Prometheus Bound

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A: Aeschylus? Pf:c.466–459bc Tr: 1777 G: Greek trag. in verse S: A rocky gorge in the mountains, in the mythical past C: 6m, 1f, chorus (f)Cratos and Bia drag on the bound Prometheus, in order to assist Hephaestus, the gods' blacksmith, to forge Prometheus' chains to a rock. Prometheus is to be punished terribly for disobeying Zeus and bringing fire to the human race. Remaining silent until he is alone, the Titan Prometheus unleashes a monologue of anger and defiance: he bewails the fact that, although he is himself a god, he must suffer divine injustice. The chorus of the daughters of the sea god Oceanus attempt to console him. But Prometheus is unrelenting in his angry denunciation of the gods, even when Oceanus himself arrives to urge him to be moderate. Prometheus insists that he will give himself up to suffering and so cause Zeus more anguish. Io, the daughter of the King of Argos, comes: she too is a victim of the anger of the gods and has been struck with madness. Finally Hermes appears to threaten Prometheus with more severe punishments if he does not stop his tirade. The latter responds with even more vehement outbursts, and so amidst thunder and lightning is cast down into the depths of Tartarus.

A: Aeschylus? Pf:c.466–459bc Tr: 1777 G: Greek trag. in verse S: A rocky gorge in the mountains, in the mythical past C: 6m, 1f, chorus (f)

It is not certain that Aeschylus wrote Prometheus Bound, but it is convenient to continue to attribute the piece to him. It was probably the second part of a trilogy (the third would have shown Prometheus unbound). In creating the potent image of someone prepared to defy the gods and to embrace his punishment in the same defiant spirit, Aeschylus (or another) established the model for the tragic hero, and one that was to become particularly popular with the Romantics. Other cultures have always celebrated their victorious heroes. The tragic view of life, initiated by the Greeks and adopted by the Western world, celebrates figures who, though destined to defeat, inspire us with their individualism and courage. Thus, while tragic figures must succumb to their fate (how could it be otherwise?), tragedy, by celebrating their courageous spirit, is not an urge to conform, but rather a celebration of what makes them uniquely human. Prometheus Bound is also notable for its spectacular effects, especially the final descent of Prometheus into the underworld, probably achieved with a trapdoor (the ekkukleme). Hence Aristotle cited it as a prime example of opsis, theatre as spectacle.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

Reference entries

Aeschylus (525—456 bc) Greek dramatist

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