Prometheus Bound

“Prometheus Bound” by Aeschylus?  approx. 480 BC   –  79 pages

 Zeus, Olympian god of the gods, had already created and destroyed five races.  Now Zeus was ready to crush the sixth race, the human race.  Only Prometheus stood in his way.

 Prometheus was one god of an older generation of gods, the Titans, whom the gods from Olympus had overthrown.  As a Titan, Prometheus took pity on the poor humans and taught them mathematics, agriculture, medicine, and science.  The greatest gift that Prometheus gave humans was the gift of fire which he stole from the Olympian gods.  With fire, humans could cook their food and melt metals to fashion their tools and weapons.  It was fire that saved the human race from destruction by Zeus.

 Zeus was absolutely furious.  Zeus ordered his son Hephaestus, blacksmith to the gods, to mold the first human woman Pandora out of the earth.  All of the other Olympian gods joined in to give her “seductive gifts” which they put in a jar.  When Pandora opened this jar (often mistakenly called “Pandora’s box”), it released all of the evils onto mankind.  Only the good gift of ‘Hope’ remained in the jar. 

Zeus also punished Prometheus. He ordered some of his warriors including Might and Force to take Prometheus up to the highest reaches of the Caucasus Mountains and bind him to a rock pillar. As further punishment, Zeus sent a giant eagle to peck out Prometheus’ liver.  Since Prometheus was a god and thus immortal, his liver grew back at night.  Every day the eagle would return to eat Prometheus’ liver, and every night the liver would grow back again.  Immortality isn’t everything it is cracked up to be.   

There is some question whether or not the playwright Aeschylus actually wrote the play ‘Prometheus Bound’.   The main question is stylistic.  Aeschylus was a true innovator of the theatre.  Greek theatre started out as only choruses, no actors.  Over the centuries, an actor who could interact with the chorus was added to the cast.  Aeschylus was the playwright who added a second actor as well as the chorus.  This allowed much more exchange between the actors as well as the chorus. 

I tend to agree with those who think that Aeschylus did not write ‘Prometheus Bound’.  From other plays of Aeschylus which I have read, I expected more sharp interplay and dialogue than there is in ‘Prometheus Bound’.  Of course the plot of ‘Prometheus Bound’ is quite static with Prometheus tied to a rock unable to move from his place.  The dialogue in ‘Prometheus Bound’ consists of heavy somber pronouncements rather than the lively interplay I’ve come to expect in Aeschylus’ plays.

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