Uncertainty of the Dionysian Tradition: Euripides’ Bacchae
Dionysos exists in a realm of contradictions and fluidity between binaries. Though a god, he appears in the bestial forms of a snake, bull, and lion, in addition to that of a human. Dionysos is a male god, yet has long, blonde, perfumed hair and red cheeks (273). He has the force and energy of a young man, yet the tenderness and charm of a female (416). He is Greek, but hails from barbarian Asia (18). An eternal youth, Dionysos lives between adulthood and childhood. While Dionysos exists comfortably between binaries, Pentheus’ movement from one opposite to another is disastrous. Throughout Euripides’ Bacchae, the antagonist, king Pentheus, undergoes a gentle transition from the binaries held in the beginning of the play to their opposites by the time of his death. This transition reaches completion in the fifth choral ode by the Lydian maenads (lines 1113-1159), which immediately precedes Pentheus’ murder by his own mother, Agaue. Each of Pentheus’ transitions prior to death – from adult to child, human to animal, hunter to hunted, and man to woman – affect the way viewers judge Pentheus’ murder at the hands of his mother, suspending viewers in their own sort of binary between outrage at and acceptance of this filicide. Euripides’ illumination of the potential dangers of Dionysos hinges on Agaue’s unsettling filicide, allowing Euripides to leave his viewers in a realm of uncertainty regarding the benevolence of the newly arrived god and the role that the Dionysian religion will play in Greek culture. Pentheus is characterized as increasingly youthful throughout the play in order to emphasize the power differential between him and his mother, which leads viewers to feel outrage at his murder and to fear the Dionysian cult.
The first characterization of Pentheus as a youth occurs early in the Bacchae (321) and as Pentheus continues to spurn Dionysos’ divinity, Pentheus’ transition to childhood progresses further. A 44-line stichomythia between Pentheus and Dionysos follows later in the play, where Pentheus’ childishness is highlighted through his acquiescence to Dionysos and praise of the god’s suggestions (919-963), which characterizes Pentheus as slightly naïve and worthy of sympathy. This increased sympathy of viewers for Pentheus and underlining of Pentheus’ young age makes the power differential between he and Agaue blatantly clear, and adds to the horrific nature of the filicide to follow. In the fifth choral ode by the Lydian maenads, which portends Pentheus’ death, Dionysos claims that he brings “…this youth / To the great contest.” Dionysos finalizes Pentheus’ figurative transition to childhood by referring to him, unequivocally, as a ‘youth.’ The use of the word ‘contest’ also seems odd given the scenario, but alludes to an underlying ephebic tradition in Greek culture, where adolescents would successfully complete a hunt. This contest is a “…task of the ephebe (youth between eighteen and twenty) before achieving full warrior status” (Notes 1044-1105). Viewers of this play surely would have been familiar with this ephebic ritual and could sympathize with Pentheus for his failure of this crucial test of manhood – due to his murder by Agaue – which viewers understand to be the result of Dionysos’ control over her.
Likewise, Dionysos’ enforcing of the power differential between Pentheus and Agaue due to Pentheus’ youthful characterization adds to viewer outrage at Agaue’s filicide. Through Euripides’ manipulation of viewer sympathy for Pentheus and viewer outrage as his death, Euripides highlights to his viewers the dangerous breakdown of familial ties that may result from the Dionysian religion. On the other hand, Pentheus’ transition from human characterization to animal characterization leaves viewers in an uncertain middle ground of support and fear of the Dionysian religion. The animal-based lineages proposed by the maenadic chorus in the fifth ode obscure the relationship between Pentheus and Agaue, yet draw new lineal connections between Pentheus and Dionysos. This obscurity leads viewers to consider Agaue’s filicide of Pentheus less horrific, yet the new lineal connections have the opposite effect, placing viewers in an uncertain middle ground between acceptance and outrage. Prior to the fifth ode, the only significant mentioning of Pentheus’ descent was given by the maenadic chorus in the third ode: “He is descended from / A dragon, fathered by earth- / Born Ekhion as a monster” (632-634). Thus, Pentheus is attributed to serpentine descent, just like Dionysos (Notes 630-638), who was born with the horns of a bull and a crown of snakes (128). The maenadic chorus then claims in the fifth ode that Pentheus was born “…from a lioness, /Or he’s descended from the Libyan Gorgons” (1126-1127). ‘Gorgons’ refer to the three sisters, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, who had snakes for hair, yet have no connection with Ekhion. Therefore, the fifth ode’s claim to Pentheus’ Gorgon lineage is different from the third ode’s Ekhion lineage, which is an odd contradiction of a previous lineage story, which already served to contradict Pentheus’ lineal connection to his mother, Agaue.
