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The Baccahe Essay

2282 words - 9 pages

The title of Wole Soyinka's play, The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite , clearly indicates that this play is associated with the original Bacchae written by Euripides over 2000 years ago and its subtitle suggests the possibility of a theme relating to the Christian ritual of Eucharist, symbolising Christ's sacrificial death. In The Bacchae Dionysus requires Pentheus's death to appease his anger in order to bestow his blessings of wine, fertility and life upon his followers. It is the influence of Soyinka's African political and religious background that interweaves the original play by Euripides into his personal fight against the violation of human rights and political suppression, which occurred in Nigeria during the sixties and seventies . He also uses his ancestral religion by incorporating some of the qualities of the African god Ogun, into the qualities of Dionysus. Undoubtedly, Soyinka has retained the basic structure and plot of Euripides' Bacchae but he has also created a script that is unique in its own right. When comparing the differences and similarities between these two plays, it is important to consider the type of theatre spaces that exist in Greek and modern theatre, the contrast of conventions that dictate actor and audience participation, the relevant religious and social conditions that influenced the authors and, most importantly, the theatrical and dramatic elements that each playwright has utilised.The Bacchae is consistent with the Ancient Greek classical style of prologue, parados, five episodes/ stasimon and exodus. Its linear storyline is mirrored in the Communion Rite. Although, it is evident that Soyinka has made significant changes to the original text, which is seen by the addition of the early scene between Dionysus and Tiresias, the omission of the chorus's parados, the addition of the bridal dream scene and the final communal celebratory Maypole scene, rather than the tragic exile of Agave. It is interesting to note that the heightened language in The Bacchae remains constant throughout the play and does not alter for characterization. In contrast, the Communion Rite uses a variety of language, ranging from Dionysus' poetic prologue; Tiresias' colloquial tirade at his floggers 'Blind, stupid, bloody, brutes!……Can't you bastards ever tell the difference between ritual and reality.'; Kadmos's contemporary slang in using the words 'Trad or trendy' and the formal language of Pentheus in his first speech. This variety in speech styles creates greater definition of each character and their roles, which is far more appealing to western audiences.The plot in Communion Rite remains virtually unchanged from The Bacchae. Froma Zeitlin succinctly identifies the main dramatic element of The Bacchae as being the 'antagonism between two males', (Dionysus and Pentheus). This antagonism continues to be the central element of Communion Rite. Another dramatic element common to both plays is the gender conflict...

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