CHORUS 1: Up now, you hounds of madness,                             
go up now into the mountains,
go where Cadmus’ daughters
keep their company of worshippers,                                              
goad them into furious revenge
against that man, that raving spy,
all dressed up in his women’s clothes,
so keen to glimpse the Maenads.
His mother will see him first,
as he spies on them in secret
from some level rock or crag.                                               
She’ll scream out to her Maenads,
“Who’s the man who’s come here,
to the mountains, to these mountains,
tracking Cadmean mountain dancers?
Oh my Bacchae, who has come?
From whom was this man born?
He’s not born of woman’s blood—
he must be some lioness’ whelp
or spawned from Libyan gorgons.”                                                 

CHORUS: Let justice manifest itself—                                         
let justice march, sword in hand,
to stab him in the throat,
that godless, lawless man,
unjust earthborn seed of Echion.

CHORUS 2: Any man intent on wickedness,
turning his unlawful rage
against your rites, O Bacchus,
against the worship of your mother,
a man who sets out with an insane mind,                                      
his courage founded on a falsehood,                                      
who seeks to overcome by force
what simply can’t be overcome—
let death set his intentions straight.
For a life devoid of grief is one
which receives without complaint
whatever comes down from the gods—
that’s how mortals ought to live.
Wisdom is something I don’t envy.
My joy comes hunting other things
lofty and plain to everyone.                                                   
They lead man’s life to good
in purity and reverence,
honouring gods day and night,
eradicating from our lives
customs lying beyond what’s right.                                               

CHORUS: Let justice manifest itself—
Let justice march, sword in hand,
to stab him in the throat,
that godless, lawless man,
unjust earthborn seed of Echion.                                          

CHORUS 3: Appear now to our sight, O Bacchus—
come as a bull or many-headed serpent
or else some fire-breathing lion.
Go now, Bacchus, with your smiling face                                      
cast your deadly noose upon
that hunter of the Bacchae,
as the group of Maenads brings him down.

[Enter Second Messenger, one of Pentheus’ attendants]

SECOND MESSENGER: How I grieve for this house, in earlier days
so happy throughout Greece, home of that old man,
Cadmus from Sidon, who sowed the fields                           
to harvest the earth-born crop produced
from serpent Ophis.  How I now lament—
I know I’m just a slave, but nonetheless . . .

CHORUS [They sing or chant their responses to the Messenger]
Do you bring us news?
Has something happened,
something about the Bacchae?

SECOND MESSENGER:  Pentheus, child of Echion, is dead.             

CHORUS: O my lord Bromius,
Now your divine greatness
is here made manifest!                                                           

SECOND MESSENGER: What are you saying?  Why that song?
Women, how can you now rejoice like this
for the death of one who was my master?

CHORUS LEADER: We’re strangers here in Thebes,
so we sing out our joy
in chants from foreign lands.
No longer need we cower here
in fear of prisoner’s chains.

SECOND MESSENGER: Do you think Thebes lacks sufficient men
to take care of your punishment?                                           

CHORUS: Dionysus, oh Dionysus,
he’s the one with power over me—
not Thebes.

SECOND MESSENGER: That you may be forgiven, but to cry
aloud with joy when such disasters come,
women, that’s not something you should so.                                

CHORUS: Speak to me, tell all—
How did death strike him down,
that unrighteous man,
that man who acted so unjustly?                                            

