The Bacchae

by

Euripides

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The Palace Symbol Analysis

The Palace Symbol Icon

The palace in Thebes initially symbolizes King Pentheus’ authority but eventually highlights his vulnerability instead. The palace is the center of Pentheus’ kingly power; it’s where he directs his kingdom according to his whims, making the decisions that govern the lives of the Theban citizens. It’s also where Pentheus gets waited on hand and foot by his servants, and accordingly represents both the administrative reach of the king and his own indulgences. Grand buildings like this are meant to be a daily reminder to the local population of who’s in charge, and make people think twice about engaging in acts of rebellion. It is, then, the most imposing visual reminder of the king’s power. That’s why it’s all the more significant that the palace has no effect on Dionysus whatsoever—in fact, he is able to set the palace on fire and bring it tumbling to the ground with ease. This emphasizes the supremacy of Dionysus’ godly powers over anything a mortal could possibly do—even if that mortal is the imposing king of a magnificent city. The palace, then, begins the play by demonstrating Pentheus’ authority; but through Dionysus’ rapid and effortless destruction, it shows the extent of Pentheus’ vulnerability, both in terms of his power and his unraveling sanity.

The Palace Quotes in The Bacchae

The The Bacchae quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Palace. 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

CHORUS
Look: the stone lintels gape from their columns!
The Roaring One is pulling down the palace from inside!

DIONYSUS
Spark the lightning bolt!
Let the flames feed on the house of Pentheus!

Related Characters: Dionysus (speaker), The Chorus (speaker), Pentheus
Related Symbols: The Palace
Page Number: Lines 591-594
Explanation and Analysis:

This is maddening.
That stranger, that man I had in chains, has escaped!

What! How is it that you’re free, standing at the gates of my palace?

Related Characters: Pentheus (speaker), Dionysus
Related Symbols: The Palace
Page Number: Lines 643-645
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Palace Symbol Timeline in The Bacchae

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Palace 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
Dionysus, Greek god of wine, fertility, ritual madness, and ecstasy, stands outside of the royal palace of Thebes. He has taken human form and returned to Thebes, the town of his... (full context)
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...will “bring on war.” Dionysus calls on his “women” to beat their drums at the palace doors, before leaving to join the dance of his Bacchae on Mount Cithaeron. (full context)
Lines 169 - 519
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
...enters dressed as a Dionysian follower. He calls to Cadmus to come out of the palace and join him. Cadmus arrives and greets him warmly, also dressed in Bacchant garbs. Both... (full context)
Lines 520 - 866
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Dionysus calls to the chorus and his other followers from within the palace. He brings about a great earthquake to “shake the roots of the world” and destroy... (full context)
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
Dionysus explains to the chorus how he escaped from the palace. Apparently, he had deceived Pentheus throughout their interaction. Pentheus thought he had shackled a Dionysian... (full context)
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Violence Theme Icon
...that or “fight the women and spill blood.” Pentheus goes into the ruins of the palace to think about what he should do. Dionysus makes it clear to the chorus that... (full context)
Lines 867 - 1022
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
...which Pentheus says must have come loose in “all that Bacchic ecstasy there in the palace.” They also make sure Pentheus’ dress is lined up nicely. Pentheus asks which hand he... (full context)