The fifth ode’s mention of descent from a lioness is odd, as well, given that this is the first time such a descent is introduced for Pentheus and this unsupported claim is complicated shortly after when the chorus then appeals for Dionysos to “Appear as a bull! As a snake / With many heads, for us to see you! / As a lion with a mane of fire” (1153-1155). The connection between Pentheus’ and Dionysos’ serpentine lineages was pre-existing to the fifth ode, but the lion connection is proposed for the first time in this passage. Given that Dionysos often appears in the form of a lion, it is appropriate to question whether they hail from the same ‘lioness.’ Thus, the obscurities of Pentheus’ descent due to animal connections begin to pile on top of each other, dehumanizing Pentheus, and blurring the relationship between him and his mother. This makes his death at the hands of Agaue more palatable to viewers of the tragedy, as Agaue’s filicide is less pronounced. Although, the implication that Dionysos could share a common lion lineage with Pentheus – and, thus, be of the same blood – places Dionysos in Agaue’s role, refocusing the viewer on the reality of the filicide to follow. Therefore, Euripides suspends viewers between outrage at and acceptance of Agaue’ filicide through his inclusion of the choral ode’s discussion of animal lineage.
The animal that remains to be addressed is the bull. The chorus does not explicitly refer to Pentheus as a bull in the fifth ode because Pentheus metaphorically serves a bull-victim role in a seldom seen Dionysian sacrificial ceremony; Pentheus’ posthumous connection to the bull serves to demonstrate his movement from hunted to hunter, creating additional viewer sympathy for Pentheus due to the helpless victim role to which he is assigned by Euripides. While Pentheus intended to “…hunt down…” (266) Dionysos’ maenads and is still characterized as the “…hunter of Bakkhai” (1157) in the fifth ode, the maenadic chorus claims that Pentheus “…falls now under the trampling herd/ Of the maenads” (1158-1159). Clearly, the hunter to hunted binary transition has reached completion and this ironic circumstance evokes some form of sympathy for Pentheus. His role is not just one of a hunted human being, but rather a sacrificed beast. In the final scene of the play, as Agaue holds the murdered body of Pentheus in her arms, she unknowingly claims that she killed a “…young bull-calf” (1340). According to the Introduction by Charles Segal, the bull was the traditional sacrificial animal of the City Dionysia in Athens and, thus, Euripides posthumously offers an implicit explanation of his death as one of sacrifice to the god Dionysos. In this scenario, Agaue sacrificed Pentheus to Dionysos and his helpless role as a sacrificial victim serves to draw viewer sympathy and create outrage at his murder by Agaue. Although, from a viewer’s perspective, both Pentheus’ and Agaue’s ends are quite tragic; both were seduced to madness by Dionysos and placed into a metaphorical sacrificial ceremony, leaving Pentheus dead and Agaue wishing she were dead.
This horrific end demonstrates that not only those who refuse to worship Dionysos (Pentheus), but even those who do (Agaue), will experience the dissolution of familial ties due to the Dionysian religion. Pentheus’ change in appearance from man to woman, and the pseudo-maenad role in which this places him, illuminates the inevitable success of the Dionysian religion. Pentheus’ unavoidable madness is first foreshadowed by Dionysos when he claims that if Pentheus “…drives / His chariot off the road of sanity…” (971-972), he will wear women’s clothes. After carefully manipulating Pentheus into donning women’s clothes (940), Dionysos refers to Pentheus as the “…man who mimics woman / The madman…” (1116-1117). As a woman in appearance, and having been deemed ‘mad’ by Dionysos, Pentheus has figuratively completed his transition to maenadic (literally ‘mad woman’) status. As a pseudo-maenad, Pentheus does precisely what maenads do: he leaves the city and travels to the forest, placing him in reach of his mother and leading to his sacrificial filicide. While Dionysos’ seducing of his followers to madness is unsettling enough for viewers, the inevitability of this transition for anyone who does not follow Dionysos (i.e. Pentheus) leads viewers of the Bacchae to fear the overwhelming power of the new god. More so, it is Dionysos’ imposed madness on Pentheus and Agaue that leads to the horrific filicide to follow, causing viewers to fear what they may consider to be the inevitable consequences of Dionysos’ presence in Greece.
