May 15, 2009

When a god comes to town, be nice

Modern Chinese sculpture of Dionysus. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

"...he will know too late Dionysus, god most benevolent to mortals, yet if his blessing is scorned into curse, god of inhuman terror."--the Bacchae

Goat Rope's series on Everything You Always Wanted to Know (or not) about Greek Tragedy continues. If you like this kind of thing, please click on earlier posts. If you're just interested in links and comments about current events, scroll on down.

Earlier posts in the week looked at the background of tragedy and Dionysus, the god at whose festival these were performed. It only seems fitting to start looking at specific tragedies with one in which he has the starring role. That would be the Bacchae, which may have been the last play written by Euripides, the most recent of the three tragedians whose work survives.

In it, Dionysus is newly arrived from Asia to Thebes, the home of his mother Semele. The former king of Thebes was Kadmos, Dionysus' grandfather, who was pious enough to recognize that Zeus was the new god's father and to honor his mother with a shrine. Semele's sisters, however, disbelieve and have spread rumors that his father was human.

The new ruler of Thebes is Kadmos' grandson Pentheus, who is...well...a bit of a wanker: young and arrogant, he is dismissive of the new cult and prepared to suppress it.

Dionysus, looking like a dissolute and androgynous youth, strikes the women of Thebes with his divine mania. They abandon their homes and revel in the mountains, tearing calves to pieces in their frenzy. Pentheus tries to arrest the youth, but you can't arrest a god. The city is destroyed by an earthquake. Not able to take a hint, Pentheus threatens to send soldiers to suppress the revelers.

Still, he kind of wants to watch. Dionysus tempts him by offering to lead him to a safe place to view the scene. The wild women or maenads, lead by his mother Agave, see him and think he is a mountain lion. They tear him to pieces in their mania and triumphantly bring the remains back to the city in triumph. Only when the madness fades does she realize what she has done.

"Humility and respect for the gods is the only wisdom. Yes, and for us mortals, the only weapon in hand--if only we used it."

GOOD LOOKS can boost your paycheck.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS. This is the article about the mismatch between new jobs and workers seeking work that I meant to link yesterday.

NEANDERTHALS may have been pretty smart after all.


1 comment:

Troy Coolon said...

thank you sooooo much