“Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound and Other Plays” (Book Report)

Drama is thought to have originated as a form of worship.  People would reenact their hunts, as a form of communication and as worship.  It is obvious early drama occupied an important, if limited, niche in human society as a religious act. As society progressed, this became more organized. The ancient Egyptians used the art form as way to celebrate royal coronations in addition to important religious holidays.  However, when we think of classical theater, the ancient Greeks come to mind. It is in this culture that we see Drama most readily accepted. In the 6th century B.C., a state-ordained annual drama festival was arranged in honor of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. As the golden age of Greek civilization dawned, the arts flourished and this led to the emergence of some of the greatest dramatists in human history. Aeschylus was one of them, the first of the Greek tragedians.

Born into a noble family of Athenian origin in 525 B.C, Aeschylus fought in the battle of Marathon before dedicating himself to playwriting. He made many important innovations in the field, including the introduction of a second character; before that, dialog between actors was not seen in drama. He wrote more than seventy plays in his lifetime but unfortunately, only seven have survived. Of these, the book includes four.

Prometheus Bound

Roman-era relief showing Prometheus creating humanity under the watchful eye of Athena
Prometheus creates humanity as Athena looks on. (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Prometheus, the Traitor, was dragged before Zeus. He cast pleading eyes towards his friends and peers, the gods of Olympus, but they looked away. Why should they help him now when he had betrayed them all? Why should they forgive him for that which was unforgivable? The Titan was forced to his knees. He braced himself as he looked up at Zeus, one final act of haughty rebellion. “Prometheus, you stole Fire.” He nodded, his silent gaze never leaving the face of the king of gods. Zeus’s eyes narrowed. “And you gave it to the mortals, when you knew I wanted to destroy them and create a perfect race in their place.” “I did.” Prometheus’s statement rang out in the court; his tone lacked both guilt and humility. Zeus’s face colored as his clearly vexed voice rang out: “And in doing so, you have not only sealed their fates but yours as well. You will be bound to a rock, lashed by the elements for millennia, tormented by the pain of flesh and soul, until such a time that you may learn the meaning of regret.”  Prometheus smiled ruefully as the deliverers of his punishment, Strength and Violence, began to take him away. His smile angered Zeus even more; it was no longer just pride that bothered him. As the titan of Foreknowledge and Prophecy disappeared from view, the king of the gods couldn’t help but feel he had just played a part in some plan beyond even his own understanding. Read more