Table of contents I.
Full Play: Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus
II. A New Prometheus: Scenes from Steven Sater’s Translation III. Titans, Gods and Goddesses IV. The Great Festival of Dionysus V. The Lost Chapters: Prometheus Unbound, Prometheus the FireBearer and Prometheus the Fire-Kindler VI. Freeing Prometheus: Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound VII.The Virtues of Disobedience VIII. Serj Tankian and Steven Sater, Rebels With a Cause IX. Amnesty International: Prisoners of Conscience Today
prometheus bound by Aeschylus based on a translation by H.W. Smyth
SCENE.â€”A rocky height, overlooking the ocean, in the uttermost parts of Scythia.
Enter Force and Violence, bringing with them the captive Prometheus; also Hephaestus. FORCE To earth's remotest limit we come, to the Scythian land, an untrodden solitude. And now, Hephaestus, yours is the charge to observe the mandates laid upon you by the Fatherâ€”to clamp this miscreant upon the high craggy rocks in shackles of binding adamant that cannot be broken. For your own flower, flashing fire, source of all arts, he has stolen and bestowed upon mortal creatures. Such is his offense; for this he is bound to make requital to the gods, so that he may learn to bear with the sovereignty of Zeus and cease his human-loving ways. HEPHAESTUS  Power and Force, for you indeed the bidding of Zeus is now fulfilled, and nothing remains to stop you. But for meâ€”I do not have the nerve myself to bind with force a kindred god upon this rocky cleft assailed by cruel winter. Yet, come what may, I am constrained to summon courage to this deed; for it is perilous to disregard the commandments of the Father.  Lofty-minded son of Themis who counsels straight, against my will, no less than yours, I must rivet you with brazen bonds no hand can loose to this desolate crag, where neither voice nor form of mortal man shall you perceive; but, scorched by the sun's bright beams, you shall lose the fair bloom of your flesh. And glad you shall be when spangled-robed night shall veil his brightness and when the sun shall scatter again the frost of morning. Evermore the burden of your present ill shall wear you out; for your deliverer is not yet born.  Such is the prize you have gained for your championship of man. For, god though you are, you did not fear the wrath of the gods, but you bestowed honors upon mortal creatures beyond their due. Therefore on this joyless rock you must stand sentinel, erect, sleepless, your knee unbent. And many a groan and unavailing lament you shall utter; for the heart of Zeus is hard, and everyone is harsh whose power is new. FORCE  Well, why delay and excite pity in vain? Why do you not detest a god most hateful to the gods, since he has betrayed your prerogative to mortals? HEPHAESTUS  A strangely potent tie is kinship, and companionship as well. FORCE  I agree; yet to refuse to obey the commands of the Father; is this possible? Do you not fear that more? HEPHAESTUS  Yes, you are ever pitiless and steeped in insolence.
FORCE  Yes, for it does not good to bemoan this fellow. Stop wasting your labor at an unprofitable task. HEPHAESTUS  Oh handicraft that I hate so much! FORCE  Why hate it? Since in truth your craft is in no way to blame for these present troubles. HEPHAESTUS  Nevertheless, I wish it had fallen to another's fate! FORCE  Every job is troublesome except to be the commander of gods; no one is free except Zeus. HEPHAESTUS  I know it by this task; I cannot deny it. FORCE  Hurry then to cast the shackles about him, so that the Father does not see you loitering. HEPHAESTUS  Well, there then! The bands are ready, as you may see. FORCE  Cast them about his wrists and with might strike with your hammer; rivet him to the rocks. HEPHAESTUS  There! The work is getting done and not improperly. FORCE  Strike harder, clamp him tight, leave nothing loose; for he is wondrously clever at finding a way even out of desperate straits. HEPHAESTUS  This arm, at least, is fixed permanently. FORCE  Now rivet this one too and securely, so that he may learn, for all his cleverness, that he is a fool compared to Zeus.
