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Julian Meynell's Books

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Eurpides' The Bacchae

The Bacchae of Euripides - Euripides

I really loved this play.  I have read three plays by Eruipides so far and this is my favorite.  It's also my second favorite Greek play of the dozen or more that I have read.  It concerns the cult of Dionysus coming to ancient Greece.  The main character in it is the God himself who is disguised as a man for most of the play.  The Chorus, who are the Bacchae of the title are fully integrated into the action.

It is as much a horror story as a drama.  The violence in it is graphically described and horrific.  The religious skeptic's fate more horrendous than anyone in the entire Oedipal saga.  The language is powerful and strong and it is better plotted than Euripides other works.

It is about the cruelty of the Gods, and their untrammeled and often unfair power.  It is also about the triumph of passion over reason.  Those are both Euripidean themes.  Its depictions of madness prefigure Lovecraft.  The whole thing is very powerful.

At its center is the character of Dionysus who is to my mind as a depiction of a divine or quasi-divine figure only exceeded by Milton's Satan.  He is a compelling character, both worthy of worship and unworthy at the same time.  He feels divine, but also recognizably has a human psychology.  It's very good, very powerful, better than Medea and actually underrated in my opinion.