The Bacchae

by

Euripides

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The Herdsman Character Analysis

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 mountains, the herdsman had tried to be useful to the king by ensnaring her and bringing her back to the palace. However, his plan went terribly wrong, inciting a violent rampage by the Bacchae in which they ripped apart cattle with their bare hands, snatched children, and pillaged houses in nearby villages.

The Herdsman Quotes in The Bacchae

The The Bacchae quotes below are all either spoken by The Herdsman or refer to The Herdsman . 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 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:
Get the entire The Bacchae LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Bacchae PDF

The Herdsman Character Timeline in The Bacchae

The timeline below shows where the character The Herdsman appears in The Bacchae. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 520 - 866
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
A herdsman arrives with a message from Mt. Cithaeron. He has come to tell Pentheus of what... (full context)
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
But then, continues the herdsman, Agave heard the sound of cattle and sprung to her feet, waking up the rest... (full context)
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Someone from the city asked the herdsman if they should earn the “gratitude of the king” and capture Pentheus’ mother, Agave. They... (full context)
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
The herdsman and his group fled from the Bacchae—the women then turned on the nearby herd of... (full context)
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...blood. The women flung their thyrsus wands at the men, ripping open their flesh. The herdsman says it was clear some god was empowering them. He implores Pentheus to welcome this... (full context)
Lines 1023 - 1392
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...her “fellow huntsman” and “companion in the chase, in the taking of the prize.” The herdsman says that her only prize is grief, and that he can’t bear to be around... (full context)