SECOND MESSENGER: Once we’d left the settlements of Thebes,
we went across the river Asopus,
then started the climb up Mount Cithaeron—
Pentheus and myself, I following the king.
The stranger was our guide, scouting the way.
First, we sat down in a grassy meadow,
keeping our feet and tongues quite silent,
so we could see without being noticed.                                          
There was a valley there shut in by cliffs.
Through it refreshing waters flowed, with pines                   
providing shade.  The Maenads sat there,
their hands all busy with delightful work—
some of them with ivy strands repairing
damaged thyrsoi, while others sang,
chanting Bacchic songs to one another,
carefree as fillies freed from harness.
Then Pentheus, that unhappy man,
not seeing the crowd of women, spoke up,
“Stranger, I can’t see from where we’re standing.
My eyes can’t glimpse those crafty Maenads.                         
But up there, on that hill, a pine tree stands.
If I climbed that, I might see those women,
and witness the disgraceful things they do.”
Then I saw that stranger work a marvel.
He seized that pine tree’s topmost branch—
it stretched up to heaven—and brought it down,
pulling it to the dark earth, bending it
as if it were a bow or some curved wheel
forced into a circle while staked out with pegs—
that’s how the stranger made that tree bend down,                
forcing the mountain pine to earth by hand,
something no mortal man could ever do.
He set Pentheus in that pine tree’s branches.                                 
Then his hands released the tree, but slowly,
so it stood up straight, being very careful
not to shake Pentheus loose.  So that pine
towered straight up to heaven, with my king
perched on its back.  Maenads could see him there
more easily than he could spy on them.
As he was just becoming visible—                                      
the stranger had completely disappeared—
some voice—I guess it was Dionysus—
cried out from the sky, “Young women,
I’ve brought you the man who laughed at you,                              
who ridiculed my rites.  Now punish him!”
As he shouted this, a dreadful fire arose,
blazing between the earth and heaven.
The air was still.  In the wooded valley
no sound came from the leaves, and all the beasts
were silent, too.  The women stood up at once.                    
They’d heard the voice, but not distinctly.
They gazed around them.  Then again the voice
shouted his commands.  When Cadmus’ daughters
clearly heard what Dionysus ordered,
they rushed out, running as fast as doves,                                      
moving their feet at an amazing speed.
His mother Agave with both her sisters
and all the Bacchae charged straight through
the valley, the torrents, the mountain cliffs,
pushed to a god-inspired frenzy.                                          
They saw the king there sitting in that pine.
First, they scaled a cliff face looming up
opposite the tree and started throwing rocks,
trying to hurt him.  Others threw branches,
or hurled their thyrsoi through the air at him,
sad, miserable Pentheus, their target.                                             
But they didn’t hit him.  The poor man
sat high beyond their frenzied cruelty,
trapped up there, no way to save his skin.
Then, like lightning, they struck oak branches down,          
trying them as levers to uproot the tree.
When these attempts all failed, Agave said,
“Come now, make a circle round the tree.
Then, Maenads, each of you must seize a branch,
so we can catch the climbing beast up there,
stop him making our god’s secret dances known.”
Thousands of hands grabbed the tree and pulled.
They yanked it from the ground.  Pentheus fell,                             
crashing to earth down from his lofty perch,
screaming in distress.  He knew well enough                       
something dreadful was about to happen.
His priestess mother first began the slaughter.
She hurled herself at him. Pentheus tore off
his headband, untying it from his head,
so wretched Agave would recognize him,
so she wouldn’t kill him. Touching her cheek,
he cried out, “It’s me, mother, Pentheus,
your child.  You gave birth to me at home,
in Echion’s house. Pity me, mother—                                           
don’t kill your child because I’ve made mistakes.”                
But Agave was foaming at the mouth,
eyes rolling in their sockets, her mind not set
on what she ought to think—she didn’t listen—
she was possessed, in a Bacchic frenzy.
She seized his left arm, below the elbow,
pushed her foot against the poor man’s ribs,
then tore his shoulder out.  The strength she had—
it was not her own.  The god put power
into those hands of hers.  Meanwhile Ino,
her sister, went at the other side,                                           
ripping off chunks of Pentheus’ flesh,
while Autonoe and all the Bacchae,                                                
the whole crowd of them, attacked as well,
all of them howling out together.
As long as Pentheus was still alive,
he kept on screaming. The women cried in triumph—
one brandished an arm, another held a foot—
complete with hunting boot—the women’s nails
tore his ribs apart.  Their hands grew bloody,
tossing bits of his flesh back and forth, for fun.                     
His body parts lie scattered everywhere—
some under rough rocks, some in the forest,
deep in the trees.  They’re difficult to find.
As for the poor victim’s head, his mother                                     
stumbled on it.  Her hands picked it up,
then stuck it on a thyrsus, at the tip.
Now she carries it around Cithaeron,
as though it were some wild lion’s head.
She’s left her sisters dancing with the Maenads.
She’s coming here, inside these very walls,                            
showing off with pride her ill-fated prey,
calling out to her fellow hunter, Bacchus,
her companion in the chase, the winner,
the glorious victor.  By serving him,
in her great triumph she wins only tears.
As for me, I’m leaving this disaster,
before Agave gets back home again.
The best thing is to keep one’s mind controlled,                            
and worship all that comes down from the gods.
That, in my view, is the wisest custom,                                 
for those who can conduct  their lives that way.

[Exit Messenger]

CHORUS:  Let’s dance to honour Bacchus,
Let’s shout to celebrate what’s happened here,
happened to Pentheus,
child of the serpent,
who put on women’s clothes,
who took up the beautiful and blessed thyrsus—
his certain death,
disaster brought on by the bull.
You Bacchic women                                                            
descended from old Cadmus,
you’ve won glorious victory,
one which ends in tears,
which ends in lamentation.
A noble undertaking this,
to drench one’s hands in blood,
life blood dripping from one’s only son.

CHORUS LEADER:  Wait!  I see Agave, Pentheus’ mother,
on her way home, her eyes transfixed.
Let’s now  welcome her,                                                       
the happy revels of our god of joy!

[Enter Agave, cradling the head of Pentheus]
AGAVE: Asian Bacchae . . .
CHORUS:                              Why do you appeal to me?

AGAVE: [displaying the head] From the mountains I’ve brought home     
this ivy tendril freshly cut.
We’ve had a blessed hunt.

CHORUS:                                     I see it.
As your fellow dancer, I’ll accept it.

AGAVE:  I caught this young lion without a trap,
as you can see.

CHORUS:               What desert was he in?
AGAVE:  Cithaeron.
CHORUS:                                   On Cithaeron?
AGAVE: Cithaeron killed him.
CHORUS:                                    Who struck him down?           

AGAVE: The honour of the first blow goes to me.
In the dancing I’m called blessed Agave.                                

CHORUS: Who else?
AGAVE:                            Well, from Cadmus . . .
CHORUS:                                     From Cadmus what?

AGAVE: His other children laid hands on the beast,
but after me—only after I did first.
We’ve had good hunting.  So come, share our feast.

CHORUS: What? You want me to eat that with you?
Oh you unhappy woman.

AGAVE: This is a young bull.  Look at this cheek
It’s just growing downy under the crop                               
of his soft hair.

CHORUS:            His hair makes him resemble
some wild beast.

AGAVE:                               Bacchus is a clever huntsman—               
he wisely set his Maenads on this beast.

CHORUS: Yes, our master is indeed a hunter.
AGAVE: Have you any praise for me?
CHORUS:                                               I praise you.
AGAVE: Soon all Cadmus’ people. . .
CHORUS:                           . . . and Pentheus, your son, as well.

AGAVE: . . . will celebrate his mother, who caught the beast,
just like a lion.

CHORUS:                             It’s a strange trophy.
AGAVE: And strangely captured, too.
CHORUS:                         You’re proud of what you’ve done?

AGAVE: Yes, I’m delighted.  Great things I’ve done—               
great things on this hunt, clear for all to see.

CHORUS: Well then, you most unfortunate woman,                              
show off your hunting prize, your sign of victory,
to all the citizens.
The Bacchae