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Euripides' Bacchants

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University of Toronto St. George
Victoria Wohl

CLA232 Men, Gods, Beasts Monday January 24 2011 th Euripides Bacchants Thus far, weve seen how the Greeks define themselves against the gods Defined humans as mortals In Theogony, although humans were not created, they were defined by their limitations (need food to survive, work hard to sustain fire, by woman (reproduction) the fact that we have to reproduce ourselves to survive as a species) In Oedipus the King, again humans are defined by their mortality Know thyself, we have to know ourselves and yet, how can we know ourselves? (Oedipus asks himself this question) Suggests that for humans, it may in fact be impossible to know ourselves, and if we did that knowledge may destroy us Repeatedly throughout the play, we see that he cannot know himself, and that the search ultimately destroys him Irony that anytime Oedipus tries to control his destiny they end up fulfilling it In the course of fulfilling it, Oedipus comes to destroy himself Even if we can attain knowledge about ourselves, we a) cant do anything about it b) the knowledge will destroy us The play asks us to think about what it would mean if he could escape his destiny It would mean that the gods have no control (theyd told him what his destiny was, and if he doesnt do it, it means that either the gods are not in control or that the gods arent communicating with us through the oracles at Delphi) If we cant trust the prophets, we have no means of overcoming the limitations of our knowledge, no access to the divine will and what they have in store for us Therefore, humans might as well not know anything So, if Oedipus escapes his fate and the oracles are false, it means either the oracles and prophets arent real or the gods are not in complete control profound religious crisis If the oracles arent true, religion crumbles ( no reason to worship the gods)
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