DIONYSUS:                              You’ll all run.
What a disgrace! To turn your bronze shields round,
fleeing the thyrsoi of those Bacchic women!

PENTHEUS: [turning to one of his armed attendants, as if to go]          It’s useless trying to argue with this stranger—                              
whatever he does or suffers, he won’t shut up.

DIONYSUS [calling Pentheus back]          My lord! There’s still a chance to end this calmly.                

PENTHEUS: By doing what?  Should I become a slave
to my own slaves?

DIONYSUS:                   I’ll bring the women here—
without the use of any weapons.

PENTHEUS:                       I don’t think so.
You’re setting me up for your tricks again.

DIONYSUS:  What sort of trick, if I want to save you
in my own way?

PENTHEUS:                You’ve made some arrangement,
you and your god, so you can always dance
your Bacchanalian orgies.

DIONYSUS:                          Yes, that’s true.
I have made some arrangement with the god.

PENTHEUS: [to one of his armed servants]          You there, bring me my weapons.

[to Dionysus]               And you,                  
No more talk!  Keep quiet!

DIONYSUS:                       Just a minute!                               
[moving up to Pentheus]

How’d you like to gaze upon those women out there,
sitting together in the mountains?

PENTHEUS:                       I’d like that.
Yes, for that I’d pay in gold—and pay a lot.

DIONYSUS: Why is that?  Why do you desire it so much?
PENTHEUS: I’d be sorry to see the women drunk.

DIONYSUS: Would you derive pleasure from looking on,
viewing something you find painful?

PENTHEUS:                           Yes, I would—
if I were sitting in the trees in silence.

DIONYSUS:  But even if you go there secretly,                           
they’ll track you down.

PENTHEUS:                           You’re right.
I’ll go there openly.

DIONYSUS:                           So you’re prepared,
are you, to make the trip?  Shall I lead you there?

PENTHEUS: Let’s go, and with all speed.  I’ve got time.                     

DIONYSUS: In that case, you must clothe your body
in a dress—one made of eastern linen.

PENTHEUS: What! I’m not going up there as a man?
I’ve got to change myself into a woman?

DIONYSUS: If they see you as a man, they’ll kill you.
PENTHEUS: Right again. You always have the answer.               
DIONYSUS: Dionysus taught me all these things.
PENTHEUS: How can I best follow your suggestion?
DIONYSUS: I’ll go inside your house and dress you up.

PENTHEUS: What? Dress up in a female outfit?
I can’t do that—I’d be ashamed to.

DIONYSUS: You’re still keen to see the Maenads, aren’t you?

PENTHEUS: What sort of clothing do you recommend?
How should I cover up my body?                                                  

DIONYSUS: I’ll fix up a long hair piece for your head.
PENTHEUS: All right. What’s the next piece of my outfit?           

DIONYSUS: A dress down to your feet—then a headband,
to fit just here, around your forehead.

PENTHEUS: What else?  What other things will you provide?
DIONYSUS: A thyrsus to hold and a dappled fawn skin.
PENTHEUS: No.  I can’t dress up in women’s clothes!

DIONYSUS: But if you go fighting with these Bacchae,
you’ll cause bloodshed.

PENTHEUS:                          Yes, that’s true.
So first, we must go up and spy on them.

DIONYSUS: Hunt down evil by committing evil—
that sounds like a wise way to proceed.                                 

PENTHEUS: But how will I make it through the city
without the Thebans noticing me?                                              

DIONYSUS: We go by deserted streets.  I’ll take you.

PENTHEUS: Well, anything’s easier to accept
than being made a fool by Bacchic women.
Let’s go into the house.  I’ll think about what’s best.

DIONYSUS: As you wish.  Whatever you do, I’m ready.

PENTHEUS: I think I’ll go in now.  It’s a choice
of going with weapons or taking your advice.

[Exit Pentheus into the palace.  Dionysus turns to face the chorus]

DIONYSUS: My women! that man’s now entangled in our net.    
He’ll go to those Bacchae, and there he’ll die.
That will be his punishment.  Dionysus,
you’re not far away.  Now it’s up to you.
Punish him.  First, make sure he goes insane                                 
with some crazed fantasy.  If his mind is strong,
he’ll not agree to put on women’s clothes.
But he’ll do it, if you make him mad.
I want him made the laughing stock of Thebes,
while I lead him through the city, mincing
as he moves along in women’s clothing,                               
after he made himself so terrifying
with all those earlier threats.   Now I’ll be off,
to fit Pentheus into the costume
he’ll wear when he goes down to Hades,
once he’s butchered by his mother’s hands.
He’ll come to acknowledge Dionysus,
son of Zeus, born in full divinity,                                                 
most fearful and yet most kind to men.

[Exit Dionysus]

CHORUS: Oh, when will I be dancing,
leaping barefoot through the night,                                       
flinging back my head in ecstasy,
in the clear, cold, dew-fresh air—
like a playful fawn
celebrating its green joy
across the meadows—
joy that it’s escaped the fearful hunt—
as she runs beyond the hunters,
leaping past their woven nets—                                                    
they call out to their hounds
to chase her with still more speed,                                       
but she strains every limb,
racing like a wind storm,
rejoicing by the river plain,
in places where no hunters lurk,
in the green living world
beneath the shady branches,
the foliage of the trees.

What is wisdom?  What is finer
than the rights men get from gods—
to hold their powerful hands                                                
over the heads of their enemies?                                                    
Ah yes, what’s good is always loved.

