Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Comparison of Euripides’ Bacchae and Sophocles’ Antigone

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In Euripides’ Bacchae and Sophocles’ Antigone, piety is a major theme consistent among the play. Piety among the Ancient Greeks was concerned with proper human behavior towards the Gods. It was more about knowing your place, which is not greater than the Gods, and showing respect towards them. In both the Bacchae and Antigone, the main characters, Pentheus & Dionysus and Creon & Antigone respectively, are placed at odds with one another. In this battle of characters in both plays, one is more devout to the State while the other is more pious to the Gods. In this same sense, both plays are consistent with their conceptions of how humans are supposed to act toward the divine, and the subsequent penalties that result from this defiance of the Gods.





The pious characters in the Bacchae and Antigone, were Dionysus and Antigone respectively. Dionysus himself was a God, born of Semele and Zeus. At his inception, he was denied as a God from his mother’s sisters, and this denial of Dionysus as a legitimate God continued into his cousin Pentheus’ rule of Thebes. This of course angered Dionysus, for this proved a lack of respect to the God. Dionysus set out to prove his status as a God, and punish those who did not believe in him.


Antigone was born of a family with a doomed fate. Her father was Oepipus, who was exiled from Thebes for killing his father and marrying his mother. Her two brothers both died slaying one another. The new King Creon, decided to bury one son with all the funeral rites and not the other. Antigone saw this as an injustice to her brother, and despite serious consequences of the King decided to bury her brother anyway. She saw virtue in being obedient to the Gods, and funeral rites were an important part of this.


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Though coming from different circumstance, both Dionysus and Antigone were both honoring or attempting to honor the Gods by being pious toward them. Although Antigone didn’t intentionally set out to punish Creon, the way Dionysus attempted to punish Pentheus, both characters did provide the means to enact a punishment on both Pentheus and Creon for not being devout to the Gods.





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