The Bacchae



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Hair Symbol Icon

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

The The Bacchae quotes below all refer to the symbol of Hair. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Lines 169 - 519 Quotes

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!

Related Characters: Pentheus (speaker), Dionysus, The Bacchae
Related Symbols: Thyrsus, Hair
Page Number: Lines 233-242
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Pentheus (speaker), Dionysus
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: Lines 454-458
Explanation and Analysis:
Lines 867 - 1022 Quotes

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!

Related Characters: Dionysus (speaker), Pentheus (speaker), Agave, The Bacchae, Ino
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: Lines 918-930
Explanation and Analysis:
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Hair Symbol Timeline in The Bacchae

The timeline below shows where the symbol Hair appears in The Bacchae. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Lines 169 - 519
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
...look at Dionysus, saying that he is “not entirely unattractive” and praising his skin and hair. Pentheus interrogates Dionysus, who says he has come to Thebes to bring the rituals of... (full context)
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Dionysus’ evasiveness angers Pentheus. Pentheus cuts off Dionysus’ hair and snatches his thyrsus, before ordering him to be locked up. Dionysus warns Pentheus that... (full context)
Lines 520 - 866
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
...he admits it makes sense. Dionysus instructs him to put on a “wig of flowing hair,” a dress that goes down to his feet, and a headdress. To complete the outfit,... (full context)
Lines 867 - 1022
Disguise, Deception, and Identity Theme Icon
Gods and Mortals Theme Icon
Order vs. Irrationality Theme Icon
Dionysus fixes up Pentheus’ hair, which Pentheus says must have come loose in “all that Bacchic ecstasy there in the... (full context)