THE BACCHAE. By Euripides. Translated by Ian Johnston. Editing/Staging by Stephen A. Schrum. [Scene: The Greek city of Thebes, outside the royal palace.]. That reconstructed text appears between square brackets. For a brief interpretative introduction to The Bacchae, click here. This translation was last revised in. Rich Erlich, English Tragedy (Comedy) The Bacchae> 25/ XII/00, 22/I/01, 15/I/02 Study Guide for Euripides's The Bacchae (also spelled.
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Bacchae of Euripides, by Euripedes This . maiden, Come, O ye Bacchae, come; Oh, bring the Joy-bestower, God-seed of. 1) INTRODUCTION. The Bacchae leads us towards the “Irrational”, into an ancient world defined by total freedom of expression. Inhabited by Dionysus, it. Lo! I am come to this land of Thebes, Dionysus' the son of Zeus, of whom on a day Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, was delivered by a flash of lightning.
But I'm judging them knowing how the play turns out; you shouldn't prejudge them, let alone every tragic character. Hybris can indeed bring Nemesis—but sometimes Disaster just arrives. It's clearly harsh to say they deserve to die for hastiness, and that extreme position should alert us to a problem with the whole project of flaw-hunting.
Tragic characters ordinarily make tragic mistakes, and their actions usually go along with an idea of character; let it go at that. Necessarily, since sex with the gods is always fertile, Semele became pregnant with a child by Zeus. Zeus so loved Semele he swore to do whatever she asked. Hera, Zeus's wife, enraged at yet another adultery by Zeus, put it in Semele's head to ask to see him "in his full splendor as King of Heaven and Lord of the Thunderbolt" No mortal could withstand such a revelation, but Zeus was bound by his oath.
So he appeared to her in glory, thereby killing her. And then Dionysus came to the lands of the Greeks and his mother's city, Thebes. He could also be cruel and drive men on to fearful deeds.
Often he made them mad," which fits in with drunkenness. Cruelty, though, may be inappropriate for Dionysus as a dying and rising god: killed and resurrected, even as the grape vine is severely cut back and grows again; a god who has suffered should know compassion. They rushed through woods and over mountains uttering sharp cries, waving pine-cone-tipped wands, swept away in a fierce ecstasy. Nothing could stop them.
They would tear to pieces the wild creatures they met and devour the bloody shreds of flesh. The Olympian gods of the Greeks were patriarchal and relatively rational, and "loved order and beauty in their sacrifices and temples.
The madwomen, the Maenads, had no temples.
Bacchae – Working Script
They went to the wilderness to worship, to the wildest mountains, the deepest forests, as if they kept to the customs of an ancient time before men"—and the men is useful here—"had thought of building houses for their gods. And yet, always […] the horrible bloody feast" Hamilton finds the contradiction central to the worship of this god: "freedom and ecstatic joy and savage brutality.
The God of Wine could give either to his worshipers. And with this distinction in mind, let us picture Dionysus leading his Bacchae into Thebes, knowing as Euripides's audience would know, that "Of all the terrible deeds laid to his account, the worst was done in Thebes, his mother's city" When giving the order, though, Pentheus "heard from behind him a solemn warning: 'The man you reject is a new god.
He is Semele's child [… and] with divine Demeter, is greatest upon earth for men. Thus he brought himself his doom; he would not hear when the gods spoke to him" Most of the rest of the story is the agon between Pentheus and his cousin Dionysus, with Dionysus always in control. Pentheus simply will not deal with wonders and the data of Dionysus's divinity and tries to impose his will upon the god and upon Dionysus's women.
Ultimately, he orders the use of military force, and Dionysus asks Pentheus if he'd like to see the Maenads. When Pentheus indicates he'd really, really like that, Dionysus starts possessing Pentheus. Greek jock Pentheus gets dressed like a Maenad and sent into the wild to watch and hunt the women.
Many of the Theban women had joined them; Pentheus's mother and her sisters were there [but as Maenads maddened and possessed by the god, in Rice's distinction, not worshipful Bacchae]. And there Dionysus showed himself in his most terrible aspect. He made them all mad. The women thought Pentheus a wild beast, a mountain lion, and they rushed to destroy him, his mother first" The Maenads sober up soon enough and must face what they have done.
Agave and her father Kadmos, founder of Thebes, are shattered. Then Dionysus appears in epiphany as the God from the Machine and punishes them more.
