The Bacchae

by

Euripides

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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 and a thyrsus, which is a tall rod imbued with supernatural powers wound with ivy and topped with a pine cone. The Bacchae prove themselves to be capable of gruesome violence, tearing living creatures limb from limb and eating their raw flesh. Dionysus turns the women of Thebes into Bacchae, putting in place the necessary elements to bring about Pentheus’ death at the hands of his own frenzied mother, Agave.

The Bacchae Quotes in The Bacchae

The The Bacchae quotes below are all either spoken by The Bacchae or refer to The Bacchae. 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 1 - 168 Quotes

So I must teach this Pentheus, teach all of Thebes,
what kind of god I am.
Once I am established here
I will move on to other lands and show myself there.
But if Thebes tries to drive my Bacchae
from the mountains by force of arms,
I will marshal my Maenads and bring on war.
I have readied myself for battle:
put my deity aside and taken human form.

Related Characters: Dionysus (speaker), Pentheus, The Bacchae
Page Number: Lines 47-53
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

They say some foreigner has arrived from Lydia:
one of those charlatan magicians
with blond hair that reeks of scent,
the flush of wine in his cheeks
and all the tricks of Aphrodite in his eyes.
Day and night he's with the women,
showing them his mysteries –
holding up his secret, for them to adore.
Once I catch him there'll be none of that tossing of locks
and waving of wands:
I'11take that head from off his body!

Related Characters: Pentheus (speaker), Dionysus, The Bacchae
Related Symbols: Thyrsus, Hair
Page Number: Lines 233-242
Explanation and Analysis:

As for the women, it is not for the god to enforce chastity.
Dionysus releases their true nature. Even plunged in delirium,
a virtuous soul does not turn vile.

Related Characters: Tiresias (speaker), Dionysus, Pentheus, The Bacchae
Page Number: Lines 315-317
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 520 - 866 Quotes

One woman struck her thyrsus on a rock
and a spring of water shot out, bubbling.
Another drove her fennel wand into the ground
and the god released a jet of wine.
Those who wanted milk
simply tapped the earth
with their fingers and a fountain started.
Pure honey spurted and streamed
from the tips of their wands.
If you had been there, sire,
you would have gone down on your knees and prayed
to the very god you deny.

Related Characters: The Herdsman (speaker), Dionysus, Pentheus, The Bacchae
Related Symbols: Thyrsus
Page Number: Lines 705-710
Explanation and Analysis:

They snatched children
from their homes, and pillaged houses.
Everything they threw on their backs stayed there:
nothing, not even bronze or iron, fell to the earth.
Flames danced in their hair but did not burn them.
The furious villagers took up their weapons in defense
and, sire, what happened next was dreadful to see.
The men's spears of pointed metal drew no blood,
while the flung wands of the women ripped open flesh,
and the men turned and ran.

Related Characters: The Herdsman (speaker), Pentheus, The Bacchae
Related Symbols: Thyrsus
Page Number: Lines 753-763
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:
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The Bacchae Character Timeline in The Bacchae

The timeline below shows where the character The Bacchae 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
...city are already entranced—they’ve decamped to the mountains, driven “delirious” by Dionysus. They are his Bacchae. He says that when the Thebans realize his godliness they will see Semele’s innocence. (full context)
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...he’ll move on to other cities—but if anyone tries to stop his female followers, the Bacchae, he will “bring on war.” Dionysus calls on his “women” to beat their drums at... (full context)
Lines 169 - 519
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
...Dionysus, still in disguise and willingly held captive. He also tells Pentheus that the imprisoned Bacchae have miraculously escaped their shackles and are now returning to the mountain. (full context)
Lines 520 - 866
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...message from Mt. Cithaeron. He has come to tell Pentheus of what he’s seen: the Bacchae are running wild. He tells Pentheus he saw Agave, Ino, and Autonoe leading three bands... (full context)
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...the sound of cattle and sprung to her feet, waking up the rest of the Bacchae. As they woke, some of them “drew gazelles and wolf cubs to their swollen breasts... (full context)
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...“gratitude of the king” and capture Pentheus’ mother, Agave. They lay in ambush as the Bacchae came by, practicing their rituals, seemingly possessed. The herdsman jumped out at Agave, but she... (full context)
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The herdsman and his group fled from the Bacchae—the women then turned on the nearby herd of cattle. They tore apart the animals—even the... (full context)
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The Bacchae continued their rampage, heading to nearby villages, where they snatched children and pillaged houses. “Flames... (full context)
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Dionysus offers to bring the Bacchae back to Thebes with no bloodshed, but Pentheus doesn’t trust him. Pentheus tells his guard... (full context)
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
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Dionysus cunningly asks whether Pentheus would like to spy on the Bacchae as they “go about their mysteries.” Pentheus says he would pay a lot of money... (full context)
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Dionysus tells Pentheus that in order for him to spy on the Bacchae, he needs to disguise himself as a woman. Though Pentheus finds the idea shameful, he... (full context)
Lines 867 - 1022
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
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Violence Theme Icon
The chorus invokes the “hounds of madness” to run to the mountains and send the Bacchae into a frenzy against “the man in woman’s clothes.” Pentheus, they sing, is walking, is... (full context)
Lines 1023 - 1392
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
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...He went with Pentheus and Dionysus to Mt. Cithaeron. They came across some of the Bacchae, who were singing songs and repairing their thyrsi. (full context)
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The Bacchae then spotted Pentheus at the top of the tree. The second messenger relates how the... (full context)
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The Bacchae threw stones and branches at Pentheus, but he held his grip. Then Agave, his mother,... (full context)
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...his body, “in the grip of the god and the god’s frenzy.” Then the other Bacchae, including Pentheus’ aunts, Ino and Autonoe, helped tear him apart. Soon, his remains were scattered... (full context)