While many Athenian viewers of Euripides’ Bacchae may have found the ambiguous nature of Dionysos – who exists comfortably between strict binaries – quite unsettling in itself, the most horrifying part for many viewers would likely be Agaue’s filicide of Pentheus. Pentheus’ movement from each binary to its opposite serves either to enforce feelings of outrage at or acceptance of this heinous filicide. While most viewers would certainly feel immediate outrage at Agaue’s filicide, those who found themselves persuaded in the opposite direction – perhaps due to the maenads dehumanizing Pentheus obscuring his lineal ties to his mother – may realize the absurdity of their acceptance of a mother murdering her son. Euripides composed his Bacchae in such a way that any Athenian viewer, regardless of their relationship to the Dionysian tradition, would feel some form of discomfort with the events of the tragedy. Euripides presents viewers with a sophisticated portrait of the dangers that the Dionysian religion posed to Athenian culture, communicated primarily through Agaue’s appalling act of filicide. Euripides makes it overwhelmingly clear that Dionysos’ fluidity overwhelms Pentheus’ rigidity and that his Athenian viewers should expect the same phenomenon to occur in their society.
Roughly halfway through Euripides’ The Bacchae, a messenger describes to Thebes’ bewildered king his encounter with the women who have left the city to practice their religious rites in the forest. His account cogently presents the basic opposition between nature and civilization that is inherent in the work by formalizing the interconnections between these crazed women, the god Dionysus, and nature. Though Agave later becomes Dionysus’ victim, this scene takes place in a separate context where she parallels his role in relation to Thebes. Foreshadowing the city’s eventual fate at the hands of the angry god, it encapsulates the play as a whole.Within this passage the women shift dramatically in character from languorous, peaceful creatures in harmony with their environment to frenzied bringers of destruction. Their metamorphosis mirrors the dual nature of Dionysus himself, the god who is “most terrible, and yet most gentle, to mankind (861).” Before they detect the threatening presence of men, the women drowse in the wilderness, adorn themselves with “writhing snakes” and leaves, and suckle untamed beasts. They seem to know the secrets of nature, enjoying its benevolence by only tapping their wands or scratching the soil. When they begin their religious rites, the forest takes part; “all the mountain seem[s] wild with divinity (726-7).” Their behavior changes radically when the women find the spying shepherds. They immediately become warriors on the offensive, causing the men to flee in terror, capitulating as fully as Pentheus did in the face of Dionysus’ overwhelming power. Dismembering cattle (domesticated, not wild, animals), burning and pillaging houses, and battling villagers, the women are brought to the extremes of violence as they punish all that conflicts, even symbolically, with their new religion. The wands that spouted honey moments before now inflict bloody wounds on the defenders of the village. Nature itself is the ultimate model for these sudden and comprehensive shifts in character. Like Demeter, who brings harvest or famine according to her whim, Dionysus’ initiates swing from nurturers to killers.Whether the women are behaving peacefully or violently, there is a quality of unrestraint associated with them throughout this scene. In the forest, water, wine, and honey burst unexpectedly from the earth, giving the reader a visceral feeling of liquid abundance. Milk swells in both the ground and their breasts, thus indicating that both the forest and the women are caught up in the same wild force of nature. This setting cannot be controlled by mere men; when the shepherds attempt to capture the dancing women, the hunted swiftly turns to hunter as they swoop down meadows (735-6) and fly like birds (748) to their prey, whom they overwhelm with numbers, swiftness, and force. Spears and flames cannot hurt them; just as Dionysus throws off his chains and goes on to destroy the city, the women scarcely pay any heed to attempts to restrain them as they rampage the villages. They move as an unthinking, collective will, not a clear-headed democracy. In contrast to the orderly adherence to laws found in the city, their chaotic behavior follows no rules and their power has no bounds.Perhaps the most striking aspect of this passage is the reversal of power between the sexes that Dionysus’ religion engenders. In normal circumstances, women stayed at home, barred from organized meetings of any sort, but here in the forest we see them apart from the city and the men that created such rules. In this strictly female community, men are scorned as ignorant outsiders. When a conflict