The power of the gods
is difficult to stir—
but it’s a power we can count on.
It punishes all mortal men
who honour their own ruthless wills,
who, in their fits of madness,
fail to reverence the gods.
Gods track down every man                                                 
who scorns their worship,
using their cunning to conceal
the enduring steady pace of time.                                                   
For there’s no righteousness
in those who recognize or practice
what’s beyond our customary laws.
The truth is easy to acknowledge:
whatever is divine is mighty,
whatever has been long-established law
is an eternal natural truth.                                                     

What is wisdom?  What is finer
than the rights men get from gods—
to hold their powerful hands
over the heads of their enemies?                                                    
Ah yes, what’s good is always loved.

Whoever has escaped a storm at sea
is a happy man in harbour,
whoever overcomes great hardship
is likewise another happy man.
Various men out-do each other                                              
in wealth, in power,
in all sorts of ways.
The hopes of countless men
are infinite in number.
Some make men rich;
some come to nothing.
So I consider that man blessed
who lives a happy life                                                                     
existing day by day.

[Enter Dionysus from the palace.  He calls back through the open doors]

DIONYSUS: You who are so desperately eager                             
to see those things you should not look upon,
so keen to chase what you should not pursue—
I mean you, Pentheus, come out here now,
outside the palace, where I can see you
dressed up as a raving Bacchic female,
to spy upon your mother’s company.

[Enter Pentheus dressed in women’s clothing.  He moves in a deliberately over-stated female way, enjoying the role]

DIONYSUS: [admiringly, as he escorts Pentheus from the doors]
You look just like one of Cadmus’ daughters.

PENTHEUS: Fancy that! I seem to see two suns,
two images of seven-gated Thebes.
And you look like a bull leading me out here,                      
with those horns growing from your head.
Were you once upon a time a beast?
It’s certain now you’ve changed into a bull.

DIONYSUS: The god walks here.  He’s made a pact with us.
Before his attitude was not so kind.
Now you’re seeing just what you ought to see.

PENTHEUS: How do I look?  Am I holding myself
just like Ino or my mother, Agave?

DIONYSUS: When I look at  you, I think I see them.
But here, this strand of hair is out of place.                           
It’s not under the headband where I fixed it.

PENTHEUS: [demonstrating his dancing steps]          I must have worked it loose inside the house,                               
shaking my head when I moved here and there,
practising my Bacchanalian dance.

DIONYSUS: I’ll rearrange it for you.  It’s only right
that I should serve you.  Straighten up your head.

[Dionysus begins adjusting Pentheus’ hair and clothing]

PENTHEUS:  All right then.  You can be my dresser,
now that I’ve transformed myself for you.

DIONYSUS: Your girdle’s loose.  And these pleats in your dress
are crooked, too, down at your ankle here.                            

PENTHEUS: [examining the back of his legs]          Yes, that seems to be true for my right leg,
but on this side the dress hangs perfectly,
down the full length of my limb.

DIONYSUS:                                Once you see
those Bacchic women acting modestly,
once you confront something you don’t expect,                             
you’ll consider me your dearest friend.

PENTHEUS: This thyrsus—should I hold it in my right hand,
or in my left?  Which is more suitable
in Bacchic celebrations?

DIONYSUS:                                In your right.
You must lift your right foot in time with it.                         

[Dionysus observes Pentheus trying out the dance step]
DIONYSUS: Your mind has changed.  I applaud you for it.

PENTHEUS: Will I be powerful enough to carry
the forests of Cithaeron on my shoulders,
along with all those Bacchic females?

DIONYSUS: If you have desire, you’ll have the power.
Before this your mind was not well adjusted.
But now it’s working in you as it should.

PENTHEUS: Are we going to take some levers with us?
Or shall I rip the forests up by hand,
putting arm and shoulder under mountain peaks?                

DIONYSUS: As long as you don’t do away with
those places where the nymphs all congregate,
where Pan plays his music on his pipes.

PENTHEUS: You mention a good point.  I’ll use no force
to get the better of these women.
I’ll conceal myself there in the pine trees.

DIONYSUS: You’ll find just the sort of hiding place
a spy should find who wants to hide himself,
so he can gaze upon the Maenads.

PENTHEUS:  That’s good. I can picture them right now,             
in the woods, going at it like rutting birds,
clutching each other as they make sweet love.

DIONYSUS: Perhaps.  That’s why you’re going—as a guard
to stop all that.  Maybe you’ll capture them,                                 
unless you’re captured first.

PENTHEUS:                                Lead on—
through the centre of our land of Thebes.
I’m the only man in all the city
who dares to undertake this enterprise.

DIONYSUS: You bear the city’s burden by yourself,
all by yourself.  So your work is waiting there,                       
the tasks that have been specially set for you.
Follow me.  I’m the guide who’ll rescue you.
When you return someone else will bring you back.

PENTHEUS:  That will be my mother.

DIONYSUS:                            For everyone
you’ll have become someone to celebrate.

PENTHEUS: That’s why I’m going.
DIONYSUS:                        You’ll be carried back . . .
PENTHEUS: [interrupting] You’re pampering me!
DIONYSUS: [continuing]          . . . in your mother’s arms.
PENTHEUS: You’ve really made up your mind to spoil me.
DIONYSUS: To spoil you?  That’s true, but in my own way.
PENTHEUS: Then I’ll be off to get what I deserve.                     
[Exit Pentheus]

DIONYSUS: [speaking in the direction Pentheus has gone, but not speaking to him]
You fearful, terrifying man—on your way
to horrific suffering.  Well, you’ll win
a towering fame, as high as heaven.
Hold out your hand to him, Agave,
you, too, her sisters, Cadmus’ daughters.
I’m leading this young man in your direction,
for the great confrontation, where I’ll triumph—
I and Bromius.  What else will happen
events will show, as they occur.

[Exit Dionysus]
The Bacchae