The Ecstasy of Reason Essay

Decent Essays
In the Bacchae, Euripides questions the authority of god versus man and man's allegiance to the gods. Pentheus is caught in a unique struggle of maintaining authority in his own kingdom and keeping allegiance to his favored god Apollo. The appearance of Dionysus in Thebes raises a conflict for Pentheus in that he can not accept the authority of a god other than the one he has chosen to revere within his kingdom. Pentheus resists Dionysus supreme authority as a show of solidarity with Apollo and the laws of reason versus Dionysus and the disruption of civil order.

Pentheus is worshiped and revered in Thebes just as he reveres Apollo. Apollo represents rationality, law, order, harmony and philosophical enlightenment. Dionysus is
…show more content…
The sex life of the female citizens should be regulated, bound to laws and customs and have no contact with the "filthy mysteries" (ln 260) that Dionysus commands. The Bacchae represent a force that Pentheus cannot control and this loss of control over his city is the ultimate unmanning of Pentheus as a leader. The prospect of expressed female sexuality infuriates Pentheus who refers to the spreading eroticism as "obscene disorder" (ln 232). Pentheus vows to destroy Dionysus, that "effeminate stranger, the man who infects our women with this strange disease and pollutes our beds." (ln 353) In Pentheus' view there is no room for Dionysus' licentiousness. Dionysus offends Pentheus' sense of balance and order on both a civic and a personal level.

Dionysus has long-hair, rosy cheeks and displays no overtly frightening qualities yet Pentheus takes an instant dislike to the strange, beautiful and charming stranger that has appeared in his land. Pentheus tries to reestablish his authority over the stranger during a verbal battle upon their first encounter. Dionysus baits Pentheus to try and reestablish his rule and Pentheus asserts his position as a great and powerful ruler by announcing, "But I say: chain him. And I am the stronger here." (ln 503). He denounces the god as a fake and decides that hanging is a just punishment for the imposter who dares to challenge Pentheus' rule. Dionysus is
Get Access