As You Like It and the Bacchae: Exploration of Gender Roles

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Es’Manay McKillian
November 6, 2012
Drama 20
Thursdays, Kevin

Exploring Gender Roles
There are common issues explored in The Bacchae by Euripides and As You Like It by Shakespeare. These issues include gender roles within certain places. In both plays women and men are assigned roles for which they are expected to respect and live by. Men are highly respected and viewed as the dominant beings. They are the ruling voice of society. Women are depicted as weak and inferior. They are categorized by gender; men are masculine while women are feminine. However, within these plays every gender stepped out of their role. In The Bacchae the men used cross dressing to portray woman. On the contrary Shakespeare used the women to represent men in As You Like It. Gender defines your social status which keeps order within a place.

Euripides suggests men are the best at manipulation. Dionysus portrayed himself as a woman to manipulate the people of Thebes. He manipulates the women into rebelling against their social roles. “every female in this city, I've started on a wild stampede from home” (Euripides, The Bacchae, 1) Greek women were expected to stay in their place, their homes. The women of Thebes disregarded this social expectation. The irony of them rebelling was that they did not rebel because they wanted justice, but because they were influenced by a male God. These women then became Maenads. Along with manipulating these women Dionysus successfully manipulated Pentheus. Pentheus represented the ideal male. He was masculine, strong, and held great power. Dionysus was able to convince Pentheus to go against his beliefs on cross dressing. Upon Pentheus’ transformation he began to take pride in his new look. “Well how do I look?/ Don’t I have Aunt Ino’s air,/ and Agave my mother’s carriage” (180) This reveals power relation can be inverted. The fact Dionysus, the ‘weak one’, was able to convert Pentheus, who was formerly the strong masculine one, into a feminine...
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