The Bacchae is a Greek tragedy, which celebrates the power of the God of wine and ecstasy- Dionysus. It is set in the city of Thebes in Greece. The King of Thebes is Pentheus an arrogant and blinkered tyrant.
As with most Greek plays the chorus play a huge role in this play. They comment on the action, interact with characters and also help to suggest time lapses in the story.
The play centres on the struggle for power between Pentheus and Dionysus. Dionysus, is disguise, arrives in Thebes and begins to purposely set out to cause an in balance in the city. Unknowingly Pentheus welcomes him to the city. The chorus act as the women of Thebes and begin to follow Dionysus instead of Pentheus. Pentheus’ is too busy with his own personal endeavours to notice that he is losing popularity with his people. The women of Thebes become completely taken with Dionysus and begin secret worships of him in the hills. They begin Bacchic worship of him and believe him to be the God of joy and ecstasy. Tiresias an old blind prophet warns Pentheus that he should look after the people of Thebes but Pentheus ignores his wise words. Cadmus, his own grandfather warns that there will be sorrow in the house and Pentheus fails to listen to their advice. Pride is eventually Pentheus’ fall, as he believes no one can compete with him. Pride is known as hubris in a literary sense and the protagonists’ fatal flaw is called harmatia. In this sense we could say that hubris is Pentheus’ harmatia. Pentheus fails to see the significance of the women’s worships and they become maddened and crazed. In one moment of maddened ecstasy Pentheus’ Mother (Agaue), becomes involved in the hunt and kills her own son. Still maddened she brings his head back to the city and shows it before the people. The grief gradually takes over and she has a moment of realisation as she looks closely at the head and begins to understand her own tragedy. Agaue and her Father (Cadmus) grieve over Pentheus fragmented body. Dionysus shows himself for whom he really is and that he set out to enlighten the people of Thebes and bring about Pentheus’ downfall. Agaue, for her crimes, is exiled from the city along with her sisters. The plays message is that pride could be your fall.