The ancient Greeks traditionally depict Dionysus’ human form as an effeminately beautiful young man, and hair was often grown long as a tribute to the gods. Thus, Dionysus’ long and luscious hair emphasizes his feminine grace and beauty, which, coupled with his more traditionally masculine characteristics, increases the sense of his sexual appeal and power. When the two cousins first meet, Pentheus is intrigued (and perhaps attracted) by Dionysus’ beautiful locks, eventually cutting them off in a vain attempt to exert his authority and “emasculate” Dionysus of his attractiveness. Later, when Pentheus has been convinced to dress a woman, he’s chiefly concerned with making sure his hair looks good, echoing back to suggest a subconscious desire for Dionysus—or to be like Dionysus—on his part in the earlier encounter. Euripides adds a final, cruelly ironic twist to this symbol during Pentheus’ death—Agave thinks Pentheus’ is some kind of mountain lion, probably confusing in her frenzy his womanly wig for a lion’s mane.
Hair Quotes in The Bacchae
They say some foreigner has arrived from Lydia:
one of those charlatan magicians
with blond hair that reeks of scent,
the flush of wine in his cheeks
and all the tricks of Aphrodite in his eyes.
Day and night he's with the women,
showing them his mysteries –
holding up his secret, for them to adore.
Once I catch him there'll be none of that tossing of locks
and waving of wands:
I'11take that head from off his body!
So. Not entirely unattractive—at least to women, I suppose,
which is why you’re here in Thebes.
Such long hair.
Not a wrestler then, I take it?
So long, it frames your cheeks.
I see two suns in the sky;
two cities of Thebes, each with seven gates.
And you, my guide, you seem to be a bull.
Horns grow from your head.
Were you a beast all along? For you are a bull now.
The god is with us.
There were difficulties, but now we have a truce.
You see now what you should have seen before. The god.
So how do l look?
A little like Aunt Ino, or a bit more like my mother?
The very image of your mother, now I can see you plain.
But let me fix this curl that's come astray.
It must have been all that Bacchic ecstasy there in the palace.
I was shaking my head so much!