“[Woodruff’s translation] is clear, fluent, and vigorous, well thought out, readable and forceful. The rhythms are right, ever-present but not too insistent or obvious. “[Woodruff’s translation] is clear, fluent, and vigorous, well thought out, readable and Paul Woodruff is Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin. Get this from a library! Bacchae.. [Euripides.; Paul Woodruff] — [Woodruff’s translation] is clear, fluent, and vigorous, well thought out, readable and forceful.

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Woodruff’s new edition brings the number of available and soon forthcoming English translations of the Bacchae to about two dozen.

To situate Woodruff in this glutted market, I will discuss his new edition–his translation in ‘Part 1’ of this review, his introduction and supporting material in ‘Part 2’–with some reference to rival editions. In ‘Part 3’ of this review, I have compiled an annotated list of 22 other translations of the play, including 15 published in the past decade and some older editions still in print.

Throughout this review, editions from the annotated list are referred to by asterisk plus translator’s name, e. In comparing lines from Woodruff’s translation to those of a rival, I do not intend to suggest that the two versions will compare throughout as they do for the particular lines under consideration. Indeed, in no way does this review aim to conduct an exhaustive comparison.

It attempts only to describe each recipe briefly and to give a spoonful of each dish in the unusually diverse potluck of available translations. In addition to a short description and assessment of each edition, the annotated list also reproduces lines and so that readers can compare something from them according to their own preferences.

I offer my own assessment of the lot at the beginning of ‘Part 3’. Translations differ, of course, according to whether they aim at a literal rendering, for careful study of the text and the thought of the playwright, a dramaturgic rendering, for the practice and study of performance, or a poetic rendering, for the crafting of verses intended to approach the beauty of the original, free from the constraints of the text’s most literal meaning.

Woodruff’s translation aims at all three, 1 though his highest priority is to support careful study. His edition is “intended primarily for classroom use” vii and aims “first of all at being clear and true to the basic meaning of the text.

The edition as a whole will be considered according to its suitability for use by undergraduates who do not have a background in classical languages and literature. Frequently Woodruff foregoes literal translation in search of a similar expression in modern idiom. Surround this royal home of Pentheus, and strike. Woodruff calls this “a throng of women-born”. The most effective translation will indicate the unusual ‘womanish’ nature of this mob cf.

No assistance is given to readers who might wonder what it means to ‘tie’ a thyrsus. Woodruff is among the translators who most substantially adorn the baccchae with which Pentheus makes his first impression.

Two decidedly inventive editions also take noteworthy liberties with these lines. Woodruff’s Teiresias explains this in English by setting up a pun between Zeus’ “showing sky” to Hera and the “sewn in thigh” of the later account: A “dummy Dionysus”, though, could certainly be improved upon.

This is a suggestive line, given what Dionysus does and does not say in the lines to follow. It’s a simple story. Among other complaints one might make about this rendition, one might note that nothing in the text justifies the word “sir”, nor is “sir” appropriate in the context of Dionysus’ far from obedient and respectful responses that follow.

Dodds on Bacchaebachae three of which could be at work at Immediately after the palace miracles, a still defiant Pentheus growls at the stranger for suggesting that the king’s efforts to seal off the city will not contain pxul god. An endnote on a previous line pp.

Wooxruff is bracketed by Diggle because of its similarity to Except for the last word of each line, both are identical. Woodruff translates both lines without making note of the difficulty. Of the other lines bracketed by Diggle, Woodruff mentions,,and simply translates without comment,, The two most important textual issues–the nacchae after and are discussed by Woodruff both in the stage directions and, more substantially, in corresponding endnotes.


In the stage directions preceding Agave’s first lines ff. Unfortunately, Woodruff’s supporting material lacks an adequate discussion or description of this central stage prop.

The Bacchae by Euripides – Audience Participation Play Reading with Paul Woodruff

At the chorus asks Agave to name those who took part in the kill. A literal rendering might run: And who struck him then? His daughters attacked the monster after I did. Who else struck him? Whose daughters laid hand on this creature– ” Cf. I do intend to point out the care with bacchse such lines must be translated, and to recommend better supporting material in cases in which an inexperienced reader of tragedy might have difficulty following the text. Woodruff’s translation is supported by an introduction 34 pagesbrief footnotes on roughly half the pages of the translation rarely totaling more than a few linesmore substantive endnotes 13 pages, not flagged in the translation, unfortunatelyan appendix nacchae pages discussing the lost speeches, and a bibliographical note 2 pages supported by a list of works cited 4 pages.

To introduce an aura of decadence the cover of the book presents a mug shot of Elvis Presley in his newly acquired army uniform. Woodruff’s substantial introduction presents short discussions, each of a couple of pages or so, grouped under key headings. In the first of these, entitled “The Play”, Woodruff sets the scene of the dramatic action, gives a brief outline of the story, and characterizes the imminent meeting of Dionysus and Pentheus.

Woodruff compares this meeting to “Mick Jagger in his prime running into a newly installed conservative dictator” xiiif we could also imagine the rock star as being able to bring forth a real earthquake. The section on “Cultural Background” follows, divided into three subsections. In “Religion”, Woodruff offers a short account of Dionysus and the “elusive” religious practices associated with him. In “Madness and Bacchar Woodruff explores the tension between the release afforded by ritual and its claim to promote sound-mindedness.

Woodruff presents this as a fundamental paradox of the Dionysiac religion treated by the play: In almost one breath they praise self-control and letting go.

