Protesting, Rage, and Joy

By Cody Elliott

The national reaction to the murder of George Floyd shouldn’t shock any student of theatre. In Euripides’ The Bacchae (written a long long time ago), the tyrannical king Pentheus believes he can limit the orgiastic revelries of the god Dionysus, against the advice of wizened sage Tiresias. This proves to be his undoing, as the god tricks Pentheus into putting the revelries down by force, only to be torn apart by the crowd, his head carried back into town by his own entranced mother. I bring up the play to point out a few truths that have long been acknowledged: That which is suppressed will come out, and that not all “riots” are made of rage alone.