whether notions of justice in this world are illogical. By presenting cases where justice is claimed to be enacted by a character, Euripides encourages speculation as to whether the punishments delivered are reasonable. Pentheus is portrayed as a character subject to pride. He is the ruler who governs through violence and threats, always seeking to reassert his own authority. His pretence, is one of civic order. He sees the Bacchae festivities as a direct threat to his governing of the land But he is unwilling to listen to the entreaties of both Cadmus and Teiresias that preach caution as the best method. Pentheus dismisses the prophets’ advice that “You rely on force; but it is not force that governs human affairs” ( ) Teiresias explains that wisdom dictates observing Dionysus’ ritual, explaining this would be a shrewd move, avoiding any grounds for blame. Just like Pentheus himself, “the god is glad to receive honor” and considering his power it would be petty to deny him it. Instead, Pentheus exhibits his own willfulness, his unbridled pride, continually. When it comes to matters concerning his own power, he refuses to back down for any reason, and this is his downfall. Since one is supposed to respect the gods it is not in the least bit surprising that Pentheus is punished for this complete disregard of men’s duty to the gods. Yet Euripides deliberately complicates the issue by...
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