Plot : The Titan Prometheus is bound to a lonely crag for eternity, for defying Zeus and giving mankind fire. His ability to foretell the future is his only hope of future release, yet he refuses to tell Zeus of the circumstances of that God’s potential future downfall.
My copy is the Penguin edition covering Aeschylus’ four surviving plays outside his Oresteian Trilogy, edited by Philip Vellacott (ISBN 9780140441123)
My thoughts: Again, the first and only surviving play in a trilogy. Initially believed to have been written by Aeschylus, some think it more likely to have been by his son Euphorion. I think the nearly 30 year gap between The Oresteia and this play lends credence to this view.
I actually found this a much more visually imaginative play than the others credited to Aeschylus, and would love to see it on stage : the arrival of Oceanus on a winged beast and the Chorus in a winged carriage, the costumes for the part-woman, part-cow Io, and the gods Hephestus and Hermes, the personifications of Strength and Violence, the chaining/binding of Prometheus to the rock, and its descent underground at the end of the play would make for a remarkable spectacle.
This story had already been referenced by Hesiod, Homer and Pindar. What I learnt new from this telling included
• A more complete telling of the Io myth, linking back to the events in The Suppliants, and the following murder of all but one of their husbands, and the descendant (Heracles) of the surviving couple to eventually free Prometheus and bring the story full circle
• Prometheus not only gave man fire, but also claims to have taught man writing, mathematics, astronomy, horsemanship, animal husbandry and agricultural uses, seamanship, medicine, mining and prophecy – in short, “all human skill and science”
My question on an earlier post as to whether Gods could be portrayed on stage is fully answered by this play.
It is a pleasant thing to spend the length of life
In confidence and hope,
And to nourish the soul in light and cheerfulness
The Daughters of Oceanus (Chorus)
So let the pronged locks of lightning be launched at me,
Let the air be roused with thunder and convulsion of wild winds,
Let hurricanes upheave by the roots the base of the earth,
Let the sea-waves’ roaring savagery
Confound the courses of the heavenly stars
Let him lift me high and hurl me to black Tartarus
On ruthless floods of irresistible doom ;
I am one whom he cannot kill
Personal rating: 7/10.