Masculinity In Euripides Bacchae

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Euripides’ Bacchae presents a challenge to the identity of the Athenian male citizen. The tragedy undermines masculinity and traditional gender roles by exposing their vulnerability and easy transgression, implicates Athenian ideals of rationality and self-control in the fall of Thebes’ royal household, and complicates the concept of what it means to be a citizen. With Athens’ defeat in the Peloponnesian War looming, Euripides represents the Athenian anxiety as they faced their potential destruction and loss of their city and their identity.
The most blatant aspect of Athenian male citizen identity that the Bacchae challenges is masculinity. Pentheus and his transgression of gender is the play’s most prominent example; his masculinity and
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With the Bacchae having been first produced in the final days of the Peloponnesian War, Athenian defeat looming, the destruction of the soldier in Pentheus poses a distinct threat to the survival of Athens in the face of military conquest. MENTION SOMETHING ABOUT PENTHEUS’ FAILING MASCULINITY IN HIS INABILITY TO RESTRAIN DIONYSUS – ATHENIAN INABILITY TO RESTRAIN THE DELIAN LEAGUE? PELOPONNESIAN WAR? Though Pentheus has been driven out of his mind by Dionysus, he is performing femininity and losing himself in it; with this in mind, he can be easily read as having been performing masculinity, earlier. His scorn of Cadmus and Tiresias (Euripides, Bacchae 248) for their Bacchant’s attire demonstrates Pentheus’ perhaps already-present insecurity in the role of the overly-masculine soldier-citizen; in all his aggression, he is compensating, performing. This is further evident in his examination of Dionysus the Stranger, Pentheus demonstrates a “hyperfocus” on masculine presentation, harshly critiquing Dionysus’ beauty (Euripides, Bacchae 453-95). The Bacchae emphasises the performative nature of masculinity not only in the case of Pentheus but in the case of the…show more content…
This complication presents another challenge to the Athenian masculine identity and conceptualisation of gender. In Pentheus, femininity represents weakness, submission, madness; in Dionysus, femininity is power. Dionysus’ use of femininity is what destroys Pentheus, dressing him in women’s clothing (Euripides, Bacchae 915) and, even earlier, capturing his intrigue with his own feminine disguise (Euripides, Bacchae 455). Pentheus and Dionysus’ roles switch with Pentheus’ madness; Dionysus as the Stranger first appears as the subjugated, passive actor of the two, in the traditionally feminine role once he is captured, and his appearance reflects this (Euripides, Bacchae 450). Pentheus appears in the active, masculine role, having captured and restrained Dionysus, cutting his hair and interrogating him, even cutting his hair in an attempt to strip him of some of his feminine beauty (Euripides, Bacchae, 455-510). With Pentheus’ madness, however, these roles are reversed, though Dionysus still appears feminine – this enduring quality a sign of femininity as power in his case – and Pentheus appears similarly, though this symbolises his passivity. It is notable that, alongside being presented as feminine in appearance, Dionysus appears multiple times in the play in

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