The Bacchae

by

Euripides

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Agave Character Analysis

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 her killing and eating animals raw, and using her thyrsus to draw milk, honey, and wine from the ground. Dionysus embroils her in his plot for revenge because she was one of the sisters who doubted the truth of Semele’s story (that she had been the lover of the supreme god Zeus). Accordingly, Dionysus uses his power over Agave to make her commit the ultimate tragic act—the murder of her own son. Even after the murder, she’s deluded, thinking she has bravely killed a mountain lion and deserves to be celebrated. Cadmus makes her realize the terrible deed she has done, and Agave leaves the stage into her own exile, knowing her life is irreparably ruined.

Agave Quotes in The Bacchae

The The Bacchae quotes below are all either spoken by Agave or refer to Agave. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ecco edition of The Bacchae published in 2015.
Lines 169 - 519 Quotes

Women have deserted their homes for these
fraudulent rites up in the woods and mountains,
dancing to celebrate some new god
Dionysus, whoever he is.
Drink is at the bottom of it all.
Huge bowls stand in their midst, I'm told,
brimming with wine, and one by one the women
slip into the shadows to satisfy the lusts of men.
They say they are priestesses, sworn to Bacchus,
but it's clearly Aphrodite they adore.
I've had some of them trapped, and shackled in the prison.
The rest are still out there on the mountain –
Even my mother is among them,
she who bore me to Echion,
with her sisters Ino and Autonoe, mother of Actaeon.
I'll hunt them down with nets.
I'll put an end to their filthy orgies.

Related Characters: Pentheus (speaker), Dionysus, Agave, The Bacchae, Ino, Autonoe, Actaeon
Page Number: Lines 215-232
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 867 - 1022 Quotes

PENTHEUS
I see two suns in the sky;
two cities of Thebes, each with seven gates.
And you, my guide, you seem to be a bull.
Horns grow from your head.
Were you a beast all along? For you are a bull now.

DIONYSUS
The god is with us.
There were difficulties, but now we have a truce.
You see now what you should have seen before. The god.

PENTHEUS
So how do l look?
A little like Aunt Ino, or a bit more like my mother?

DIONYSUS
The very image of your mother, now I can see you plain.
But let me fix this curl that's come astray.

PENTHEUS
It must have been all that Bacchic ecstasy there in the palace.
I was shaking my head so much!

Related Characters: Dionysus (speaker), Pentheus (speaker), Agave, The Bacchae, Ino
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: Lines 918-930
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 1023 - 1392 Quotes

His own mother,
like a priestess with her sacrifice, fell on him first.
But he snatched off his headdress and wig
so she could see who he was.
He reached out his hand to touch her cheek
and cried out: "Mother! Mother! Look!
It's me, Pentheus, Your own son!
The son you bore to Echion!
Spare me, Mother, I beg You!
I have done wrong, Perhaps,
but you cannot kill your own son!"
But Agave's eyes were rolling,
and her mouth filling with foam.
In the grip of the god and the god's frenzy,
it was as if she couldn't see him, couldn't hear.
Grabbing his left hand at the wrist,
she planted her foot against his flank and wrenched,
pulling his arm straight out of his shoulder—
not with her own strength but the strength of the god.

Related Characters: The Second Messenger (speaker), Pentheus, Agave, The Bacchae
Page Number: Lines 1115-1128
Explanation and Analysis:

Father, you have the right to make the proudest boast,
for you have sired the bravest daughters in the world.
And of us all, I am the foremost:
leaving the shuttle and loom for bigger things –
hunting animals with my bare hands.
As you can see, I have a trophy for our house,
to hang here on the wall.

Related Characters: Agave (speaker), Pentheus, Cadmus
Page Number: Lines 1231-1240
Explanation and Analysis:

AGAVE
Cithaeron? But why was Pentheus there?

CADMUS
He went to mock the gods, and your rituals.

AGAVE
But we—why were we there?

CADMUS
You were out of your wits.
The whole city was possessed by Bacchus.

AGAVE
I see. Dionysus has destroyed us all.

Related Characters: Cadmus (speaker), Agave (speaker), Dionysus, Pentheus
Page Number: Lines 1292-1296
Explanation and Analysis:
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Agave Character Timeline in The Bacchae

The timeline below shows where the character Agave appears in The Bacchae. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 1 - 168
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
...fawn-skin, holding the thyrsus.” He explains that he’s targeted Thebes because his mother Semele’s sisters, Agave, Ino, and Autonoe, deny that he is the son of Zeus and dishonor his mother’s... (full context)
Lines 169 - 519
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
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...of them, and that he will hunt down the rest on the mountain—even his mother, Agave, and his aunts, Ino and Autonoe. (full context)
Lines 520 - 866
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...Pentheus of what he’s seen: the Bacchae are running wild. He tells Pentheus he saw Agave, Ino, and Autonoe leading three bands of women; at first they seemed to be resting... (full context)
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But then, continues the herdsman, Agave heard the sound of cattle and sprung to her feet, waking up the rest of... (full context)
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...the herdsman if they should earn the “gratitude of the king” and capture Pentheus’ mother, Agave. They lay in ambush as the Bacchae came by, practicing their rituals, seemingly possessed. The... (full context)
Lines 867 - 1022
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
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...understand him properly. Pentheus asks if he looks like his aunt Ino or his mother, Agave. (full context)
Lines 1023 - 1392
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The Bacchae threw stones and branches at Pentheus, but he held his grip. Then Agave, his mother, gathered the Bacchae around the tree and had them tear it out of... (full context)
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Pentheus pleaded with Agave for his life, but her “eyes were rolling, and her mouth filling with foam.” She... (full context)
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Agave picked up Pentheus’ head and mounted it on the top of her thyrsus. The second... (full context)
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The chorus celebrates what’s happened to Pentheus. Agave enters, carrying her thyrsus with the head of Pentheus impaled upon it. Agave addresses the... (full context)
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Agave shows off the head before asking the whereabouts of Cadmus and Pentheus. Cadmus arrives with... (full context)
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Agave tells Cadmus that he should be proud of her and her sisters, given their skill... (full context)
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Cadmus tells Agave that her and her sisters aren’t hunters, but murderers. He says he pities her for... (full context)
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Agave calls out for Pentheus, so he can witness “his mother’s good fortune.” Cadmus says that... (full context)
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As Agave stares at the sky, she feels her “head is clearing.” She tells Cadmus she can’t... (full context)
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Agave asks who killed Pentheus. Cadmus explains what happened—that Agave and her sisters are responsible. She... (full context)
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Cadmus explains to Agave that Pentheus was made to suffer because “he refused the god.” He laments that their... (full context)
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Agave embraces Cadmus, distraught that she must be exiled with him. Cadmus says he can’t help... (full context)
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Agave says “terrible is the ruin Lord Dionysus has visited on this house”; Cadmus says it’s... (full context)