The Bacchae

Euripides
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Quotes

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

What is wisdom? Or what fairer gift from the gods in men's eyes than to hold the hand of power over the head of one's enemies? And 'what is fair is always followed.'

This dense refrain from the third ode is an attempt by the chorus to find a moral reason to justify revenge. Its last segment is a proverb from Plato, which seems to mean that one pursues what is to one's advantage, which is what one finds beautiful or "fair." If there is no "fairer gift from the gods in men's eyes" than defeating one's enemies, then subduing one's enemies is a gift from god. The chorus twists the meaning of the word fair, using it to mean 'fine' in one place and 'advantageous' in another. Another reason this refrain is important is because it goes against what the chorus has been preaching so far. In the first ode, wisdom meant obeying the gods and the laws and living moderately. In the present circumstances, the chorus finds a special argument to deal with Pentheus and their desire to see him punished. Therefore, when they try to define wisdom here, they say that as complications arise and dilemma follows dilemma, why look further than one's personal advantage at present? This advantage lies in destroying their persecutor, an act which has been sanctioned conveniently by the gods. Wisdom, therefore, now demands the punishment of Pentheus.