between the sexes arises, the women immediately take the upper hand, asserting their dominance despite the traditional passive role of the Greek woman. In their frenzy, they become violent and destructive, as if they were men at war. Like an army they descend upon villages, plunder, and battle with the men who dare to fight. In this unexpected behavior the women follow the example of their leader; though he was born male, Dionysus clearly identifies himself with femininity and nature through his soft skin and long curls, his thyrsus and wreath of ivy. He rejects his immortal father, ruler of the skies, in favor of his human mother, who has already returned to the soil from which she sprang. Conversely, the men who face the angered horde of women fall into a submissive role. They are emasculated as they are defeated; their spears draw no blood (762) and their houses rest defenseless. All of Pentheus’ attempts at restraining Dionysus function in much the same way as these ineffective spears, for though his will itself is strong, his narrowly focused mind is easily conquered and molded into humiliating effeminacy. In both cases, society and its laws, represented by men, are completely subverted and overpowered.Much of the intensity of The Bacchae springs from this irresolvable conflict between nature and man, a tension that can produce the most stirring tragedy. In this case, both sides share the guilt for the ensuing violence; though the women are responsible for the actual destruction, it is a city-dweller who initially triggers the clash by suggesting the ambush. Clearly, Euripides felt that nature always triumphs in the end; the villagers’ spears, fashioned by mere men’s hands, cannot harm the god’s followers. Similarly, the Thebes that he depicts is past its prime, full of decrepit old men and ruled by a blustering adolescent. Pentheus clings to his power and standards of decency, but these concepts are stiff artifacts that disintegrate when confronted by Dionysus’ organic power. The Theban women, converts to a mystical religion that taps into the full power of nature, show the consequences of Bacchic violence unleashed on the unsuspecting.
Social Image in Euripides’ Bacchae
In the ancient Greek tragedy Bacchae, Euripides reflects the pivotal role of social image on the emotions and decisions of both gods and mortals. Throughout the play, Dionysus recollects the complex circumstances of his upbringing as the child of Zeus and a mortal, Semele. Despised by Hera even before he was born, Dionysus had to be birthed by Zeus in secret for his own protection: “But right away Zeus, son of Cronus,/ took him and hid him in chambers of birthing,/ tucking the baby inside his thigh/ fastened together with golden pins/ to hide him from Hera” (94-98). The effects of Dionysus’ secretive birth extend to his controversial recognition by the Thebans, who generally doubt his legitimacy as a god. Consequently, this also contributes to Dionysus’ desire to take vengeance on Thebes and its king, as he proclaims, “This city has to learn, by force if need be,/ what comes of its resistance to my rites./ And I must save the honor of my mother,/ by showing humans I am son of Zeus” (39-42). Unlike all of the other gods and goddesses, Dionysus does not receive an abundance of sacrifices and worship; Euripides reveals that Pentheus, King of Thebes, instead dissuades his citizens from participating in rites in Dionysus’ name. Thus, his followers are forced to worship in the wilderness, away from the public eye, instead of in the city temples.
Another feature that sets Dionysus apart from the other gods is his acceptance for citizens who rank lower in social status and his reputation as a foreigner to Thebes. As praised by Tiresias the prophet, “the god makes no distinction. Young and old/ must dance together, everyone the same./ He wants us all to honor him together,/ and no one is excused from joining in” (206-209). Euripides also describes Dionysus’ social reach as inclusive of women and the poor as devout followers. However, in the strict social pyramid of ancient Greece, Pentheus views his populist appeal as a danger to society. Furthermore, although Thebes was Dionysus’ birthplace, the city and its king still views him as an outsider to their traditions and culture. When messengers warn Pentheus of the travelling stranger in Thebes, the king immediately plots to arrest him: “Whoever he is, this foreigner deserve/ to hang for such outrageous wickedness” (246-247). Later, Pentheus interrogates Dionysus, disguised as a mortal, asking, “Is there a new Zeus there, who breeds new gods?” (467). Therefore, in both mortal and divine form, Dionysus is seen as a foreigner. Pentheus denies Dionysus of being a god, despite having been born from Zeus himself; in mortal form, the king also regards the Stranger as an outsider who seeks to destroy the delicate social order in Thebes.
