The Plot Of Euripides ' The Bacchae

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The plot of Euripides’ The Bacchae, a Greek tragedy translated by Richmond Lattimore, has roots deeply engrained in barbaros which is the Greek word for barbarian. In The Bacchae, Dionysus, son of the god Zeus and the mortal Semele, returns to Thebes, the town in which he was born, in order to establish his cult there; however, he returns as a foreigner. The people of Thebes, more specifically, the women have denied that Dionysus is the offspring of Zeus and Semele; thereby, rejecting his godliness as well. In his opening monologue, Dionysus proclaims “Like it or not, this city must learn its lesson: it lacks initiation in my mysteries; so I shall vindicate my mother Semele and stand revealed to mortal eyes as the god she bore to Zeus” (39-44 pg. 21). Dionysus drives the women of the town into madness by forcing them to partake in his cult. With his vengeance, Dionysus reciprocates the city’s actions by submerging its citizens—women, elders, and the ruler, Pentheus—into what it truly means to be foreign. It is important to note that the Thebans refer to those who are not Greek as barbarians because, according to Pentheus, foreigners simply “are more ignorant than Greeks” (482 pg. 38). They believe that foreigners do not possess the ability to build a civilization as grand as that of Greece; and, because of this belief, the Thebans view foreigners as less than human since they lack the human ability to be civil. This illuminates how the Greeks dehumanize that which is
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