PISTHETAIROS: a middle-aged
EUELPIDES: a middle-aged
SERVANT-BIRD: a slave
serving Tereus, once a man
TEREUS: a hoopoe bird, once
A SECOND HOOPOE
GLUTTON-BIRD: a fictitious
CHORUS: of birds
XANTHIAS: slave serving
MANODOROS: slave serving
Euelpides, also called MANES
PROCNE: a nightingale with
a woman’s body, consort of Tereus
ORACLE MONGER: a collector
and interpreter of oracles
METON: a land surveyor
COMMISSIONER OF COLONIES:
an Athenian official
STATUTE SELLER: a man who
FIRST MESSENGER: a
SECOND MESSENGER: a soldier
IRIS: messenger goddess,
daughter of Zeus
FIRST HERALD: a bird
YOUNG MAN: young Athenian
who wants to beat up his father
CINESIAS: a very bad
dithyrambic poet and singer
SYCOPHANT: a common
PROMETHEUS: the Titan
POSEIDON: god of the sea,
brother of Zeus
HERCULES: the legendary
hero, now divine
TRIBALLIAN GOD: an uncouth
PRINCESS: a divine young
[Scene: a rugged, treed
wilderness area up in the rocky hills. Enter
Euelpides, both very tired. They are clambering down
from the rocky heights
towards the level stage. Pisthetairos has a crow
perched on his arm or
shoulder, and Euelpides has a jackdaw. Both
Euelpides are carrying packs on their back. They are
followed by two slaves
carrying more bags. The slaves stay well out of
the way until they get
involved in the action later on.]
EUELPIDES: [speaking to
the bird he is carrying]
Are you telling us to keep going straight ahead?
Over there by that tree?
Blast this bird—
it’s croaking for us to head back, go home.
Why are we wandering up and down like this?
You’re such a fool—this endless weaving round
will kill us both.
I must be an idiot
keep hiking on along these pathways,
hundred miles at least, and just because
that’s what this crow keeps telling me to do.
What about me? My poor toe nails are thrashed.
I’ve worn them out because I’m following
what this jackdaw says.
I’ve no idea
where on earth we are.
You mean from here
you couldn’t make it back to your place?
way—not even Execestides
could manage that.1
We’re in a real mess.
the name of a mythological king of Thrace who married Procne and
raped her sister Philomela. The sisters killed his son and fed
Tereus the flesh for dinner. All three were changed into birds:
Tereus into a hoopoe, Procne into a nightingale, and Philomela into
a swallow. Tharreleides: the reference here seems to be to a
well-known member of the audience, perhaps celebrated for his small
size and loud voice.
Well, you could try going along that pathway.
[The two men start
exploring different paths down to opposite sides of the stage]
two were conned by that Philokrates,
the crazy vendor in the marketplace
An Athenian descended from Carian slaves and therefore not entitled
to be a citizen. The point is that he must have been very skillful
to get to Athens, given where he started, and even he couldn’t find
his way back to Athens.
who sells those trays of birds. He claimed these two
would take us straight to Tereus the hoopoe,
man who years ago became a bird.
That’s why we paid an obol for this one,
this jackdaw, son of Tharreleides.2
and three more for the crow. And then what?
The two know nothing, except how to bite.
[The jackdaw with
Euelpides begins to get excited about something.
Euelpides talks to the
What’s got your attention now? In those rocks?
You want to take us there? There’s no way through.
across the stage to Euelpides]
god, the same thing over here, no road.
What’s your crow saying about the pathway?
god, it’s not cawing what it did before.
But what’s it saying about the road?
it’s saying nothing, just keeps on croaking—
something about biting my fingers off.
Don’t you think it’s really odd the two of us,
a name for Acestor, a foreign-born tragic dramatist.
the Greek expression is “to the Ravens,” meaning “go to hell.”
ready and eager to head off for the birds,3
just can’t find the way. You see, we’re not well.
and clan: the political units of Athenian civic life.
All you men sitting there to hear our words,
we’re ill with a disease, not like the one
which Sacas suffers,no—the opposite.4
He’s no true citizen, yet nonetheless
he’s pushing his way in by force, but we,
both honoured members of our tribe and clan,5
both citizens among you citizens,
with no one trying to drive us from the city,
pot, and myrtle boughs: these materials were necessary to conduct
the sacrifices at the founding of a new city.
have winged our way out of our native land
our two feet. We don’t hate the city
because we think it’s not by nature great
and truly prosperous—open to all,
they can spend their money paying fines.
Cicadas chirp up in the trees a while,
month or two, but our Athenians
keep chirping over lawsuits all their lives.
That’s why right now we’ve set off on this trip,
with all this stuff—basket, pot, and myrtle boughs.6
We’re looking for a nice relaxing spot,
where we can settle down, live out our lives.
We’re heading for Tereus, that hoopoe bird—
we’d like to know if in his flying around
he’s seen a city like the one we want.