Gender And Gender In Euripides's The Bacchae

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Throughout Greek and Roman mythology there are many themes, motifs, and symbols that are consistent amongst the different myths. Some of the more common ones include the abuse of mortals from the gods, the relationship between men and women, and the way in which lust operates in society. All of these are apparent in the writing style of Euripides in his text the Bacchae. This myth explores the battle between Dionysus, who has just returned dressed as a stranger, and Pentheus, who is the current ruler of the state, over the city of Thebes. As one reads this myth they will clearly identify some of the important subjects, however one detail that may not be noticed is the portrayal of Pentheus holding gender identity issues. There are many examples…show more content…
Pentheus has an over the top obsession with masculinity and sex and Euripides makes it obvious from the very beginning of this play. While these are two characteristics that one would tend to think would refute someone being transgender, however the over exaggeration of masculinity may be used as a cover up. An example of this is apparent in Pentheus’ opening lines of the play when he is describing the appearance of Dionysus. He repeatedly observes and makes note of Dionysus attractive appearance saying things like, “his long locks and golden curls all sweet-smelling” and “his eyes full of Aphrodite’s charms. Day and night he surrounds himself with young girls” (214). However immediately following these observations he attempts to try and reassert his masculinity by saying if he captures Dionysus he “will cut his head right off his body”(214). Throughout the play Pentheus consistently makes remarks that may come off as homosexual and immediately follows up with a comment in an attempt to reassert, and often over exaggerate, his masculinity. Another example of this can be seen during Pentheus’ first interaction, and in particular first sentence, with Dionysus. Pentheus states, “Well, stranger, your body is indeed quite shapely, at least for enticing the women” (222). Pentheus’ initial comments are all in awe of Dionysus…show more content…
As a ruler of the state one must be viewed as masculine and in control, however there are many examples in Euripides writing that leads one to believe deep inside he is not who he claims to be. One way in which this is evident during the play is that Pentheus is constantly negating his own viewpoints on masculinity and his outlook of women outwardly. However there are many actions he might not openly say that may lead one to believe he is confused about his gender identity. In the beginning of the play Pentheus criticizes the feminine appearance of Cadmus and Dionysus, however he finds himself dressed as a women and enjoyed it. Pentheus initially has a deep hatred for the women who abandoned their homes for the mountains to commit what he thinks are vile sex acts. Yet as the play progresses he becomes extremely curious about what the women on the mountainside are doing under Dionysus’ order and when the opportunity presents itself to spy on the women he is ecstatic. Pentheus makes it seem as if he needs to witness these women, not for the sake of the state, but for his personal voyeurism. His obsession with the women’s hidden behavior may reflect not sexual interest, but a desire to know more comprehensively a group with which he identifies himself as, but the social norms in society have restricted him from expressing. Between his

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