Kadmos and his wife—and Agave, as a shedder of familial blood? In Euripides's version, the Chorus of Bacchae finish with, The gods can do anything. There is no other cure for pains [ponoi]. He, himself a god, is poured out in offerings to the gods, so that through him men have their good things. I will teach you that this is well: when Zeus snatched him from the fire of lightning, and led the child as a god to Olympus, Hera wished to banish him from the sky.
Zeus devised a counter-plan in a manner worthy of a god. Having broken a part of the air that surrounds the earth, he gave this to Hera as a pledge, protecting the real Dionysus from her quarreling. He also possesses some of the fate [moira] of Ares.
For terror sometimes strikes an army under arms and in its ranks before it even touches a spear - this too is a frenzy from Dionysus.
You will see him also on the rocks of Delphi, bounding with torches through the highland between the two peaks, leaping and shaking the Bacchic branch, mighty throughout Hellas. But believe me, Pentheus.
Receive the god into your land, pour libations to him, celebrate the Bacchic rites, and garland your head. Do you see? You rejoice whenever many people are at your gates, and the polis extols the name of Pentheus.
Cadmus, whom you mock, and I will crown our heads with ivy and dance, a hoary yoke-team - still we must join the khoros. You are mad in a most grievous way, and you will not be cured by drugs, though your illness is surely due to drugs. Cadmus Child, Teiresias has given you good recommendations. They, at the appointed hour, began to wave the thyrsos in their revelries, calling on Iacchus with united voice, the son of Zeus, Bromius.
The whole mountain reveled along with them and even the beasts, and nothing was unmoved by their running. Agave happened to be leaping near me, and I sprang forth to snatch her, abandoning the thicket where I had hidden my body. But she cried out: Follow armed with your thyrsoi in your hands! We fled and escaped being torn apart by the Bacchants, but they, unarmed, sprang on the heifers browsing the grass.
You could have seen one rending asunder a fatted lowing calf, while others tore apart cows. Bulls who formerly with hubris showed their fury with their horns had their bodies cut to the ground, dragged down by the countless hands of young girls.
The garment of flesh was torn apart faster then you could blink your royal eyes. And aloft like birds in their course, they proceeded along the level plains, which produce the bountiful Theban crops by the streams of the Asopos. Falling like attacking soldiers upon Hysiae and Erythrae, towns situated below Kithairon, they set everything in disorder.
They snatched children from their homes. They carried fire on their locks, but it did not burn them. Some people in rage took up arms, being plundered by the Bacchants, the sight of which was terrible to behold, lord. For he is great in other respects, and they say that he even gives to mortals the grape that brings relief from cares.
Without wine there is no longer Kypris or any other delightful thing for humans. Dionysus is inferior to none of the gods. Already like fire does this hubris of the Bacchae blaze up, a great source of reproach for the Hellenes. Go to the gates of Electra, bid all the shield-bearers and riders of swift horses to assemble, as well as all who brandish the light shield and pluck bowstrings with their hands, so that we can make an assault against the Bacchae. Pentheus, though you hear my words you obey not at all.
Do not instruct me, but be content in your escape from prison. Or shall I bring punishment upon you again? You will all flee. And it will be a source of shame that you turn your bronze shield in flight from the thyrsoi of the Bacchae.
Anything is better than to be mocked by the Bacchae. Let us two go into the house, and I will consider what seems best.
Women, the man is caught in our net. Dionysus, now it is your task. You are not far off. He will recognize the son of Zeus, Dionysus, who was born in full a god, the most terrible and yet most mild to men. I shall move my white foot in the night-long khoroi , aroused to a frenzy, tossing my exposed throat to the dewy air, like a fawn sporting in the green pleasures of the meadow, when it has escaped the terrifying hunt beyond the cordon of beaters over the well-woven nets, and the hunter hastens his dogs on their course with his call, while she, with great exertion and a storm-swift running, leaps through the plain by the bank of the river, rejoicing in her isolation from men and in the branches of the shadowy woods.
What is wisdom [ sophon ]? What is beautiful is always philon. Divine strength is roused with difficulty, but is trustworthy nevertheless. The gods cunningly conceal the slow foot of time and hunt out the impious.
Mortals have innumerable hopes, and some come to telos in prosperity [ olbos ], while others fail. You who are eager to see and do what you ought not, I mean you, Pentheus, come forth before the house, show yourself to me, wearing the clothing of a woman, of an inspired Bacchant, a spy upon your mother and her company.
I think I see two suns, and two images of Thebes, the seven-gated polis. Were you ever before a beast? You have certainly now become a bull. The god accompanies us, now at truce with us, though formerly not propitious. Now you see what it is right for you to see. Do I not have the stance [ stasis ] of Ino, or of my mother Agave? Looking at you I think I see them. But this hair has come out of place, not the way I arranged it under your miter.
