Dionysus, the protagonist of the play, is the Greek god of wine, fertility, ritual madness, and theater. He inspires the kind of devotion in his followers, the Bacchae, that Pentheus can only dream of… read analysis of Dionysus
Pentheus, the antagonist of the play, is the naïve king of Thebes and Dionysus’ cousin. He stubbornly refuses to worship Dionysus—or even to believe in his godliness—and tries to impose his authoritarian might on… read analysis of Pentheus
Cadmus is the father of Semele, Agave, Ino and Autonoe; the grandfather of Dionysus and Pentheus; and the former king of Thebes. Due to his old age, he gave his kingship… read analysis of Cadmus
The most tragic figure in the play, Agave is Pentheus’ mother and Cadmus’s daughter. She is entranced by Dionysus and becomes one of his followers, known as the Bacchae. The herdsman witnesses… read analysis of Agave
The herdsman is the first messenger in the play, and gives a firsthand account of the frenzied behavior of the Bacchae, Dionysus’ female followers. Having spotted Agave, Pentheus’ mother, in the… read analysis of The Herdsman
The Second Messenger
The second messenger arrives near the end of the play to bring news of Pentheus’ grisly death at the hands of his mother, Agave, who is one of the Bacchae. The second… read analysis of The Second Messenger
The Bacchae are Dionysus’ hedonistic female followers. In Greek mythology, they achieve a state of ecstasy through drunkenness, ritual dance, and sexual freedom. They dress in Dionysian costume, which generally consists of fawn skin… read analysis of The Bacchae
The chorus is a group of Bacchae that Dionysus accumulated during his journeying through Asia. They don’t get involved in the action, but serve as a way of heightening the drama. For example, they invoke… read analysis of The Chorus
Semele is Dionysus’ mortal mother, the daughter of Cadmus, and the sister of Agave, Ino, and Autonoe. Semele was killed accidentally by her lover, the supreme god Zeus, when… read analysis of Semele
Zeus is the king of the Greek gods and the father of Dionysus. He doesn’t appear in the play, but is in important part of Dionysus’ back story. Zeus killed Semele, Dionysus’ mortal… read analysis of Zeus
Harmonia is Cadmus’ wife. She never appears on stage, but Dionysus banishes her and Cadmus to a bizarre fate: they will be turned into snakes and eventually return to Greece leading hordes of barbarians… read analysis of Harmonia
Ino is one of Cadmus’ daughters and sister to Agave, Autonoe, and Semele. She never appears on stage, but the herdsman and the second messenger reveal that she is one of the Bacchae, firmly in the grip of Dionysian ecstasy.
Autonoe is one of Cadmus’ daughters and sister to Agave, Ino and Semele. Although she never appears on stage, the herdsman and the second messenger explain that she is firmly in the grip of Dionysian ecstasy as one of the Bacchae.
Actaeon was Pentheus’ cousin. He doesn’t appear in the play apart from as a cautionary tale Cadmus recounts to Pentheus: the gods killed Actaeon because he didn’t show the proper respect.