In his discussion abcchae the “New Learning” Woodruff argues that fifth century intellectualism is characterized in the play as a threat to this wooruff of acceptance, which leads to a quiet life, is modest, and resists innovation.

In the section on “The Author” Woodruff introduces frequently treated themes in the Euripidean corpus. Woodruff highlights criticisms of religion, women’s issues, and the “conservative populism” xxi which, he claims, defines Euripides’ political sympathies. In “Ancient Tragic Theatre” Woodruff describes the tragic festivals, staging, and setting of Greek tragedies, adding notes about the conventions of chorus and messenger. Woodruff includes a subsection entitled “Plot” which says almost nothing about plots, but instead insists on the untenable thesis that “fate and divine decree operate in the background, if at all” xxiv.

Rather than conceiving the action as predestined, Woodruff argues, “the audience must believe that the characters have real choices to make” xxiv.

Readers might question why this perspective is necessary to approach the play, or if indeed it is supported by the action itself. Dionysus, of course, fulfills his promises stated in the prologue, and he explains the cruelty of doing so–whatever we think of it–by referring to Zeus’ designa line brushed off by Woodruff as a “passing reference” xxiv without major significance.

Further, Dionysus seems to have an effect on Pentheus that bbacchae his ability to choose woodrhff. In fact, this is acknowledged by Woodruff when he suggests that, before we even meet Pentheus, “perhaps he has already been crazed by Dionysus into a state in which he can see no further than resistance to the new cult.

Woodruff presents four pages introducing “The Characters of the Bacchae”. He begins by equipping new readers to approach the multifaceted character of Dionysus and to appreciate the bacchaf and power of the choral lyric. This is followed by concise and helpful discussions of the other characters. Each of these, however, contains interpretations which might better be identified as the author’s reading among other possible alternatives. Teiresias is seen as a representative of the ‘New Learning’ xxvii, cf.

voice matters and plays i’ve read: Bacchae by Euripides translated and with notes by Paul Woodruff

Cadmus, according to Woodruff, is pul senile” xxviii, cf. When discussing Pentheus, Woodruff makes frequent reference to the “unconscious” xxviii, 71 or “suppressed” xvi, xxiv; cf. Agave “is more stage prop than dramatic character,” about whom Woodruff concludes: The lack of qualification in presenting these interpretations all off the mark, in my opinion might limit rather than facilitate a beginner’s approach to the richness and complexity of Euripides’ characterizations.


Woodruff concludes his introduction with a 13 page survey of “Interpretations of the Bacchae “. These short but stimulating discussions of seven interpretations of the play, followed by Woodruff’s own reading, set Woodruff’s edition apart from others. They are excellent prolegomena for students of the play. The first reading Woodruff considers, which he refers to as the ‘recantation’ interpretation, considers the play to be a mature palinode of the poet’s youthful criticism of religion.

A second interpretation, associated with Winnington-Ingram, suggests that the play involves moral scrutiny of Dionysus and his cult. Woodruff then considers interpretations which see the play as a source of ‘rationalism’ Verrall, Norwood and ‘irrationalism’ Dodds.

A fifth interpretation, attributed to Segal and Nussbaum, argues that the play “honestly represents unresolved tensions in human life” xxxiv and is hence neither for nor against Dionysus. A sixth interpretation, associated with Seaford, treats paull destruction of Pentheus as ‘a social necessity’, a ritual which promotes civic unity.

Lastly, the play’s political dimensions are considered by mentioning some interpretive remarks of Leinieks and Esposito. Woodruff concludes with his own reading of the play, which–as one might expect from his emphasis on what he refers to as the ‘New Learning’–views the play as a concerted effort to “skewer the wisdom of intellectuals” xxxix.

Further, according to Woodruff, Euripides, with his particular framing of the Pentheus myth, “seems to be tacking onto the play a message that does not appear to be integral to the plot” xl.

It hardly seems possible, though, that the central theme of any tragedy could be something that is not integral to the plot. Further, the play certainly develops negative characterizations which are not immediately attributable to the office of sophists and philosophers. The hamartia of Laul in particular is soodruff and doodruff above and beyond its relation to Athenian intellectualism. His excessiveness, and the god’s corresponding excessive response, are an education in themselves of lasting relevance to the broad human questions they treat.

These questions may indeed overlap with concerns about the ambiguous social position of ‘wise men’ in Euripides’ Athens, but such particular concerns could hardly be the occasion and the subject of this universally compelling work of art.

For students without a background in classics, the best self-contained i. Any of these four editions would do an admirable job of supporting undergraduates who approach the play for the first time.

One of these editions might be preferable to another on different occasions. His success in doing so makes his edition especially choiceworthy for undergraduates new to Greek tragedy. Finally, it should be stated that apul features of Woodruff’s edition which are not to my taste might be particularly attractive to others, such as his use of colloquialism and of examples drawn from popular culture. Three other editions merit consideration for classroom use: Containing several plays in each volume, these do not focus exclusively on the Bacchae as the above four do, but may be preferable in survey courses reading several plays apace.

The Davie volume containing Bacchae has not yet appeared, but the other available volumes read very well and are well supported with useful notes and introductions. At the present moment the market offers about a half dozen worthy editions of the Bacchae. Straying from those here recommended, though, except for dramaturgic or poetic purposes, can quickly lead into dubious territory.

In addition to a very brief statement of the content and merits of each edition, I also indicate woodrfuf the line numbers refer to the Greek or English, if they exist at all. These lines, in Woodruff’s translation, run as follows.