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In this course, Professor Richard Seaford (University of Exeter) explores Euripides' great tragedy, The Bacchae, which ends with the king of Thebes, Pentheus, being torn to pieces by his own mother, Agave. In the first module, we think about the great procession of singing and dancing that begins the play, focusing in particular on the links between this scene and the historical origins of tragedy itself. In the second module, we introduce the idea of the mystery cult, Pentheus' (unwitting) initiation into which seems to be implied throughout the play. In the third module, we continue thinking about mystery cult to explain the scene in which Pentheus appears to acquire temporary double-vision ("I… I think I can see two suns… and our city of seven gates, Thebes… there are two of them also."), before moving on in the fourth module to focus more closely on the character of Pentheus himself. In the final module, we consider the concept of polis cult in the play, thinking in particular about how the destruction of Pentheus and the Theban royal family makes way for a cult of Dionysus which will benefit the whole city.
In this module, we think about the opening chorus of the play, a type of song known as a dithyramb. In particular, we focus in the development of tragedy from the dithyramb, as well as the particular associations between dithyramb, tragedy, and the god Dionysus.
Cite this Lecture
Seaford, R. (2018, August 15). Euripides: Bacchae - Dithyramb [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://massolit.io/courses/euripides-the-bacchae/polis-cult
Seaford, R. "Euripides: Bacchae – Dithyramb." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://massolit.io/courses/euripides-the-bacchae/polis-cult