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Prometheus Bound (460 BC)
Of my free will, my own free will, I erred,
And freely do I here acknowledge it.
Aeschylus is considered to be the father of Greek Tragedy as we know it, if for no other reason than his introduction of a second actor onto the scene. Up until his time, plays had consisted of just one actor, changing masks if necessary. But in addition to being an innovator, Aeschylus wrote one of the really pivotal works in the history of literature and of the human quest to understand our purpose in the universe: Prometheus Bound.
The parallels to the Biblical account of man's fall are obvious. Prometheus is a Titan, more than human but less than God, like the angels. He gives fire to mankind in violation of Zeus' orders, making man a threat to the gods. Zeus punishes him by chaining him to a boulder where vultures peck out his innards every day, only to have them grow back at night, a little harsher than making the serpent crawl and banishing man from Eden, eh? And so on...
The play opens as Prometheus is being bound by the reluctant Hephaestus, god of fire, who is the first of several characters to beg him to repent and apologize to Zeus. Not only does Prometheus refuse, he is outwardly defiant of the king of the gods:
Later he explains just what the possession of knowledge will mean to mankind:
When Io, a mortal woman who has also been mistreated by Zeus, makes her appearance, Prometheus intimates that her descendants will eventually free him and unseat the king of the gods. It is this key perception--that man has gained the capacity to achieve godhood himself--and the heroic defiance of Prometheus in giving us the wherewithal to mount this challenge that make the play so thrilling and earn it a central position in the Western Canon.
But there is, of course, one vital step still to be taken in man's self-realization and it occurs, not in Greek drama, but in Genesis. For in the Promethean myth man is totally passive; it is up to the demigod Prometheus to force the action. Whereas, while even Adam and Eve require some prodding from the serpent, the essence of their story is that they are liberated from the domesticated beastlike existence of Eden by an act of their own free will. But we'll not let the best be the enemy of the good. Prometheus Bound represents an important expansion of man's understanding of the purpose of life, which is to use the gift of Prometheus (i.e. the capacity for knowledge) to make ourselves gods, and it is a must read.
-Aeschylus Page (Temple U)
-Aeschylus (c. 523-456 B.C.)
-ETEXTS: GREAT BOOKS INDEX Aeschylus (524--455 BC): An Index to Online Great Books in English Translation
-The Internet Classics Archive | Works by Aeschylus
-Concordance to Aeschylus - 7 Plays - translated by Robert Potter
-t h e c l a s s i c s p a g e s
-REVIEW: Bernard M.W. Knox: Aeschylus Pinioned and Grabbed, NY Review of Books
Aeschylus: Suppliants translated by Janet Lembke
Aeschylus: Seven Against Thebes translated by Helen Bacon and Anthony Hecht
Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound translated by James Scully and C. John Herington
-REVIEW: Prometheus at Yale (Francis Fergusson, NY Review of Books)
Prometheus Bound derived from Aeschylus by Robert Lowell and directed by Jonathan Miller
-Study Guide: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
-Study guide for Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound (Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Temple University)
-ESSAY: Klytaimestra: A Study of Aeschylus' Agamemnon 1372-1576
-ONLINE STUDY GUIDE: Agamemnon (Spark Notes)
-ESSAY: THE HEART OF THE MATTER: Gods, Grief, and Freedom in Aeschylus' Oresteia (Michael R. Deschenes, Classics Technology Center)
-ESSAY: The politics of Aeschylus' Eumenides (Keith Sidwell, St Patrick's College Maynooth, CLASSICS IRELAND1996 Volume 3 University College Dublin, Ireland)
-ESSAY: Ethics of Greek Theater (Sanderson Beck)
-ESSAY: Greek Tragedy Lecture GREEK TRAGEDY: AESCHYLUS, WEAVING AND BIRTH by Prof. Ricardo Nirenberg
-REVIEW: The Oresteia By Aeschylus. A New Translation by Ted Hughes (Garry Wills, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography by Roger Shattuck (Andrew Delbanco, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: (Jasper Griffin: The Myth of Myths, NY Review of Books)
Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India by Wendy Doniger
The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth by Wendy Doniger
-REVIEW: of The Oresteia of Aeschylus translated by Robert Lowell (D.S. Carne-Ross, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of The Ancient Concept of Progress by E.R. Dodds (W.H. Auden, NY Review of Books)
-ESSAY : The Second Fall of Rome : Have the past two centuries of Western culture been one long saga of lionizing Greece while disparaging the cultural prestige and classical values of ancient Rome? (Michael Lind, Wilson Quarterly)
Aeschylus did not write Prometheus Bound. Since Mark Griffith's "The Authenticity of 'Prometheus Bound'" in 1977 scholars have been agreed that someone else wrote it, possibly a century later.
- Dec-13-2002, 18:41