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Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
Alan Ackerman

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 authority. 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 rational thought. 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
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