Beyond the very critical problem of the lack of knowledge about Greek in the general public, there lies a host of other issues: the fact that no performance manuals or stage instructions exist from the classical period, the loss of the music and choreography that accompanied the plays, and the general darkness that enshrouds our understanding of the stage and scenery all compound the fact that most audiences are either overexposed to and bored with the subjects (witness Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”) or totally unfamiliar with them (witness Euripides’ “Iphigenia”). Hagen ’15 and running through Saturday, such problems are largely minimized.
In short, Hagen shows a masterful control over the physical aspects of the play.
This fact is marred by the clumsy decision to alter the content of the play itself, namely by changing Dionysus’ sex from male to female.
Moreover, many of his aunts and female relatives refuse completely to accept his divinity, so he drives them ‘like cattle from their houses, maddened on the mountain-side, hallucinating and delirious’.
Meanwhile King Pentheus threatens to persecute Dionysus’ followers, forcing the god to take grim revenge.
David Greig’s generally elegant and faithful translation strikes a good balance between poetic expression and intelligibility.
The minimalistic, Beckett-esque staging by set designer Larkin P. Mc Cann ’15, supported by excellent lighting decisions on the part of light designers Anna G. Walti ’14, brings focus to the action and avoids all the thorny problems associated with complex scenery: a lone tree, four chairs, and a cluster of candles are the only representation given of the environs of Thebes.
He causes Pentheus to be torn apart by his own mother Agavë and his aunts in the hallucinatory belief that he is a wild animal; when Agavë realizes what she has done, she is horrified, but the implacable Dionysus drives both her and Cadmus into exile, effectively destroying the royal house of Thebes.
Using this basic storyline – a storyline, which (as Alan Sommerstein shows in this collection) drew heavily on earlier plays – Euripides wove a richly complex tragedy, pulsating with questions which are as alive today as they were in the late fifth century bc.
is one of the most troubling yet intriguing of Greek tragedies.
Written during Euripides’ self-imposed exile in Macedonia, it tells of the brutal murder and dismemberment of Pentheus by his mother and aunts who, driven temporarily insane, have joined the Bacchae (devotees of the god Dionysus, or Bacchus).