The Bacchae in "Death in Venice" Book Review by Nicky

The Bacchae in "Death in Venice"
A review of Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" and how it was influenced by Euripides' "The Bacchae."
# 128595 | 1,841 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2010 | US
Published on Jul 28, 2010 in Literature (Greek and Roman) , Literature (German)

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This paper offers a comparative, analytical review of Thomas Mann's 1912 "Death in Venice." The paper asserts that Mann's work reflects many plot and characterization influences that are not present in the works of other writers at the time, and that early Greek writers were largely responsible for these influences - particular the playwright Euripides and his most famous Greek tragedy, "The Bacchae." The paper explains that the play was not performed in public until after Euripides' death. By examining the underlying themes of both works, the paper uncovers common elements; for example, the protagonist of both stories eventually degenerates into oblivion because he fails to acknowledge the element represented by Dionysus in their lives. The paper concludes that Thomas Mann continually uses imagery that conjures up the ancient Greek tales and that of Dionysus, with the intent of providing contrast to the conservative world of the German character.

From the Paper:

"Like Dionysus, the King is unable to control the downward spiral that rips Thebes after the return of Dionysus. The frenzied worshippers represent an uncontrollable element in the story that affects the protagonist and antagonist of the story in a negative manner. The frenzied worshipers were originally created by Dionysus, but in the end, they become the path to destruction for both cultures. This fear of cultural destruction of German society by the introduction of new ideas is symbolized by the use of imagery from Dionysus in Death in Venice. The boy in Death in Venice resembles the frenzied dancers in the Bacchae. Like the boy, at first they are harmless, and a source of fascination. Soon they work their way into the heart of the city, eventually leading to a downward spiral. There are many parallels to this pattern and the destructive sequence that leads to the final demise of Aschenbach."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Grene, D. and Lattimore, R. Euripides V: Electra, The Phoenician Women, The Bacchae. New York, Washington Square Press. 1972.
  • Mann, T. Death in Venice. Trans. Martin Doege. From German 1912 edition. Accessed November 11, 2008.

Cite this Book Review:

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