The Bacchae

Euripides
  • Study Guide
Quotes

Important Quotes Explained

Quotes Important Quotes Explained

Agaue: Father, since you see how my fortunes have utterly changed

[long passage missing from original text]

Dionysus: you shall be turned into a serpent, and your wife shall change into a savage form of a snake

This is the first of the two major lacunas in the last scene and it is impossible to tell how Agaue's utterance was completed or how long it was. In his commentary to the play, Geoffrey S. Kirk talks of an ancient summary, dated in 3 A.D., that does show what happened in these gaps, for it uses Agaue's lament as an example of arousing pity effectively. The ancient Greek author of the summary refers to Agaue as accusing herself for her child's death, holding each one of his limbs and lamenting piece by piece. In such a case, the missing chunk (of text) must have been quite long, also however the addition of just one verse would not have provided a sufficiently dramatic occasion for the entry and epiphany of Dionysus.

In our version, the god appears on top of the building at the back of the stage, a place reserved for the presentation of gods in their own person, which was usually a stern, bearded mask. And if the god appears at the very end of the play to terminate the action from this special position it is called a deus ex machina (the Latin phase meaning "god in a machine" because in some texts the god appears on a crane). This last trope is not a convenient cover for an unresolved play or an inadequate conclusion, but rather is Euripides attempt to be loyal to the underlying Greek myth upon which the play is based, that of Dionysus's power and ultimate control. Dionysus has been both the director and an actor throughout the play and therefore his appearance is particularly apt.