Religious Studies Paper on Gender in Euripides’s Bacchae

Euripides’s Bacchae is an ancient Greek tragedy depicting a gender-exclusive argument in a patriarchal society. The tragedy attracts numerous interpretations on the perceived punishment leveled against women of the Thebes. Women’s impudence attracts punitive actions such as being made mad by god Dionysus. In a male dominated Greek society, it is understandable why women would feel victimized. The apparent oppression due to gender affiliation resulted in the development of social stigma. Indeed, women have become susceptible to Dionysus’s oppressive actions. The women of Thebes hopes to initiate a protracted rebellion against the set norms that are threatens their survival. A viable proof of women’s inferiority is the Bacchae is evident from the way King Pentheus is feeling shameful about the possibility of disguising himself in a woman’s clothing. He state that, “Do I have to be demoted to a woman?A woman’s consume? No, I won’t: I can’t” (Bacchae, Pg. 50). Such attitudes clearly depict the negativity surrounding the role and ability of women in ancient Greece societies.

However, most of the Theban women feels tremendously dissatisfied and believe that their positions in the society will ultimately change. They yearn to escape from the confinement and isolation must first bear the stigma and cope with apparent lack of madness and emotional torture. The women generally lack effective control over their respective conditions in and ancient Greek societies. Emerging from the apparent shackles of sexism, women’s vulnerability is seen as a viable opportunity by men to extend their influence and control over women. However, both men and women are segregated in all sectors of the Greek societies. The extreme limitation of women in classical Greece resulted in their exclusion from their homes. They are not allowed to leave their own quarters unless they are attending special religious events. The tight control over women and the confinement depicts men as supreme beings with the legitimate power to control a particular gender. Beyond the male dominated society, women lacked any true societal value. The male enslavement is a unacceptable behavior in contemporary societies.

Dionysus’s subversive measures are an affront to women, and seek to dismiss the innate duality in individual abilities. The masculine and feminine tendencies embody both males and females as separate genders or unique beings. The discriminatory practices have resulted in loss of identities in the Greek society. For instance, Dionysus strips the character Agave of her free will using supernatural powers. He rouses them into frenzy and divulges He divulges into numerous manipulative actions in his attempts to control Agave. Such actions are manifested in the statement“…I myself stung those same sisters, hounding them from their homes with fits of frenzy…knocked out of their senses” (Euripides, 24, 32-4). From the statement, she renders Agave, a female character utterly helpless and relegates her to a puppet. In essence, Dionysus has clouded Agave’s mental abilities and limited her innate ability to reason or think. Her chaotic behavior is beyond her direct control as she struggles to gain ability to make independent choices and freewill.

In essence, the relationship between the two people (Agave and Dionysus) fuels an imbalance in power and self-mastery between different characters. The unrestrained fashion of manipulation depicts the divine status of women on ancient Greece societies. However, Agave ultimately faces massive changes by regaining her free will. Such transformations are accredited to her ability to choose free will over subversion. Indeed, the relationship between the two characters depicts serious subversion of female persona. Dionysus applied a hypnotic intoxication of a female character by despotically degrading her intrinsic abilities to made coherent decisions. The ability of men in the story to reason and distinguish appearances and realities makes women susceptible to their control and influence. The “Bacchic god” exercised considerable influence over women in the story. The statement “Agave, foaming at the mouth and rolling her protruding eyeballs, not thinking what she ought to think, was held fast by the Bacchic god nor was Pentheus persuading her” (Euripides, 79) portrayed the perceived influence of Dionysus on a woman character.

However, Dionysus’ treatment of males contrasts his treatment of female characters. He holds certain values that are comparatively partial towards males. Essentially, male characters are portrayed as irrational and discriminatory in their treatment of women characters in the story (Zeitlin et al. 12). The prevailing notion is that which subverts the will of females and favor male characters. The inculcated sense of femininity and embodiment of the duality between different characters transcends masculine representation.

In general, the concept of gender in Euripides’s Bacchae diametrically represents masculinity and femininity in a unique manner. The play portrays societal partiality towards males and continued repression of women in the ancient Greece societies (Bhattacharjee 2). Undeniably, different characters such as Dionysus perfect the idea of gender roles and gender division. Additionally, the play depicts male domination in ancient Greek societies and the perceived enslavement of women. Indeed, the story represents deep shackles of sexism and women’s vulnerability towards male repression.



Work Cited

Bhattacharjee, Tuhin. “Narrating Nothingness: Women and the Absent Body in Euripides’ Medea.” The Body Speaketh: Interrogating Cultural Constructions of the Body (2017): 83.

Euripides, , and John E. Sandys. The Bacchae of Euripides. Place of publication not identified: publisher not identified, 1997. Print.

Zeitlin, Froma, John Winkler, and David Halperin. “A Queer Reading of Euripides’ Bacchae.” A Postgraduate eJournal of Theatre and Performing Arts Vol. 3, No. 1 Spring 2008 (2008): 73.