Prometheus Bound

by Aeschylus

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The Myth of Prometheus

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Poets and scholars have traditionally read the tale of Prometheus as a lesson in revolution, seeing the imprisoned Titan as an emblem of the lone individual in heroic rebellion against mindless tyranny. This view became more common during the French Revolution and Napoleonic periods of the nineteenth century, when Prometheus became a symbol first of freedom, and later, of the leader Napoleon himself. We encounter this image of Prometheus in poems by various Romantic era poets, in particular Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley, himself an accomplished classical scholar who translated works by Plato and the other notable Greek dramatists, wrote Prometheus Unbound, his version of Aeschylus's work that speculates what might have occurred when the Titan became free.

Remember that Prometheus Bound forms only the first part of Aeschylus's trilogy—commonly known as the Prometheia—whose other plays have been lost. We know, for example that the story of Prometheus Bound continued in Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bearer. Significantly, Shelley's version ends with Zeus defeated, dragged down into darkness by Demogorgon, a figure of Necessity. Everything we know about Aeschylus's version of the play, however, tells another tale, that of reconciliation between the rebel and the tyrant. While the romantic version retains a certain appeal in its representation of heroic individualism and its vision of redemptive love leading to an earthly utopia, Aeschylus's version raises a different set of intriguing themes and questions. Enough fragments of the lost Prometheia plays remain to provide an outline of Aeschylus's conclusion, indicating that after thousands of years, Zeus and Prometheus reconciled, the tyrant learning mercy and the rebel obedience.

If we consider Prometheus Bound in the context of themes laid out in the trilogy, the Prometheia can be read as a psychological and political allegory, representing the human microcosm (i.e. the mind) and macrocosm (i.e. society). Arguably, the play suggests that freedom and authority must be balanced in any ethical person, leader, and/or society. We might see this as a shift in the notion of the hero, evolving from that of Homer's Odysseus, a wily trickster given to spontaneity and temper, to the moderate, reasonable individual validated in Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics. Since Homer comes before Aeschylus and Aristotle afterward, the Prometheia may mark a transition between these two models of the hero. After all, the Prometheus of Prometheus Bound resembles Odysseus in many ways, and what we know about the reconciled Prometheus of Prometheus Unbound exhibits many of the characteristics Aristotle applauds. This contradicts those wanting to read the Prometheus myth as solely a struggle between two absolutes: tyranny and freedom. Instead, being an ethical, individual ruler or society requires balance.

Prometheus faces a classic ethical dilemma, in which he must choose between two mutually exclusive systems of law. From the Olympian point of view, Prometheus wrongly disobeys authority, given classical society's need and respect for hierarchy, but he acts with noble purpose, to save humanity from destruction. Like Antigone (who defied her ruler by performing a forbidden funeral ritual for her slain brother), Prometheus commits the lesser wrong—disobeying a tyrant—and prevents the greater wrong—the destruction of the helpless human race. Seen from the human perspective, Prometheus' s actions seem heroic, while seen from the vantage point of Olympus, they seem like betrayal.

So far, we have discussed what the Prometheia says about society, about the ruler and the ruled. By reading this play as a psychodrama, we can see that Zeus and Prometheus can represent two sides of a single personality. After all, their personalities share much in common: pride, temper, stubbornness, vengefulness. If at first this...

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seems a stretch, consider that in many ways, Prometheus's character and behavior appear ambiguous. He presents himself as the sympathetic champion of humanity, but he aided Zeus in overturning his father Kronos and the Titans. That means Prometheus also overturned the authority of his own father, the Titan Iapetus, who with the others ends up imprisoned in Tarturus.

This raises the question: why does Prometheus help humanity? He claims he feels pity for peoples' suffering, but might part of his motive to be to challenge Zeus? After all, Prometheus, having already seen the overthrow of two dynasties, now participates in the founding of a third. Remember that Zeus cannot win without the help of Prometheus, who explains that Zeus will win, not by force, but by strategy, by freeing some giants who will fight against the Titans. Thus intelligence and not physical power alone allows the overthrow of Kronos and the rise of Zeus.

Hesiod' s Theogony describes three generations of gods, (1) Heaven (i.e. Earth and Sky [Uranus]) and the Titans, (2) Kronos, and (3) Zeus and his Olympian hierarchy. Kronos overturned his father Uranus just as Zeus overthrew him, so these first two dynasties prove violent and chaotic. Zeus's reign eliminated the anarchy that existed among the Titans and earlier gods. His success cannot be viewed as a solitary success, however. Zeus created a sense of order because Prometheus assigned different jurisdictions to the various Olympian gods. Good social order comes from a balance between Zeus's power and Prometheus's intelligence. Neither can succeed entirely without the other. Given his importance to helping Zeus gain power, might not Prometheus feel too proud to be subservient?

