Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Invitation to World Literature

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Semele, mother of Dionysus, demands Zeus appear in his full godhood, resulting in her death; here she is depicted in a 16th century engraving.
Copyright Hope Greenberg, University of Vermont. Used by permission.
David Damrosch talks about this image
Dionysus (or Bacchus) has been a frequent theme for artists from the ancient Greek era to the present. This illustration from an early myth (in which Dionysus transforms men into dolphins) shows the god surrounded by his symbols, ivy and grapes. It is from a 6th century Greek kylix (or cylix), a shallow drinking cup with two handles.
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
The chorus is an integral part of Greek drama. Performing, like the other actors, in masks, the chorus comments on the action and sometimes reflects the author's concerns explicitly, posing the questions at the heart of the play. The chorus moves and speaks in rhythm.
Heath Scarbrough
David Damrosch talks about this image
This is a cast of a mask of the type used in Greek drama. This mask would have been used for the role of elders across many plays. In The Bacchae, the mask would have been worn by Tiresias or Cadmus. The masks were designed to portray serious and comic elements and also amplified the actor's voice, enabling it to reach the vast audience.
Image ©frog-traveller, 2010. Used under license from Shutterstock.com
In Greek religion, Bacchus/Dionysus is a god of nature who ripens the fruit of the vine and presides over winemaking. This aspect of his character--rather than his destructive power--has often been emphasized, as it is in this Roman statue, with faun skin, thyrsus, and the god's locks crowned by ivy.
© 2010 JupiterImages Corporation
This 19th century painting depicts Mount Ossa and Mount Olympus, home of the gods.
This relief of a bacchanal shows a satyr and maenad dancing. The ecstatic maenad, with hair down and flowing robes, holds a thyrsus, a staff of fennel. This captures the spirit of the sacred rituals that take place on Mt. Cithaeron in the play.
A 19th century image of the feast of Bacchus, again emphasizing his gentle and wine-loving aspect.
This drawing presents the horrifying climax to the play, the maenads ripping apart Pentheus' body because he had dared to watch their sacred rituals on Mt. Cithaeron.
Dorling Kindersley/PunchStock