Article thumbnail

Maenadism as Self–Referential Chorality in Euripides’ Bacchae

By Anton Bierl


Focusing on choreia and performance, the author provides a detailed analysis of the parodos of Euripides’ Bacchae. The Bacchae as a whole is characterized by an opposition between inner and outer space, between the actual stage and what is left offstage. Only the chorus as a mediator and shifter can cross these boundaries. The ritual power of the Dionysian cult can be experienced in the performance of the devotees, and in the theater of Dionysos, all of this cultic activity is identical with choral dancing. The entrance song which makes the god manifest by means of choreia breaks the former resistance to the god. The retained energy is released in an all the more violent manner as a consequence. Dramatically, the initial parodos functions as an interface for the further course of the play where the arrival in the city of Thebes simultaneously represents the transition to the brutal events on mount Kithairon. Thus, the chorus of the Asian bacchants as a theatrically and aesthetically confusing ensemble becomes the message in the rhythmical and ritual performance. By means of this chorus, particularly through the initial procession, the arrival of the “coming god” can be experienced in various media. Most of all, through choral projection, the movement toward the inside simultaneously becomes one toward the outside. The dimensions of time and space, as well as other oppositions, blur in a ritual flux in the songs. Past, present, future and the actual time of performance are fused, and the time of myth is reenacted in the ritual of drama. Multiple loops create a sensation of unity and communitas in a scenario of ‘anti-structure’. In a paradoxical way the oppositions between barbarians and Greeks, Thebes and Athens, nature and culture, animal, man and god, outside and inside, country and city, myth and ritual, chaos and idyll, ecstasy and happiness, brutal rites of sacrifice and blessed mysteries collapse in the acting out of choreia. In the Bacchae chorality functions as a dynamic field of force between myth and ritual. On the basis of the tension between these forms of expression, the artful and sophisticated dramatist Euripides develops his self-referential and Dionysiac theater of coinciding oppositions that Dionysos encompasses

Publisher: 'Cambridge University Press (CUP)'
Year: 2013
DOI identifier: 10.1017/CBO9781139519564.009
OAI identifier:
Provided by: edoc

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.

Suggested articles