Places Discussed

Scythian mountaintop

Scythian mountaintop. All the action of this play takes place atop an unnamed mountain on the edge of the Greek world—probably in the Caucasus mountains in what is now Armenia. The remote location emphasizes the isolation of the Titan Prometheus, who is bound to this mountain as punishment for his crimes against the chief god, Zeus, as the ruler of the universe.

Ocean

Ocean. Mythical great sea that the ancient Greeks believed surrounded a saucer-shaped world. In this play, Ocean is personified in the god Ocean(os), who visits Prometheus on his mountaintop but refuses to ally himself with his fellow Titan. As the daughters of Ocean, the chorus of Oceanids are also identified with this body of water. Unlike their father, the Oceanids decide to cast their fate with that of Prometheus.

*Argos

*Argos. Ancient Greek city located in the northeastern part of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, in which the play’s only mortal character, Io, was born. Aeschylus’s references to this unfortunate woman’s homeland provided his Greek audience with a geographical and human framework for this otherwise exotic play. Through Io and her Greek heritage, the audience may not only sympathize more strongly with Prometheus, who, like Io, is a victim of Zeus, but they can also take pride in the play’s prediction that Io’s descendants will eventually return to Greece and that one of them, Heracles, will eventually free Prometheus from his bondage.

Tartarus

Tartarus. Greek underworld, to which Prometheus and the chorus descend at the end of the play. The location is intended by Zeus as further punishment of the recalcitrant Titan and the completion of his isolation from the world.

Historical Context

When Aeschylus was born in 525 B.C. outside Athens, the city could be characterized as an unimportant polis (i.e. city-state) ruled by the...

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Literary Style

Chorus
In Greek tragedy, a dozen or so men comprise the chorus, who comment on and interpret the action unfolding on stage and...

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Compare and Contrast

525-456 B.C.: In 510 B.C., a political reformer named Clisthenes overthrows the tyrant Hippias and establishes in Athens a republic...

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Topics for Further Study

One of the questions raised by Prometheus Bound pertains to the meaning of justice and the power to make and enforce laws. Most...

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What Do I Read Next?

Some have compared Prometheus with the figure of Satan, particularly the way Milton presents him in Paradise Lost, where his rebellion...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Berlin, Normand. The Secret Cause: A Discussion of Tragedy, University of Massachusetts Press, 1981.

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Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Grene, David. “Introduction to Prometheus Bound.” In Aeschylus: The Complete Greek Tragedies, edited by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore. Vol. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969. Reviews eighteenth century criticism of Prometheus Bound and compares it to Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 334/323 b.c.e.). Discusses problems with the play, including an episodic plot, the improbable and extravagant characters, and the uncouth diction.

Kitto, H. D. F. Greek Tragedy: A Literary Study. London: Methuen, 1970. Dates Prometheus Bound in the category of Old Tragedy. One chapter offers a detailed examination of the play.

Kitto, H. D. F. Poiesis: Structure and Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966. Discusses what is known as Farnall’s Dilemma: that Aeschylus was writing about Zeus in a derogatory sense and that the playwright should have been prosecuted for blasphemy. Because he was not, he could not have written Prometheus Bound.

Podlecki, Anthony J. The Political Background of Aeschylean Tragedy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966. Discusses similarities between Prometheus Bound and the Oresteia (458 b.c.e.).

Stanford, William Bedell. Aeschylus in His Style: A Study in Language and Personality. Dublin: Dublin University Press, 1942. Claims that Aeschylus borrowed language in Prometheus Bound from two types of source, one literary and the other colloquial. Designed to help students better understand the language of Aeschylus.

Thomson, George. Aeschylus and Athens: A Study in the Social Origins of Drama. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1968. Presents history and interpretations of the myth of Prometheus; explains how this myth fits into Prometheus Bound.