HEPHAESTUS  None but he could justly blame my work. FORCE  Now drive the adamantine wedge's stubborn edge straight through his chest with your full force. HEPHAESTUS  Alas, Prometheus, I groan for your sufferings. FORCE  What! Shrinking again and groaning over the enemies of Zeus? Take care, so that the day does not come when you shall grieve for yourself. HEPHAESTUS  You see a spectacle grievous for eyes to behold. FORCE  I see this man getting his deserts. Come, cast the girths about his sides. HEPHAESTUS  I must do this; spare me your needless ordering. FORCE  Indeed, I'll order you, yes and moreâ€”I'll hound you on. Get down below, and ring his legs by force. HEPHAESTUS  There now! The work's done and without much labor. FORCE  Now hammer the piercing shackles with your full force; for the appraiser of our work is severe. HEPHAESTUS  The utterance of your tongue matches your looks. FORCE  Be softhearted then, but do not attack my stubborn will and my harsh mood. HEPHAESTUS  Let us be gone, since he has got the shackles on his limbs. Exit.
FORCE  There now, indulge your insolence, keep on wresting from the gods their honors to give them to creatures of a day. Are mortals able to lighten your load of sorrow? Falsely the gods call you Prometheus, for you yourself need forethought to free yourself from this handiwork. Exeunt Force and Violence. PROMETHEUS  O you bright sky of heaven, you swift-winged breezes, you river-waters, and infinite laughter of the waves of ocean, O universal mother Earth, and you, all-seeing orb of the sun, to you I call! See what I, a god, endure from the gods.  Look, with what shameful torture I am racked and must wrestle throughout the countless years of time apportioned me. Such is the ignominious bondage the new commander of the blessed has devised against me. Woe! Woe! For present misery and misery to come I groan, not knowing where it is fated that deliverance from these sorrows shall arise.  And yet, what am I saying? All that is to be I know full well and in advance, nor shall any affliction come upon me unforeseen. I must bear my allotted doom as lightly as I can, knowing that the might of Necessity permits no resistance. Yet I am not able to speak nor be silent about my fate. For it is because I bestowed good gifts on mortals that this miserable yoke of constraint has been bound upon me. I hunted out and stored in fennel stalk the stolen source of fire that has proved a teacher to mortals in every art and a means to mighty ends. Such is the offense for which I pay the penalty, riveted in shackles beneath the open sky.  Ha! Behold! What murmur, what scent flies to me, its source invisible, heavenly or human, or both? Has someone come to this crag at the edge of the world to stare at my sufferingsâ€”or with what motive? Behold me, an ill-fated god, chained, the foe of Zeus, hated of all who enter the court of Zeus, because of my very great love for mankind. Ha! What's this? What may be this rustling stir of birds I hear again nearby? The air whirs with the light rush of wings. Whatever approaches causes me alarm. The Daughters of Oceanus enter on a winged chariot. CHORUS  Do not fear! For our group has come in swift rivalry of wings to this crag as friend to you, having won our father's consent as best we might. The swift-coursing breezes bore me on; for the reverberation of the clang of iron pierced the depths of our caves and drove my grave modesty away in fright; unsandalled I have hastened in a winged chariot. PROMETHEUS  Alas! Alas! Offspring of fruitful Tethys and of him who with his sleepless current encircles the whole earth, children of your father Oceanus, behold, see with what shackles, upon the summit crag of this ravine, I am to hold my unenviable watch.