But on this side the robe sits well around the back of my leg. You must hold it in your left hand and raise your left foot in unison with it. I praise you for having changed your mind. You could if you should so wish. Your earlier phrenes were not sound, but now they are the way they should be.
Shall we bring levers, or throwing a shoulder or arm under the mountain tops shall I lift them up with my hands? You have been sent as a guard against this very event. Bring me through the midst of the Theban land. I am the only Theban who dares to perform this deed. You alone enter the struggle for this polis , you alone. You are terrifying, terrifying, and you go to terrifying sufferings [ pathos ], with the result that you will attain a kleos that reaches heaven.
Extend your hands, Agave, and you too, her sisters, daughters of Cadmus.
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His mother first will see him from a smooth rock or crag, as he lies in ambush, and she will cry out to the Maenads: Who bore him? He with wicked plan and unjust disposition regarding your rites, Bacchus, and those of your mother, comes with raving heart and mad disposition to overcome by force what is invincible.
To act like a mortal - this is a life that is free from pain. But other things are great and manifest. Reveal yourself as a bull or many-headed serpent or raging lion in appearance. House once fortunate in Hellas, house of the Sidonian old man who once sowed in the ground the earth-born harvest of the serpent Ophis, how I groan for you, though I am but a slave.
What do you mean? Why have you said this? Do you rejoice at the misfortunes of my masters, woman? You may be forgiven, but it is not good to rejoice at troubles once they have actually taken place, women.
When we left the settlements of the Theban land and crossed the streams of Asopos, we began to ascend the heights of Kithairon, Pentheus and I - for I was following my master - and the xenos , who was the conductor of our mission.
First we sat in a grassy vale, keeping our feet and voice quiet, so that we might see them without being seen. There was a little valley surrounded by precipices, wet with water, shaded by pine trees, where the Maenads were sitting, their hands busy with delightful labors [ ponoi ].
Some of them were again crowning the wilted thyrsos, making it leafy with ivy, while some, like colts freed from the dappled yoke, were singing a Bacchic tune to one another.
Pentheus, that unhappy man, said, not seeing the crowd of women: But on the banks of the ravine, ascending a lofty pine, I might view properly the shameful acts of the Maenads.
Seizing hold of the lofty top-most branch of a pine tree, he drew it down, down, down to the black ground. It was bent just as a bow or a curved wheel, when it is marked out by a compass, describes a circular course; in this way the xenos drew the mountain bough and bent it to the earth, doing what no mortal could.
The pine stood firmly upright into the sky, with my master seated on its back. He was just becoming visible sitting on the tree up above, and the xenos was no longer anywhere to be seen, when a voice, Dionysus, I guess, cried out from the air: Punish him! The air became quiet and the woody glen kept its leaves silent, nor would you have heard the sounds of animals.
The women, not having heard the sound clearly, stood upright and looked all around. He repeated his order, and when the daughters of Cadmus recognized the clear command of Bacchus, they - mother Agave, her sisters, and all other Bacchae - began to move rapidly, no slower than doves, running eagerly with their feet.
They leapt through the torrent-streaming valley and mountain cliffs, frantic with the inspiration of the god. At the same time he was fired upon by branches of fir, and other women hurled their thyrsoi through the air at Pentheus, a sad target indeed.
The Bacchae of Euripides by Euripides
But they did not reach him, for the wretched man, completely confounded, sat at a height too great for their eagerness. Finally they shattered, as though with a thunder-bolt, some oak branches and began to tear up the roots of the tree with these ironless levers. Pentheus falls crashing to the ground from his lofty seat, wailing greatly; for he knew he was near doom.
His own mother, as priestess, began the slaughter, and fell upon him. He threw the miter from his head so that wretched Agave might recognize and not kill him. Touching her cheek, he said: Do not kill me, your child, for my errors! But she, foaming at the mouth and rolling her eyes all about, with her phrenes not as they should be, was under the control of Bacchus, and he did not convince her. Ino began to work on the other side, tearing his flesh, while Autonoe and the rest of the crowd pressed on.You mention a good point.
I will hunt from the mountains all that are missing, Ino and Agave, who bore me to Ekhion, and Autonoe, the mother of Aktaion.
Farewell, polis of my forefathers! Where is my son? Do not instruct me, but be content in your escape from prison. Note that Dionysus is a new god.
For you are blessed, blessed indeed, now that I have performed these deeds. Can you hear me?
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