Euripides also highlights the contrast between Cadmus, Tiresias, and the Chorus’ religious devotion to Dionysus and Pentheus’ blatant rejection of any ceremonies in his honor. For example, Cadmus and Tiresias uplift their praise for the god, equating Dionysus to the source of happiness for mortals: “This god is poured as offering to the gods,/ so through this god comes human happiness” (284-285). Therefore, they argue that the wine that the Greeks use to honor the other gods is due to Dionysus; satisfied with these rites aided by Dionysus, the gods bless the mortals with fortune. Cadmus and Tiresias also attribute “pain-relief to suffering souls… sleep and forgetfulness from daily pain” to Dionysus’ wine, as nothing else can provide a similar satisfaction to mortals (280-282). On the contrary, Pentheus’ defining trait is his criticism for the negative influence Dionysus spreads over his city, especially in ways that disrupt the social order. When Euripides first introduces Pentheus, the king is clearly concerned for the wellbeing of Thebes while under the influence of Dionysus’ cult-like followers. He downplays Dionysus’ divine nature and attacks the proceedings of the maenads’ rites, exclaiming, “New trouble in our city./ They say our womenfolk have left their homes/ for these fake Bacchic rites. They skip and dance/ up on the shady mountains, worshipping/ this whatshisname, this new ‘god,’ Dionysus./ Apparently their gatherings involve/ huge vats of wine, and one by one, those girls/ slink off alone to serve some man with sex” (216-223). This also connects to Dionysus’ reputation as the god of ecstacy, frenzied dancing, and wine, all of which were recognized as threats to the Theban social order by Pentheus. For example, many female followers abandoned their duties as respectable women in Greek society to celebrate Dionysus instead: “Every woman in the land/ has left her shuttle, left her loom, infected/ by the sting of gadfly Dionysus” (117-119). Therefore, Euripides heavily juxtaposes the fervent belief in the god held by Cadmus and Tiresias with the firm rejection of Dionysus by Pentheus.
Moreover, gender stereotypes also serve as a motif throughout Bacchae. When the Messenger alerts the king of the gruesome scene of the maenads, Pentheus vows to eliminate the threat, proclaiming, “We’ll run those Bacchants down. It’s too much/ That I be treated in this way by women!” (785-786). Ironically, Dionysus tricks Pentheus into disguising himself as a female maenad to infiltrate their rituals, thus attacking his sensitive masculinity. In doing so, Dionysus hoped that he would be publicly humiliated, losing his social status as a respectable king. By falsely reassuring the king that the maenads would not mock his feminine appearance, Dionysus successfully plans to punish his hubris, revealing to the Chorus, “I want him to be laughed at by the Thebans:/ I’ll lead him through the city in a dress” (854-855). Dionysus displays Pentheus, in his attire fit for a Theban woman, atop a tree branch for all to see and mock before the maenads brutally murder him. Thus, Dionysus also uses Pentheus’ fragile masculinity to lead him to his downfall. Ultimately, Euripides emphasizes the significance of social reputation in ancient Greek society through the ways it motivates both mortals and gods to act on their beliefs.
Ovid’s Rebranding of The Bacchae
When analyzing Greek mythology, it is evident the stories exist to legitimize, explain, or provoke interest in the societal structures in place. However, just as Vergil reworked Homer’s The Odyssey, as The Aeneid, to become a political propaganda for Augustus and the superiority of the Roman Empire, Ovid reduces the numerous myths that the Greek’s valued and structured their socio-cultural norms around to a form of entertainment. Book III of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, is a satirical rebranding of the famous Greek tragedy The Bacchae. Since Ovid employs vastly different tactics of dense imagery, tangential storylines, and humor, compared to his predecessors, his version of The Bacchae is much less focused on such cultural identity.
The Bacchae and Book III, both tell the story of Dionysus’ return to Thebes many years after the death of his mother, Semele, in order to refute the slander against her and authenticate his godliness. Ovid, in his characteristic style, starts off much further back, and elaborates on the founding of Thebes by Cadmus and the first tragedy of his royal family, Actaeon. The story of Actaeon transforming into a stag with “antlers foreign to his human shape” and being “gorged [by his hounds]” (p.77) at the hands of Diana, is not only brief in The Bacchae, but serves little purpose for Ovid other than to entertain his audience with his dark humor. Throughout the Metamorphoses, Ovid employs extensive imagery on mundane details of the plot to make the stories more intriguing and to incorporate the theme of human bodies and their transformation, whether it be into another creature or simply disembodiment in itself. Furthermore, when Ovid describes Diana during this scene, he focuses on her “fastidious limbs,” “hung loose” hair, and other aspects of her physical body (p.78).
