Aeschylus, considered by many scholars as the founder of Greek tragedy, wrote during a period destined to become the Greek Renaissance or Golden Age. Born in 525 B.C. about fourteen miles from Athens into a wealthy, aristocratic family, Aeschylus came of age as his homeland, which had been ruled by the tyrannical dictator Pisistratus and his sons, emerged to become a republic ruled democratically but by the elite. Aeschylus saw battle when Athens had fought against the powerful Persian empire, winning victories at Marathon (490 B.C.) and Salamis (480 B.C.), which have become legendary because of the skill with which the outnumbered Athenians defeated far superior forces.
Athens' s role in the Persian wars led it to become the capital of the Dalian League, a collective of Greek city-states, and peace and prosperity led to a cultural flowering rarely equaled in history. In addition to Aeschylus, the century that followed saw such dramatists as Sophocles and Aristophanes, as well as philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The importance of Aeschylus lies in his position at the beginning of this exciting period in the development of Western culture. His plays and ideas influenced much of what followed.
Aeschylus's importance in theatre history stems from his dramatic innovations which changed Greek tragedy. Traditionally, Greek tragedy consisted of a performance by one actor and the chorus. Aristotle credits Aeschylus as the first playwright to introduce a second actor, thereby allowing true dialogue to create powerful dramatic conflict. Though Prometheus Bound contains almost no physical action, extensive character development and emotionally charged psychological action make this a dynamic drama of ideas.
A minority of scholars debate Aeschylus's authorship of Prometheus Bound. Because of positions the play presents on various religious and cultural issues, as well as because of certain poetic peculiarities, some believe it is written by another author. Most scholars do believe Aeschylus wrote Prometheus Bound, however, and in any event, the authorship debate does not detract from the play's powerful drama.
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