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Cadmus: [B]ut your reprisals are too severe!
Dionysus: Yes, because I am a god, and you insulted me.
Cadmus: Gods should not resemble men in their anger!
Dionysus: Long ago Zeus my father approved these things.
In the last scene of the play, old Cadmus is filled with grief at the death of his grandson, and he sums up the recent events and tries to make sense of them. Like Agaue he realizes that Pentheus was wrong in insulting and apposing Dionysus, but he also thinks that the god was too harsh. Cadmus repeats this last heart-felt sentiment twice in the last scene and is the only character in the play to directly reproach Dionysus. The structure of the last scene, the length of the lament and the intensity of the pity we feel for Agaue are such that Euripides himself seems to weigh onto Cadmus's side, even though the playwright's portrayal of Pentheus has been unfavorable throughout. Dionysus's answer to Cadmus's objection implies that no punishment can be too great for insulting a god. The chorus supports this sentiment, insisting throughout the play that the punishment for impiety must be death. However, Cadmus correctly recognizes that the god was not just punishing impiety but taking revenge for his wounded pride, a motive one would hope gods could overcome.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Bacchae!