If this accurately characterizes the struggle between the tyrant and the Titan, what makes Zeus change his mind? Much time has passed since Prometheus's original offense, and Zeus has begun to soften—according to the Prometheia, in part because he pities Hercules, the mortal child he fathered with Io's descendent Alcmene.

James Scully's edition of Prometheus Bound contains several fragments from the lost trilogy. According to book four of his Geography, the Greek geographer Strabo (64 B.C. to 21 A.D.) quoted from the now lost version of Prometheus Unbound. Hercules, threatened during his Labor to retrieve the golden apples from the Hesperides. Prometheus predicts that Zeus will help Hercules, saying, ‘‘You'll come upon / the Ligyes, a horde / that doesn't know what fear is ... / As fate has it: you'll run out of weapons,... / But Zeus will see you / bewildered there / and pity you.’’ Zeus thus comes to Hercules's aid and saves his life.

Zeus' s reconciliation with Prometheus involves a compromise on both their parts, with Zeus learning to feel pity and the Titan learning submission. Zeus indicates his victory gently, however. The Deipnosophistae, written about 200 A.D. by the Greco-Egyptian scholar Athenaeus, explained that in Prometheus Unbound, when Zeus frees Prometheus, the Titan agrees to substitute a chain of flowers for his chain of steel. Prometheus would wear the garland as painless punishment for his resistance to Zeus and as a symbol of his submission to his law and authority.

Love factors into the reconciliation, as illustrated by two predictions, Prometheus's to Io and Hermes's to Prometheus. Io, the half-mortal daughter of the sea god, has been pursued by Zeus. Zeus's wife, Hera, has discovered his adulterous love for Io and punishes the innocent girl, having her followed first by Argos, whose thousand eyes watch her constantly, and then by a gadfly. Thus, through no fault of her own, Io falls victim to Zeus's lust and Hera's jealousy. In her conversation with Prometheus, he reveals that she will have a role in Zeus's eventual fall.

Zeus will impregnate her, and one of her decedents will arrive in the Egyptian city of Canopus, where after five generations, fifty sisters will resist marriage with their "near of kin'' and will murder the men. ‘‘One girl, bound by love's spell, will change / her purpose, and she will not kill the man she lay beside,'' and in time,"she will bear a kingly child’’ whose descendent, Hercules, will set the Titan free. After Hermes tells Prometheus about the eagle which will daily consume his liver, the messenger says the Titan will find ‘‘no ending to this agony / until a god will freely suffer for you, will take on him your pain, and in your stead / descend to where the sun is turned to darkness, / the black depths of death.’’ This occurs when Chiron, the immortal centaur renowned for his wisdom and virtue, agrees to die in Prometheus's place.

According to E. A. Havelock, Prometheus Bound differs from most tragedies in which the hero fails and dies, because Prometheus triumphs and lives. Both Zeus and Prometheus have learned and grown in the process. As R. D. Murry pointed out in The Motif of Io in Aeschylus's "Suppliants," the ‘‘release of Io from her woes is to provide the initial indication of the increasing wisdom of Zeus and the concomitant sowing of the seeds of compassion for humanity.’’ Hercules's freeing of Prometheus "marks the coming of age of the divine wisdom and the synthesis of Promethean knowledge and hu-manitarianism with the effective Jovian power. The trilogy is a paean in honor of the Greek mind, but above all an affirmation of the dignity of man and wise majesty of god, qualities attained through the perfecting course of evolution. Zeus the tyrant and Prometheus the forethinker coalesce'' in a process of ‘‘learning through suffering.’’

As we have seen, the Prometheia' s dramatic struggles between law and justice, mercy and punishment resonate with both individuals and society. Reading Prometheus Bound less as an object lesson about revolution and more as a resolution of ethical dilemmas becomes more meaningful if we situate the play within the context of Aeschylus' s historical moment. He wrote after the political reformer Clisthenes overthrew the tyrant Hippias and developed a republican government. Reforms lessened the power of the nobility and allowed non-noble landowners to participate in government. Conflicts between the nobility and commoners remained, however, and Athens had to develop an attitude of compromise and cooperation.

