Time Spent With the Harvard Classics: Euripides – The Bacchae

Born in approximately 480 BC, the Athenian tragedian Euripides from who approximately 18-19 extant plays of his approximately 92-95 dramas have survived.  He along with Aeschylus and Sophocles are most of what we know of ancient Greek drama.  Euripides has become to be seen as a cornerstone of ancient literary education along with Homer, Demosthenes and Menander.

Euripides’ theatrical innovations have deeply influenced drama down into modern times.  This is particularly true in how mythical heroes are shown to be ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.    Another facet of his dramas were their focus on the inner lives and motives of his characters.  He came to demonstrate as Shakespeare later distinguished clearly that imprisoned men and women are fated to destroy each other through the intensity of our emotions, particularly love and hate.    Along with Socrates, Euripides is seen as a leader of decadent intellectualism.  Socrates chose death.  Euripides chose exile and died in Macedonia.

The Bacchae is and ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides during his final years in Macedonia.  In this tragedy, we see illuminated the two opposite sides of human nature: the rational, civilized side (represented by Pentheus, King of Thebes) and the instinctive, passionate side represented by Dionysus.  This latter is the power of sensuality as that connection between man and beast which is a source of divinity and spiritual power.  The inner most message of The Bacchae is that it is at best dangerous to deny or ignore human desire and who become open to this experience gain spiritual power.  Conversely, those who repress this force allow it to be a source of destruction.

The Bacchae may be read here:


A video of the drama may be seen here:




About alohapromisesforever

Writer, poet, musician, surfer, father of two princesses.
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