This play begins with the impregnation of Semele, princess of Thebes, by Zeus. She boasts excessively about this act and results in the angering of her sisters and Hera, Zeus' wife. Hera, against Zeus' will, strikes Semele with a lightning bolt during her delivery "killing her. Dionysus, Zeus' son, is swept away and held in secret, all the while growing to become a powerful deity. .
Dionysus develops a religion based upon passion and ecstasy and travels all over Asia teaching his rites to men, forming the Asian Bacchae. Dionysus corrupts the women of Thebes and basically turns them into savages. The King of Thebes, Pentheus, denounces this new religion and plans to overtake this leader of the Bacchae. He captures the leader, but is deceived, and is persuaded to come take a closer look at this religion on the foothills of Thebe where the women congregate. He is dressed as a woman to disguise himself but is revealed by Dionysus and is savagely killed by the women including his mother Agave. .
The play ends with the exile of Cadmus, Dionysus' grandfather, and Agave along with her sisters. Dionysus takes power.
This play was rather exciting. It blended violence, trickery, and deceit and ultimately ended with the total demise of a city. The characters were well-balanced and unique in their own ways adding an extra bonus to the play for me. This is one of the better Greek plays I have read to date.