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The journey of Dionysus to Hades

In all the serious epics, the hero undertakes a journey to the underworld to bring back a friend, a relation, or a poet. On the way he encounters numerous hazards before reaching his destination. In The Odyssey, the protagonist Odysseus is given a bag of wind by the underworld deities. In Virgil's Aeneid, the journey is undertaken by the hero Aeneas who carries a golden bough for his protection. Aristophanes parodied this epic convention in The Frogs. Where he makes the god Dionysus go on a journey to the kingdom of Pluto to bring back to Athens one of her great tragic poets, preferably Euripides though finally, he settles on Aeschylus.

Dionysus, the patron god of poetry and drama, feels miserably down-heartened because of all three great tragic playwrights of Athens being dead by now - Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. In the mean time, some new poets have taken over their places by contesting for prizes like their predecessors at Dionysid. However, Dionysus is dissatisfied with their substandard performances and poor dramatic skills. This also makes him greatly worried about the future of Athenian theatre. For this reason, he decides to go to Hades to bring back Euripides to earth. Heracles was the only living being who had been to Hades. So, Dionysus wishes to take his help. He goes to Heracles with his slave Xanthias. Heracles warmly greets him and suggests how he should negotiate the journey to Hades.  Heracles provides Dionysus with necessary information about the passage to Hell and its general condition. Dressed in the lion-skin uniform of Heracles, Dionysus takes his arduous journey to Hades accompanied by his slave Xanthias. As the god and his slave cross the Stys in Charon's boat, they hear the Chorus of the frogs singing lyrics of the rain and marshes, welcoming them with their protracted croaking:

 Brekeke-kex, ko-ax,ko-ax ko-ax,ko-ax,ko-ax!"
After a series of adventures, Dionysus and xanthias arrive at Pluto's dwelling. Approching Pluto's palace in fear, he knocks at the gate. Aeacus, a judge of the dead, accuses Dionysus of pretending to be Heracles and funny scenes follow when the tosrified god aske his slave Xanthias to change clothing with him. When Dionysus finally reveals that he is a god, a son of Zeus, Aeacus refuses to believe him. They all go out, Aeacus determined to end the confusion and find out the truth, and finally he comes to know who the real Dionysus is. Soon after this incident, Aeacus and Xanthias hear off-stage shouts and sounds of quarrelling. We learn that the two dead dramatists, Aeschylus and Euripides, are arguing over the right to eat at the table of Pluto. It is thus that Aristophanes introduces the famous contest scene between Aeschylus and Euripides in the play. Aeschylus and Euripides engage themselves in a heated debate about the relative merits of their plays. Sophocles is also present there. But he has the least intention to come back to earth. Dionysus must choose between Aeschylus and Euripides Both of the playwrights present strong arguments in their favour. The two tragedians compare their talents in almost every department of dramatic art. Dionysus, as the judge, finds it very difficult to choose one between the two. The contest is extremely close and Dionysus cannot reach a decision. To resolve the dispute, Aeschylus verses are weighed against Euripides' in a large cheese-scale. Aeschylus wins three rounds of competitions to the great dismay of Euripides. in the mean time, Dionysus forgets that he came to Hades to take Euripides back to earth with him .With Dionysus being confused about his verdict, Pluto insists on his making choice about the playwright whom he would take back to earth with him. Dionysus then decides to take decision in the favour of that dramatist who will give the best advice on public policy, the dramatist who can help save Athens from destruction in the Peloponnesian war. Aeschylus sound counsel makes him the winner in the contest and Dionysus decides to take him back to earth with him. Here comes Dionysus journey to the underworld to an end. Dionysus' journey to the underworld is very significant in terms of the end result that it brings forth. Dionysus originally came to Hades to take Euripides back to earth. But at the end we see Dionysus changing his mind in favour of Aeschylus. Dionysus could have easily been rigid about his original intention, but he was not. It signifies the fact that Dionysus has been very liberal in finding the dramatist whom Athens needs at this moment while there is a great dearth of capable dramatists who can help save the theatre of Athens and contribute to the political stability of Athens with their dramatic performances. Aeschylus, for Dionysus, is also a dramatist of that kind who can come up with effective counsel on the political and social crises of Athens. Dionysus ultimately gives significance to the fact of merit and the journey of Dionysus to Hades.

Dionysus ultimately gives significance to the fact of merit and ability that should be given importance over cheap popularity. This journey of Dionysus to Hades, in another sense is the journey to find out the right person who can help in making right choices at a time when Athens is going through political and cultural turmoil.


Unknown said...

Thanks for giving ans

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