On October 14, Dr. Sarah Nooter and Dr. Clifford Ando held a conversation about the afterlife of The Bacchae in the form of adaptation. The scholars focused in on two key adaptations to delve into a deeper discussion of the thematic issues in all three texts. Read on for 5 takeaways from our second session in our Theatre & Thought BACCHAE Series, “Identity, History, and Change.”
- It has a relationship with the Gospel of John.
The Gospel of John and The Bacchae don’t have a direct line of influence, but they are both texts about gods arriving in a community. They narrate the stories in similar ways, thematizing similar issues like the problems of arrival and recognition. They both have a prologue where the audience knows the truth, the believers state their devotion, there is conflict between believers and nonbelievers. In both, ethical challenges are posed to the community.
2. Jesus and Dionysus Comparison
Many people throughout the years have made parallels between these figures as neither is recognized by his own people at first.
3. It also influenced Wole Soyinka’s 1973 The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite.
This Bacchae was first performed in London. It is about convergence of traditions. However, the adaptation holds many differences. In it, there are two Choruses, comparisons between Dionysus and the Yoruba god Ogun, and the recognition of slaves as sacrifices by the cruel Pentheus to the gods. The slave Chorus is alongside Euripides’ Chorus; they eventually work together while maintaining their separate identities.
4. Soyinka uses a scene from the Gospel of John.
Water being turned into wine, as wine is a central symbol in Soyinka’s version. The ending of this adaptation is one of peace and tranquility after the cruel leader Pentheus is vanquished, a sign of positivity for the community rather than punishment as in Euripides’ text.
5. New life and new meaning can be given to scholarly traditions.
Adaptation is an act of reinterpretation and rejuvenating old texts to make sure their relevance continues on in modern culture. There are numerous other adaptations of The Bacchae, like Charles Mee’s, that bring out different levels of meanings as well. To view one interpretative performance, tune into our virtual reading!