This tangent also displays Ovid’s norm of blurring the lines dividing the gods, humans, and animals, that exist in The Bacchae and other Greek myths. Traditionally, gods are the divine and all-powerful, humans are at the will of the gods, and animals are pawns in the relationship between the two serving as sacrifice and food. Through the human like behavior of Diana, when her cheeks become blushed with embarrassment “as rosy as dawn” (p.79) in response to Actaeon seeing her naked, the physical transformation of Actaeon into an animal who groans and utters sounds that “[no human, yet no stag] could produce” (p.80), and the extended “dogalogue” of Actaeon’s own hounds devouring him, Ovid obscures the established hierarchical relationship between the three groups.
When the story of Actaeon becomes known, there are divided opinions about the actions of Diana (p.80). Some thought the goddess showed excessive cruelty, while others praised her chastity, however, both sides can be justified. This characteristic style of Ovid throughout his epics makes it difficult for the audience to derive any one clear lesson from his stories, contrary to the traditional Greek myths, which serve to teach a moral and justify pre-existing conventions.
Juno is rejoiced by the news that disaster has been brought upon the house of her “Phoenician rival” (p.80). This celebration is short lived when she discovers that Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, is pregnant with the son of her husband Jupiter. Ovid characterizes Juno as jealous, as she exclaims that she is “the queen of heaven, and the sister and wife of Jupiter,” while Semele is just simply overly “confident in her [own] beauty” (p.81). In The Bacchae, Hera is depicted as engulfed with “violence and rage” (9-10) and using her divine powers, rather than manipulation and human-like strategies to deceive Semele. Juno’s jealous character is furthered as she strikes Tiresias blind when he takes Jupiter’s side in a “playful argument” (p.82) that women enjoy sexual interactions more than men do.
Similarly, Tiresias’ character, although equally disrespected by Pentheus in both versions, is given a makeover. In Ovid’s version, Pentheus “taunts” and “laughs” (p.87) at Tiresias’ blindness and ignores his warnings of trifling with divinity. Tiresias, conscious of his fame and reputation, briefly and comically teases Pentheus that he would be “lucky” (p.88) to have his blindness so he could foresee the future that awaits him. Contrastingly, The Bacchae, describes Tiresias as a “wise” man (185) who extensively pleads the “crazed fool” (361) Pentheus to listen to his advice, rather the other way around.
In The Bacchae, Pentheus is depicted a stubborn king plagued by the need to “revolt against the divinity” (45) of Dionysus for invoking an uninvited religious crusade on the kingdom. Pentheus’ death is the doing of Dionysus, who convinces him to dress as a woman and spy on the Maenads, one of which is his own mother, Agave. This portrayal of Pentheus aligns with Freud’s idea that traditional Greek myths allow the audience to vicariously live out the socially and culturally taboo desires of the unconscious mind. Ovid does not throw away Pentheus’ proscribed curiousness in living in world of the opposite gender and seeing his mother naked, but instead emphasizes it. Pentheus’ demise is due to his own “roused” and “angry” (p.92) desire to see the mysteries, rather than the deception of Dionysus. This scene also contributes to Ovid’s theme of turning humans into something no longer human, as Pentheus is violently disembodied by the Maenads. In The Bacchae, Agave realizes her actions and feels “[great] grief” (1282) for killing her son, while Ovid’s version of the story ends with her exclaiming her “victory” and “achievement” (p.93) furthering the dark, satirical nature of his works.
While there are many obvious inconsistencies between The Bacchae and The Metamorphoses, such as Cadmus defeating a serpent, rather than a dragon and Acoetes being captured by Pentheus’ men, rather than Dionysus, these discrepancies serve the purpose to elicit the many themes Ovid carries throughout his poems. Through these variations, he is able to convey his own sardonic version of myth as a series of stories about characters who may or may not have existed and events that may or may not have occurred, but are nonetheless entertaining to hear.