Thus, the same problems and challenges facing the characters in the Prometheia—crime and revenge, tyranny and revolution—also faced the young Attic republic. The citizens and rulers of Athens had to come to terms with these issues, and achieve balance freedom and authority, in themselves individually and in their society. This is in keeping with the way Scully described the "general drift of the trilogy ... [as showing] a universal progress from confusion and torment, at all levels of the universe, toward peace and joy.’’

Source: Arnold Schmidt for Drama for Students, Gale, 1999.

Chains of Imagery in Prometheus Bound

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Very little to do with the exact context of Prometheus Bound can be proved, because of the poor state of the evidence, but several scholars, most recently Griffith, have argued convincingly that there was a trilogy by someone consisting of Prometheus Firebearer (Pyrphoros), Prometheus Bound, and Prometheus Unbound in that order, and in what follows it is assumed that that was the case. There are some fragments which suggest that images familiar from Prometheus Bound appeared in the other two plays as well; to these I shall return, but first the imagery within the play we actually have should be considered in some detail.

The major interest of Prometheus Bound is the characterization of the relationship between Zeus and Prometheus, and the tracing of Prometheus' emotional movement from despair to renewed self-respect. After the opening binding scene, where the brutal treatment he receives is graphically described and carried out on stage, Prometheus is in a pitiful state, frightened even by the rushing wings of the gentle chorus. But their sympathy, and his account of his wrongs, restore some of his spirit, as his dialogue with Ocean shows, and his great central speeches about his benefactions to mankind help him further and embolden him to mention that he knows a secret which he can hold over Zeus. The Io scene, where his gift of prophecy comes into its own, increases his confidence still further; he threatens Zeus, and remains steadfast even in the face of Hermes and a yet more terrible punishment. The imagery of the play has an important role to play in underlining the characterization of Zeus and Prometheus, and in characterizing Zeus further by means of delineating his treatment of Io. Io is linked to Prometheus by images of horse-breaking or domestication of animals, and of sickness and disease....

Prometheus' bonds are described with technical terms from horse-breaking; the effect of this is to show how Zeus' regime attempts to reduce him to animal status: it adds an edge to the brutality of the binding scene. This is a relatively non-figurative use of the metaphor, since although Prometheus is not a real animal, the bonds are solid enough. The metaphor ... used to describe the methods which Zeus uses to force Inachus to drive out Io, is obviously a more figurative one, since there is no indication that real bonds are involved. But it still makes sense to see it in the context of the bonds of Prometheus, since Zeus' treatment of Inachus is similarly violent and harsh. Harder to place is the more elaborate metaphor in Hermes' words to Prometheus [near the play's end].... Here the stress is on Prometheus' activity rather than on the nature of the bonds, as in the earlier passages, and this reflects Prometheus' greater self-confidence (or unruliness, from Hermes' point of view) at this later stage in the play. Are the bit and reins against which he struggles actually his bonds, or are they more figuratively metaphorical? Hermes leaves it delicately uncertain.

The use of such images to portray Io covers a wider register of figurative and non-figurative. Imagery from domestication and horse-breaking is regularly used in sexual, nuptial, and sometimes sacrificial contexts, of young girls in early lyric poetry and in tragedy; but here, because Io is in dramatic reality half-cow, half-human, the passages which describe her as bovine are ambiguous: they can be understood simultaneously directly and as metaphors. . . . All this metaphorical domestication should be compared to the domestication of real animals as taught by Prometheus to mortals.... There it is one of Prometheus' benefactions, used to the benefit of civilization, but in the metaphors it represents Zeus' outrages....

Less complex, with a more discernible range of figurative and non-figurative forming a more discernible pattern, is the metaphor of binding; from the actual binding instantiated on stage in the first scene, we then find a series of images of binding and entanglement, culminating in the chorus's being entangled in the net of disaster... .This is of course often combined with the images from horsebreaking which have just been discussed, and the two should probably not be separated out as clearly as they have been here. The real binding of Prometheus remains a dramatic fact throughout the play, but from the first scene on there are lines where the metaphoric dimension of binding is used to describe features of that real binding.. . .

The images which represent what is wrong with Zeus' rule, domestication and sickness ... have their most literal expression in the speeches of Prometheus, and Zeus' actions are thus characterized as perverting the benefits which Prometheus conferred on mortals, and which Zeus should be conferring and is not. Io and Prometheus are linked as victims of Zeus' cruelty by these images, and by using the cow imagery previously used of Io of the earth at the very end of the play, it may be implied that the whole earth is Zeus' victim too....

