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Invitation to World Literature

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Glossary

audio-iconAgave
The mother of Pentheus and aunt of Dionysus, who did not believe Dionysus was really the son of Zeus or a god himself; now, as the play begins, Agave is in thrall to Dionysus.
Asia Minor
This term is used to describe Western modern-day Turkey, the peninsula that is bounded by the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marmara, and the Mediterranean Sea.
audio-iconBacchae
(or Bacchants) The all-female followers of Bacchus/Dionysus.
audio-iconCadmus
The Father of Agave and grandfather of Pentheus and Dionysus.
Chorus
This convention of Greek theater is a group of performers who sing and dance, commenting on the action, and sometimes playing a more substantive role.
audio-iconDionysus
The god of fertility and power of nature. Dionysus causes the fruit to ripen and the sap to rise in trees; also known as Bacchus, the god of wine. Dionysus is the leader of the Bacchants, or Bacchae, his female worshippers. He has come to Thebes after establishing his cult of worship in the East.
audio-iconEuoi
The cry of ecstasy associated with bacchic celebrations.
audio-iconEuripides
One of the three great tragic playwrights of Ancient Greece, author of The Bacchae. He lived c. 480-406 BCE.
Faun-Skin
The traditional clothing of the Bacchae, both female, and on occasion, male (for instance when Cadmus and Teiresias appear in faun-skin).
audio-iconLydia
An ancient kingdom in western Asia Minor, passed through by Dionysus and his followers.
audio-iconMaenads
Yet another term for the female followers of Bacchus; in this play, the crazed Theban women have been made mad by the god.
Messengers
In Greek theater, messengers were a conventional way to relate action that was key to the play but was not portrayed on stage. Messengers arrive and deliver vivid, and often somewhat formal, speeches.
audio-iconMount Cithaeron
A mountain near Thebes where the rites of Dionysus take place.
Ode
A poetic form that organizes sections of a play. Greek dramatists used choral odes in plays, with standard elements such as prelude, strophe, and antistrophe.
audio-iconPentheus
The young king of Thebes, (and cousin of Dionysus) who does not recognize Dionysus' godhood.
audio-iconSemele
Agave's sister, and Dionysus' mortal mother, who is burned to death by Zeus when she demands that he appear in his full godhood. The unborn Dionysus is saved and sewn into the thigh of Zeus. It is Dionysus' anger over his aunt's and Pentheus' failure to acknowledge that he is Semele's child by Zeus, and therefore a god, that triggers the action of the play. Semele's grave appears in the play.
Sparagmos
The Dionysian ritual in which a living animal would be sacrificed and dismembered.
Stasimon
A choral song performed from a stationary part of the theater, such as the orchestra.
Stichomythia
A conversation between characters that proceeds in single sentences. Stichomythia is an aspect of a play that contrasts with longer narrative speeches, such as those from messengers or odes from the chorus.
Thebes
The Greek city in which the action of The Bacchae, and many other classic Greek dramas, takes place.
Thyrsus
(or Thyrsos) A staff of fennel. Like the fawn-skin, a typical attribute of the Bacchae, used in worship as well as to create magic events.
audio-iconZeus
The chief Greek god, father of Dionysus.