In Euripides’ The Bacchae and in the Medea, there are significant binary oppositions in both plays. Binary opposition is the two opposite terms, such as good versus bad. Binary opposition is used to present both sides of a contrast (Marvin, 1). In The Bacchae and the Medea, Euripides used binary opposition to highlight the central themes. The significant binary oppositions that are used are men versus women, foreigner versus citizen, and god versus man.
The contrast between men versus women is an important opposition in both plays. The women in the Greek society have no control of their life; the men are in control (Barlow 159). In The Bacchae Dionysus underminded the Greek society point view on women and empowers them. Pentheus is furious about Dionysus; he states in this first speech to his Grandfather Cadmus and Tiresias that the women have betrayed their houses to go off into the mountains to dance to Dionysus and are committing sexual acts (Bacchae 217-224). Pentheus is offended that an “effeminate looking stranger” has come into his land and is giving freedom to the women (353). There is a binary opposition between the way Greek society and Pentheus are treating the women (men) versus the way Dionysus treats them (women).
In Medea, the society is similar when it comes to men versus women. Barlow states that the “[h]usband have complete physical control of their wives,” which is similar to the society in Bacchae (Barlow 159). Medea is mistreated by almost all the men that she encounters within the play. Jason betrays her and leaves her to marry Creon’s daughter. Creon wants to banish Medea and her two sons from his land (Medea 272-273). When Creon is banishing Medea from his land he has no heart for her or her children; he treats her like a man would treat a woman in the Greek society. These are all situations where Medea is being looked down on, and there is no sympathy for her when she is losing everything she had worked for.
The binary opposition of man versus woman starts off strong, but Euripides switches the roles in both plays. In The Bacchae the woman worship Dionysus. Pentheus disguises himself as a woman, and goes off to view the women in the mountains, which is Dionysus plan the whole time. Pentheus dresses up as a woman and admits to wanting to see the women up at the mountains, and this goes against Pentheus’ anger at the beginning of the play (Bacchae 813-814). In the end of the play the women overpower Pentheus and destroy him to pieces (Bacchae 1125-1140). This is an example of the women being controlling of their own actions and being stronger than the men. In Medea the stereotype of the man and the woman switch. Medea is no longer going to sit around and let every man walk all over her; she states in her speech that she will take revenge on everybody that caused her misery (Medea 364-409). Barlow emphasizes on the reversal of the stereotype, stating that Medea, “is a woman,...