Oct 15 th
Lysistrata (Sandwiched between two gay fish)
Dionysus is from Thebes but he comes back as a stranger, such a paradox. He is male/female,
disruptive and breaks down structure. He challenges hierarchies and rules about the masculine world.
His identification of feminine powers gives his plays elements and powers to the theatre. Feminizes men
and is shown through the masculine eye of females. Women are central to these plays. Women act as
hidden anti- models and hidden models of a masculine self. Pentheus makes the first discovery of his
bodily self once he starts to dress as a woman. It’s a meta-play (theatre about theatre). Dionysus
breaches the physical integrity of Pentheus and prepares him for the terrible sequel. His body becomes
the temple of their hands. It’s about the body- that can be breached, and violated. The play depicts
women as they undo the body- literally! Initially Pentheus was opposed to anything feminine, and here,
the masculine self is literally fragmented. The woman is represented as a subversive threat to male
Men imagine they can control their interior space. It’s a cautionary tale- to think that you can
control even your interior space. Pentheus is demanding mastery over the house, and this collapses
when Dionysus sends an earthquake to shake it to its foundations. Pentheus erects barriers around
himself, around his psyche, against the invasion of Dionysus. Even as he struggles to maintain the
integrity of his house, tragedy continually calls into questions what we know, how we think, how we
think we know it. Pentheus thinks he knows what’s going on, but we find those limits. Tragedy confronts
How are Dionysis and Pentheus alike? They’re protagonists for the sake of the play, but the
contrasts run deep. Both young men, look similar, cousins, related, sharing a family likeness. Each is
deeply jealous for their personal honor, ruthless and intolerant against opposition to his will. Ultimately
Dionysus is going to possess and humiliate Pentheus. What is promoting this revenge?
The clash between order and chaos is a central theme. Pentheus wants to rule out the norms,
and suddenly women are wandering the streets and shirking their duties. Requires order, but must
make space for the irrational. Make space for the life of the body and emotions. Rational vs irrational.
Dionysus is no more irrational than an earthquake, almost an act of nature. He is a force of
nature, indifferent about his determination for destruction.
The first entry and the final exit frame and in some way, sum up the tragedy. The tragedy is
around the royal house of Thebes. Although Pentheus is punished at the end of the play, for those who
survived, now have a burden than somehow seems worse than life by death. A less dramatic entry, the
entrance of the messenger who comes with news of the crazy people, is announced by Dionysus
himself. Dionysus alludes that he has stage-managed the whole thing, almost as if directing the entrance
of the messenger. The final exit is a classic device –deus ex machina. At the end of The Bacchae, there is a deus ex machina, which Aristotle hates. It shows that
something does not fit in the play. It is when the ‘god out of the machine’ comes down to tie the bow
and make everything right. Dionysus commands that he be seen. Aristotle thinks it’s improper to resolve
the play with unexpected events that the crowd is not prepared to deal with. It is a play that challenges
age, sex, challenges slave and master. Unfortunately, human beings need boundaries. Drama itself is
constrained by boundaries, the edge of a stage, how long it should be, etc.
Dionysus’ nature is ambivalent, but very dangerous. It makes men lose control, even to the
point of violenc