In suggesting the perversion of Prometheus' gifts by Zeus, the sickness and domestication images behave in a parallel way to the other gifts he has given mankind: fire and prophecy. The fire which Prometheus stole to benefit mankind is used to punish him . . . and the emphasis on the fiery nature of the thunderbolt.... Zeus' coercion of Inachus by means of oracles may also imply that he is perverting another of Prometheus' gifts, namely prophecy: but in general this is the one gift of Prometheus that Zeus cannot control or pervert, and it is this which will provide the means of escape... which initially seems so far out of reach. And it is supremely appropriate that in giving the benefit of his prophetic skill to an individual mortal, Io, a representative of the mortals he describes himself as helping, Prometheus should work out his own salvation too, both in the short term spiritually, by giving himself courage to threaten Zeus, and in the long term by using prophecy as a weapon and causing his predictions to become self-fulfilling....

Source: J. M. Mossman,"Chains of Imagery in Prometheus Bound,’’ in Classical Quarterly, Volume 46, no. i, June, 1996, pp. 58-67.

Staging and Date of Prometheus Bound

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Prometheus Bound is a peculiarly controversial play. Scholars continue to debate both its authorship and its date—not to mention its quality—with considerable passion and not inconsiderable arguments. The major reason for dating the play late in the fifth century B.C.E. and thereby denying Aeschylus's authorship stems from the apparent demands for elaborate mechanical devices that were unavailable earlier in the century. A close examination, however, yields the opposite conclusion: performance of Prometheus does not require stage equipment or technology beyond what was available to Aeschylus in the early-mid fifth century B.C.E. In fact, within the performance traditions of Athens, Prometheus would have been easiest to produce before the skene was introduced into the Theater of Dionysus. Since the skene had to be in existence by the year 458, when Aeschylus produced the Oresteia, we have a terminus ante quem of about 460 B.C.E.

The idea of Prometheus as a play best enacted without a permanent scene-building in place has been with us at least since the time of Margarete Bieber, who pointed out that if Prometheus was to seem to disappear into the earth, it would be easiest to have the actor fall off the edge of the retaining wall at the back of the orchestra. Even this argument betrays the prejudices of a theatergoer accustomed to blackouts and curtains which allow actors to appear and disappear suddenly, an expectation that Prometheus must indeed be seen to be swallowed into the earth at the end of the play. Audiences, who had never known anything but outdoor performances in broad daylight and who were capable of accepting the convention of actually seeing actors waiting for hours or days at a certain place onstage suddenly take up positions and become characters, would not necessarily have required the same kind of realism. Conventions of representation in and out of the theater evolved over the course of the fifth century and down into the fourth, and Prometheus is a play written for the conventions belonging to the theater Aeschylus grew up with in the first half of the fifth century.

The most notable difficulties that Prometheus poses to a would-be producer are as follows: first, the binding of Prometheus to the rock; second, the entry of the chorus in their winged chariots; third, the entry of Okeanos on his four-footed bird; and fourth, the final cataclysm which engulfs Prometheus and the chorus. Each of these points has subsidiary problems, such as the fact that Okeanos and the chorus make no mention of or address to one another. The basic challenge involved in staging Prometheus can be expressed in fairly simple terms: how are all these flying characters to fly and how is the cataclysm to be effected? Aeschylus scholars have taxed their imaginations to the fullest over these points and provided a great number of possible solutions, most of them a considerable strain on fifth-century technology. (Indeed, most of them would be a considerable strain on twentieth-century technology.) Most of them also assume the existence of both skene and mechane, except for N.G.L. Hammond, who holds out for a natural outcropping of rock at the edge of the orchestra as the site of Prometheus's binding and prefers rolling mechanisms to flying mechanisms for the winged conveyances of Okeanos and his daughters. One of the biggest difficulties with this suggestion is that the cars would have to be propelled by their riders, and the scooter or skateboard type constructions which Hammond envisions would not only have been beyond the mechanical capability of fifth-century Athenians but would also have been useless on an unpaved surface. Donald Mastronarde suggests cars rolled onto the roof of the skene; others have claimed that all twelve or fifteen choreuts were swung from one or several cranes.

The problem with these proposed stagings goes beyond the purely practical issue of whether the stage equipment was up to it. As Oliver Taplin said in The Stagecraft of Aeschylus, ‘‘What on earth would be the point of this abnormal scenic technique?" Perhaps Aeschylus or one of his contemporaries or successors could have done it, but why bother?

