Wine, Women, and Song: Feminine Archetypes and the Destruction of the Male in The Bacchae and Hippolytus
The current research, third in our series of archetypal examinations, concentrates on Euripides' "The Bacchae" and "Hippolytus", each a unique portrayal of female violence and its effect on the traditional hero: the inheriting son. We employ these textually divergent but internally parallel versions of the dangerous female to reveal key aspects of the evolution of socio-political notions of positive and negative femininity from Ancient Greece to Rome. We address the following questions: In which ways do Euripides' plays reinforce society's expectations and conclusions about the role of women within each culture and during the relevant era? How is the threat of femaleness modified or enhanced by the presence of an organized group of women [The Bacchae] as opposed to a single, marginalized woman [Hippolytus]? How is the portrayal of state-sanctioned religion affected by the presence of these women? How does the tragic form relate to the depiction of the female in ancient Greece? How are the women who are absent in the text (Ariadne, Medea, Hippolyta) still active within the archetypal construct of the plays? And finally, in what way do the archetypal images of women evolve from Greek to Roman literature, specifically, in terms of the focal shift from Euripides' "Hippolytus" to Seneca's "Phaedra"? We seek to illuminate those who have been marginalized in the promulgation of the myth of the irrational female– that is, Agave, the Bacchae, Phaedra, and the host of dead women who precipitate the action of "Hippolytus". Within the context of the two plays, we re-examine the classic myths and archetypal images of the gendered narrative – the wicked mother, the idealized son, the priestess, and the nymphomaniac female. These women, often lost in the dominant construct of strong male archetypes, illuminate key aspects of the play and demonstrate the level to which the contribution and participation of women were acceptable to the Greeks.
Keywords: Euripides, Athens, Theatre, Gender, Feminism, Archetypes, Religion, Violence, Revenge, Psychology, Literature, Theseus, Phaedra, Hippolytus, Agave, Pentheus, Bacchae, Dionysios, Drama
Dr Linda O. Valenty
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Political Science
Graduate Student, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Department of English