The Bacchae

Patriarchal Pentheus, Feminine Dionysus: Masculinity in The Bacchae College

The Bacchae is a Greek tragedy that explores many different types of tension. Order and disorder are particularly common themes throughout the work. These contrasting ideas take on many different forms. One of the more intriguing examples is the how masculinity is undermined by femininity. Masculinity in this play is associated with the main character Pentheus. Pentheus is meant to represent the power and order that comes with masculinity. Femininity is represented by the Greek god Dionysus. He also represents disorder. The question becomes how a male figure such as Dionysus, who is associated with femininity, can be both masculine (strong, orderly, and manly) and feminine (weak, disorderly, and delicate) at the same time. By embracing his feminine nature, Dionysus is able to not only defeat masculine Pentheus, but also do it at the hand of a feminine figure, Agave, causing absolute disorder. Dionysus opposes the patriarchal stereotype by using effeminate powers to exploit masculine traits in order to strip away the Pentheus’ power.

Through analysis of Dionysus’ story and background, the motivations of Dionysus become clear. Dionysus’ opening monologue establishes the main conflict of the story: claiming his title as a god....

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