Yet Taplin dismisses the simplest and most elegant solution, that the various spectacular flying effects were achieved by means of dance, almost as soon as he raises it. For how, he asks, could the chorus mime chariots and then step down from them? And how could Okeanos provide a ‘‘four-footed bird'' by dancing alone?

These objections are trivial compared with the difficulties of any of the other proposals, and a more systematic examination of the possibilities of mimetic dance demonstrates that this simple and elegant solution is a viable one, perhaps the only viable one if we look at certain other indications of the text.

The very first lines of Prometheus stress the complete barrenness of the scene: "We are come to the farthest boundaries of earth, to the Scythian land, to a desert empty of mortal things’’ (1-2). Not much further on, Hephaistos refers to the ‘‘crag apart from humanity, where [Prometheus] will perceive neither voice nor body of mortals’’ (20-22). Both of these statements argue against the presence of a skene. No extant play which was written after the advent of the skene ignores its existence. Even in Euripides's Suppliants, where no one goes inside the skene, it is important: Evadne commits suicide by jumping off of it. Sophocles transforms the skene into caves and groves, and Aristophanes into all manner of things, but all plays from the Oresteia onwards use it. Even though Eumenides ignores the skene in its latter half, the building is necessary to that play's prologue and parodos. It is therefore hard to see where the skene would fit into the barren setting of Prometheus Bound.

The only thing referred to in the text of Prometheus which might conceivably be identified as the skene is the rock to which Prometheus is chained. And while a skene might be a sheer-cliffed crag as easily as a cave, pinioning Prometheus to it would make it difficult for the chorus to remain so long out of his sight. A real rock would be a more convincing rock than a wooden building would, and there was in fact no reason not to use one. The Persian sack of the Acropolis in 480/79 had left debris all over the Acropolis and Agora, and the process of clearing and rebuilding lasted late into the 440s. Although the floor of the orchestra was graded earth and not bedrock, it could easily have supported the weight of a rock the size of a column drum.

An actual rock has advantages besides visual verisimiltude. It would be solid enough to stand up to a good deal of lunging and struggling on Prometheus' s part, and to support real metal chains. It would make striking ringing noises when Hephaistos hammered it, providing the clangor to which the Oceanids respond. The noise would also contribute to the illusion, if such is necessary, that Prometheus's very flesh is pierced during the binding process. The chains could in actuality be fixed to a single spike at the rear of the plinth so as to be easy to remove for the final exit. (Actual rocks and chains might not have been a problem for fifth-century theater technicians, but actual binding would have posed a severe difficulty to the actor playing Prometheus!)

So where in our skene-free performance space would this rock have been placed? A position at the center of the orchestra would be most convenient for the actor playing Prometheus, for both visual focus and acoustic clarity. Kratos, Bia, and Hephaistos could then drag Prometheus on from the stage-left eisodos, that is, the hostile side of the stage, and affix him to it, emphasizing by crossing that space the isolation to which they are leaving him. They are coming to Scythia from the known world, the Greek world, and are therefore traveling east, reinforcing the probability of a stage-left entrance.

This positioning would also place Prometheus far enough downstage that the chorus, Okeanos, Io, and Hermes could enter out of his sight, emphasizing his vulnerability by putting his back to the door, so to speak, as well as explaining the fact that he hears and smells the chorus before he sees them and that Io spots him long before he does her.

We come then to the second problem, the entry of the chorus. We have Prometheus, thoroughly, visibly bound, completely static, standing and obviously able to breathe well enough to sing, since he embarks on what he imagines will be a lonely lament. In this, however, he is mistaken. ‘‘What sound, what smell, comes to me without sight?’’ Prometheus asks at 115, and then indulges in a lengthy bout of speculation. At line 128, apparently still outside of Prometheus's line of sight, the chorus assures him of its friendly intent.

An arrival by means of the mechane, if such were feasible, would at least account for the chorus's being out of Prometheus's line of sight. But while such an entrance might bring the Oceanids on the scene in motion, they would have to hover afterwards, creating a very still tableau. The point of choosing barefoot nymphs in winged vehicles for the chorus must surely have been to contrast their constant and rapid movement with Prometheus's utter immobility, an effect which would have been completely lost if they had to hover on the crane or crowd together on the skene roof. The freedom implicit in dancing, however, is entirely consistent with maintaining this contrast conceptually and visually. The racing contest of the chorus's entry could begin just before Prometheus' s "What sound,'' which itself could as easily refer to the playing of the musician who always accompanied the chorus as to running feet and fluttering wings. Athenian audiences were clearly willing to accept dancing as a representation of flying at least as late as the production of Aristophanes's Birds in 414, when the chorus of birds appears at ground-level in the orchestra. If Prometheus is downstage center the chorus can enter via the stage-right eisodos (since they are friendly to Prometheus), "flying," and remain out of Prometheus's sight.

