Prometheus Bound

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The tragedy is based on the myth of Prometheus , a Titan who defies the gods and gives fire to mankind, acts for which he is subjected to perpetual punishment. Prometheus Bound was the first work in a trilogy that also included the plays Prometheus Lyomenos Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus Pyrphoros Prometheus the Fire-Bearer , neither of which has survived.

PROMETHEUS (Cambridge Greek Play 2013)

This problem is intensified since the date of the trilogy is unknown. A reference lines to the eruption of Mount Aetna in suggests that Prometheus Bound may date later than this event. The theme of Prometheus Bound is the conflict between force and justice. The supreme god Zeus has recently assumed control of the universe from the Titans and is ruling like a petty tyrant. He has bound Prometheus to a rock in a remote corner of the earth because Prometheus gave the gift of fire to humankind, a race whom Zeus had sought to destroy.

To the original Athenian audience, which had expelled the tyrant Hippias only in b. Moreover, it is surprising to find that these references are applied to the god Zeus, usually depicted in Aeschylean tragedy as the defender of justice. The treatment of the myth of Prometheus in Prometheus Bound is a radical departure from the earlier accounts found in Hesiod 's Theogony — and Works and Days 42— Hesiod essentially portrays the Titan as a lowly trickster and semi-comic foil to Zeus's authority. Zeus's anger toward Prometheus is in turn responsible for mortal man's having to provide for himself; before, all of man's needs had been provided by the gods.

Prometheus' theft of fire also prompts the arrival of the first woman, Pandora , and her jar of evils. Pandora is entirely absent from Prometheus Bound , and Prometheus becomes a human benefactor and divine king-maker, rather than an object of blame for human suffering. There is evidence that Prometheus Bound was the first play in a trilogy conventionally called the Prometheia , but the other two plays, Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bringer , survive only in fragments.

In Prometheus Unbound , Heracles frees Prometheus from his chains and kills the eagle that had been sent daily to eat the Titan's perpetually regenerating liver. Perhaps foreshadowing his eventual reconciliation with Prometheus, we learn that Zeus has released the other Titans whom he imprisoned at the conclusion of the Titanomachy.

In Prometheus the Fire-Bringer , the Titan finally warns Zeus not to lie with the sea nymph Thetis , for she is fated to give birth to a son greater than the father. Not wishing to be overthrown, Zeus would later marry Thetis off to the mortal Peleus ; the product of that union will be Achilles , Greek hero of the Trojan War. Grateful for the warning, Zeus finally reconciles with Prometheus. Since the 19th century, however, several scholars have doubted Aeschylus' authorship of the drama. These doubts initially took the form of the so-called "Zeus Problem," or the argument that the playwright who demonstrated such piety toward Zeus in The Suppliants and Agamemnon could not have been the same playwright who, in Prometheus Bound , inveighs against Zeus for violent tyranny.

Some who object to this argument put forward the theory of a Zeus who like the Furies in the Oresteia "evolves" throughout the trilogy; these people argue that it is possible Zeus is meant to be reminiscent of a tyrant only in Prometheus Bound , and that in the conclusion of the full trilogy, Aeschylus' Zeus could have become more comparable with the just and honorable Zeus found in the works of Hesiod. Increasingly, arguments for and against the attribution to Aeschylus have been based on metrical-stylistic grounds: Herington, however, repeatedly argued for it.

Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus

Influential scholars such as M. West , [8] and Alan Sommerstein, [9] have made arguments against authenticity. According to ancient tradition, Prometheus Bound was written by Aeschylus, one of the three great Athenian tragic poets along with Sophocles and Euripides. Scholars aren't so sure. See, there are some subtle stylistic differences between this play and other plays by Aeschylus, like the Oresteia trilogy. Plus, it seems to refer to some other plays that were written after Aeschylus's death. Minor differences aside, though, the play is clearly influenced by Aeschylus's writing.

One theory suggests that the play was written by Aeschylus's son Euphorion. Or, it could have been written by some unknown Aeschylus fanboy.

Prometheus Bound: Upstart Gods, Politics, and Morality at the Beginning of Time | KCET

No matter who wrote the play, most scholars agree that it was probably first performed sometime around BCE and that it came with a sequel, Prometheus Unbound. Unfortunately, the sequel hasn't survived from antiquity—though that didn't stop the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley from writing his own play by that name in the 19th century. As a result, Prometheus Bound is a bit of a weird play. Though it's full of dramatic action, it's very clearly only a piece of a larger story, like The Two Towers or Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.


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That may sound frustrating, but only getting a piece of the tale lets us use our own imaginations to end the story, just like Shelley did. Ridley Scott's film Prometheus begins with a figure painfully dissolving into the waters of a planet that looks a lot like Earth. The Internet speculated wildly about what, exactly, this guy was doing—but a lot of people thought that he was sacrificing himself to provide the DNA that would eventually become humans.

Prometheus Bound: Upstart Gods, Politics, and Morality at the Beginning of Time

We humans love the idea that one powerful man or woman, or alien would sacrifice himself to bring life and hope to humanity. Nearly every culture has some version. The ancient Greeks had Prometheus.


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But Prometheus Bound is something more: He's standing up to the man, and we think that makes Prometheus Bound a little different than just a story about a mad scientist, like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein , subtitled The Modern Prometheus ; or the biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, inventor of the atomic bomb, called American Prometheus. Prometheus Bound is about revolution.

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