For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dionysus he is the Greek god of wine, and well I guess a good word that can cover all of the bases would be merriment. By some he is said to be the god of the seasons because according to Greek mythology Dionysus dies every winter and is born again every spring. The name Dionysus has become synonomous with drinking, music, and sexual freedom. Greek myth says that Zeus, the promiscuous king of the gods, fell in love with a mortal resident of Thebes. The woman told him that she would give herself to him under one condition, he has to do one thing for her. One day she told him that she had decided what she wanted and when Zeus asked her what her wish was she replied with an unbelievable request; she wanted to see him in his true form. He begged her to ask for anything else but she would not be persuaded. Zeus conceded and showed her his true form. The sight was so awesome that she spontaneously combusted right there; her home exploded, killing her. Upon her death it was revealed that she had concieved. Zeus took the child from her stomach and sewed it into his thigh. There the child grew into a half mortal-half god, a demigod. This is the birth of Dionysus.
Bakkhai is a play that was written by the ancient Greek playright, Euripides. The play tells the dramatic story of Dionysus' arrival in Thebes, where he proclaims his godhood. Accompanied by a group of maenads(I think that this is the correct spelling) he is met by a wall of opposition. In the beginning of the story it is both the people and the king of Thebes that reject his proclamation but the citizens soon shed their skins of skepticism and become followers of Dionysus, leaving the King alone. How does he persuade the population to accept his proclamation of godhood? In anger at the rejection that he recieves he drives the women of Thebes mad. They all leave their looms, their husbands, their children, and their homes. They all flee to the country side in an animalistic fashion, literally. They feed off of the animals of the forest and hunt like wolves, in a pack tearing the animal apart with their hands. At night the women dance around a fire. I believe that there are several other atrocities that occur in the city but I have to apologize because I can't recall what they were. Among the women that are roaming the country side is the King's own mother. The king does not concede at all throughout the play. He is left all alone when his own grandfather goes to dance around the dionysaic fires of the night with the other followers. In the end Dionysus informs the King of his mother's condition and lures him out to the country side alone. The King sees his mother traveling in the pack of mad women and then they become aware of his presence. They descend upon the king and his own mother kills him by tearing his body to pieces. This being punishment for his skepticism. His mother is completely unaware of what she is doing until he is dead. Dionysus removes the spell he placed over her so she can see what has happened.
The Bakkhai is a play that everyone should read. I would even go as far to say that it should be added to the standard list of high school reading material.