The wings themselves are a problem easily solved by means of long scarves or streamers like those used in Chinese dances of the Han period or the draperies of Loie Fuller. They would provide a spectacular visual effect and probably a rippling sound effect as well, which the chorus would need constant motion to maintain. (One reason the choral odes of Prometheus are so short may be the physical demands of the dancing.) And while we have no evidence for this particular technique in Greece, long strips of cloth were a common enough product of fifth-century Athens. Choruses of flying creatures had been in existence in Athens since at least the sixth century, so the representation of wings on stage was not an unusual problem for the fifth-century equivalent of a costume designer.

The objection which Taplin raises to the dance theory is, as previously mentioned, that the wings on which the Oceanids are flying are not their own: they claim to be carried on ‘‘winged chariots’’ (135). A streamer held in the hand is more obviously a separate object than one attached directly to a costume, but the fact that the chorus has to tell the audience that they are in chariots implies that the visual distinction was not immediately obvious. (In Agamemnon, for instance, Agamemnon does not make an explicit statement that his chariot is pulled by a horse, as the fact is unmistakable.) To ‘‘dismount" from the chariots, the choreuts would need only to set their streamers aside. In doing so they would most likely move to the edges of the orchestra so as not to risk tripping over the streamers in their later odes.

It is important in reconstructing the staging to get the chorus out of the way before Okeanos enters, and not only because they take no part in that scene. Even with a winged steed, Okeanos's entrance would not have been very dramatic if the chorus was still flying around the orchestra. If the crane existed and he were on it, he might have managed to draw attention to himself despite their movement, but why should he be flying on a higher plane, and via a different scenic convention, than the chorus? And the motion/immobility dichotomy, the fact that his departing lines (393-6) indicate he has never dismounted or touched the ground, argue strongly for constant movement from Okeanos which would have been impossible if the actor were suspended in midair.

How, then, does Okeanos accomplish mimetic dance of his four-legged bird? By using another dancer, of course. Chinese lion-dancers and the Balinese Barong are both four-footed creatures animated by two dancers apiece, and provide obvious visual parallels to Okeanos's mount? Neither one, however, supports a rider; and Athens' s own tradition appears to have allowed a single person to enact the role of a four-footed animal and dance while being ridden. Having a human being in the role of the gryphon certainly explains Okeanos's ability to control it without reins.

Since Okeanos returns to his own home, he exits by the same route he entered. Io enters, like Okeanos and the chorus, from the known world, that is, from the West, but Prometheus specifically directs her to go East, toward the rising sun (707), so she exits by the opposite eisodos. Hermes will enter from the same direction to predict further doom.

We come then to the final challenge, the cataclysm which swallows Prometheus and the chorus. Dance again provides the simplest solution to the challenge of presenting an earthquake. Twelve choreuts, especially if accompanied by a drum, could very easily have produced a sound of the earth shaking and indeed an accompanying whirlwind, and could have swept Prometheus off in their midst when making a final exit—through, of course, the stage-left, eastern eisodos. (Simply unhooking the chains from the back of the rock would suffice to free him.)

I should add that those who live in earthquake prone areas readily believe that there is a tremor in progress: any rumbling noise can be mistaken for an earthquake. Modern lighting effects would be nice for the lightnings which Prometheus sees, but since lighting effects were totally impossible in fifth-century Athens, no one in the audience would have expected or missed them. So we come to the end of the play and discover that it is perfectly possible to stage Prometheus with pre-skene technology, and far easier and less expensive than it would have been to try to use the mechane. On the basis of its staging alone, Prometheus Bound could be very early indeed. The language, however, continues to point to a later date of composition and performance. The brevity of the choral odes may be accounted for by the strenuous-ness of the dances, which would not leave the choreuts with enormous amounts of breath, but the other stylistic elements which Michael Griffith and others point out are not quite so easy to dismiss. For that reason I think that Prometheus is only just a pre-skene play, and dates to the late 460s. As for its authorship, I leave that to others to debate.

Source: Sallie Goetsch, ‘‘Staging and Date of Prometheus Bound,’’ in Theatre History Studies, Volume XV, June, 1995, pp. 219-24.


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