The Bacchae Full Text

Topics: Dionysus, The Bacchae, Greek mythology Pages: 47 (14687 words) Published: May 31, 2011


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The Bacchae
404 BC
Translator's Note
This translation by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions.  For information please use the following link: Copyright.  For comments or question please contact Ian Johnston. This translation was last revised in July 2003. Note that the normal line numbers refer to this text and the ones in square brackets refer to the lines in the Greek text.  There is an important gap of 50 lines or more in Euripides' manuscript between lines 1329 and 1330 of the Greek text.  The content of the missing lines is fairly well known, so this translation has attempted to provide a reconstructed text for the missing portion (lines 1645 to 1699 of the English text).  That reconstructed text appears between square brackets. This translation is available in the form of a paperback book published by Richer Resources Publications. For a brief interpretative introduction to The Bacchae, click here  

The Bacchae
Dramatis Personae
DIONYSUS: divine son of Zeus and Semele, also called Bromius or Bacchus.
TIRESIAS: an old blind prophet
CADMUS: grandfather of both Dionysus and Pentheus, an old man
PENTHEUS: young king of Thebes, grandson of Cadmus, cousin of Dionysus
AGAVE: mother of Pentheus, daughter of Cadmus, sister of Semele
FIRST MESSENGER a cattle herder
SECOND MESSENGER: an attendant on Pentheus
CHORUS OF BACCHAE: worshippers of Dionysus who have followed him from Asia, also called Maenads or Bacchants.
SOLDIERS and ATTENDANTS around Pentheus Supplementary List of Characters and Places

The following names are frequently mentioned but are not speaking characters in the play. Actaeon: hunter destroyed by his own dogs as punishment for boasting that he was a better hunter than goddess Artemis, son of Autonoe (one of Cadmus' daughters).
Aphrodite: goddess of erotic love and sexuality.
Autonoe: sister of Agave, Ino, and Semele, daughter of Cadmus, mother of Actaeon
Cithaeron: sacred mountain close to Thebes.
Ino: daughter of Cadmus, sister of Agave and Semele
Semele: human daughter of Cadmus, mother of Dionysus, killed by Zeus' lightning bolt.
Thebes: a major Greek city, where (according to some legends) the Greek race originated.
Tmolus: sacred mountain in Asia Minor, associated with Dionysus. A thyrsus (pl. thyrsoi) is a hollow plant stalk, usually decorated with ivy, and carried as a symbol of Dionysus in the dancing celebrations (where it can acquire magical powers). [Scene: The Greek city of Thebes, outside the royal palace.  Dionysus, appearing as young man, is alone, with the palace behind him, its main doors facing the audience.  He speaks directly to the audience] DIONYSUS:  I've arrived here in the land of Thebes,
          I, Dionysus, son of Zeus, born to him
          from Semele, Cadmus' daughter, delivered
          by a fiery midwife—Zeus' lightning flash.
          Yes, I've changed my form from god to human,
          appearing here at these streams of Dirce,
          the waters of Ismarus. I see my mother's tomb—
          for she was wiped out by that lightning bolt.
          It's there, by the palace, with that rubble,
          the remnants of her house, still smoldering                           10
          from Zeus' living fire—Hera's undying outrage
          against my mother. But I praise Cadmus.                                    [10]
          He's made his daughter's shrine a sacred place.
          I have myself completely covered it
          with leafy shoots of grape-bearing vines.
          I've left the fabulously wealthy East,
          lands of Lydians and Phrygians,
          Persia's sun-drenched plains, walled towns in Bactria.
          I've moved across the bleak lands of the Medes, 
          through rich Arabia, all Asian...
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