CHORUS  I see, Prometheus; and over my eyes a mist of tears and fear spread as I saw your body withering ignominiously upon this rock in these bonds of adamant. For there are new rulers in heaven, and Zeus governs with lawless customs; that which was mighty before he now brings to nothing. PROMETHEUS  Oh if only he had hurled me below the earth, yes beneath Hades, the entertainer of the dead, into impassable Tartarus, and had ruthlessly fastened me in shackles no hand can loose, so that neither god nor any other might have gloated over this agony I feel! But, now, a miserable plaything of the winds, I suffer pains to delight my enemies. CHORUS  Who of the gods is so hard of heart as to exult in this? Who does not sympathize with your woesâ€”save only Zeus? But he in malice, has set his soul inflexibly and keeps in subjection the race sprung from Uranus; nor will he stop, until he has satiated his soul or another seizes his impregnable empire by some device of guile. PROMETHEUS  Truly the day shall come when, although I am tortured in stubborn shackles, the prince of the blessed will need me to reveal the new design whereby he shall be stripped of his sceptre and his dignities. Not by persuasion's honeyed enchantments will he charm me; and I will never, cowering before his dire threats, divulge this secret, until he releases me from my cruel bonds and provides compensation for this outrage. CHORUS  You are bold, and do not yield to your bitter pangs; you give too much license to your tongue. But my soul is agitated by piercing fear, and I am in dread about your fate, wondering to what haven you must steer your ship to see an end of your voyage of sorrow. For the heart of Cronus' son is hardened against entreaty and his ways are inexorable. PROMETHEUS  I know that Zeus is harsh and keeps justice in his own hands; but nevertheless one day his judgement will soften, when he has been crushed in the way that I know. Then, calming down his stubborn wrath, he shall at last bond with me in union and friendship, as eager as I am to welcome him. CHORUS  Unfold the whole story and tell us upon what charge Zeus has caught you and painfully punishes you with such dishonor. Instruct us, unless, indeed, there is some harm in telling. PROMETHEUS  It is painful to me to tell the tale, painful to keep it silent. My case is unfortunate every way. 8
When first the heavenly powers were moved to wrath, and mutual dissension was stirred up among them —some bent on casting Cronus from his seat so Zeus, in truth, might reign; others, eager for the contrary end, that Zeus might never win mastery over the gods—it was then that I, although advising them for the best, was unable to persuade the Titans, children of Heaven and Earth; but they, disdaining counsels of craft, in the pride of their strength thought to gain the mastery without a struggle and by force. Often my mother Themis, or Earth (though one form, she had many names), had foretold to me the way in which the future was fated to come to pass. That it was not by brute strength nor through violence, but by guile that those who should gain the upper hand were destined to prevail. And though I argued all this to them, they did not pay any attention to my words. With all that before me, it seemed best that, joining with my mother, I should place myself, a welcome volunteer, on the side of Zeus; and it is by reason of my counsel that the cavernous gloom of Tartarus now hides ancient Cronus and his allies within it. Thus I helped the tyrant of the gods and with this foul payment he has responded; for it is a disease that is somehow inherent in tyranny to have no faith in friends.  However, you ask why he torments me, and this I will now make clear. As soon as he had seated himself upon his father's throne, he immediately assigned to the deities their several privileges and apportioned to them their proper powers. But of wretched mortals he took no notice, desiring to bring the whole race to an end and create a new one in its place. Against this purpose none dared make stand except me—only I had the courage; I saved mortals so that they did not descend, utterly damned, to the house of Hades. This is why I am bent by such grievous tortures, painful to suffer, piteous to behold. I who gave mortals first place in my pity, I am deemed unworthy to win this pity for myself, but am in this way mercilessly disciplined, a spectacle that shames the glory of Zeus. CHORUS  Iron-hearted and made of stone, Prometheus, is he who feels no compassion at your miseries. For myself, I would not have desired to see them; and now that I see them, I am pained in my heart. PROMETHEUS  Yes, to my friends indeed I am a spectacle of pity. CHORUS  Did you perhaps transgress even somewhat beyond this offense? PROMETHEUS  Yes, I caused mortals to cease foreseeing their doom. CHORUS  Of what sort was the cure that you found for this affliction? PROMETHEUS  I caused blind hopes to dwell within their hearts. 9
CHORUS  A great benefit was this you gave to mortals. PROMETHEUS  In addition, I gave them fire. CHORUS  What! Do creatures of a day now have flame-eyed fire? PROMETHEUS  Yes, and from it they shall learn many arts. CHORUS  Then it was on a charge like this that Zeus— PROMETHEUS  Torments me and in no way gives me respite from pain. CHORUS  And is there no end assigned to your ordeal? PROMETHEUS  No, none except when it seems good to him. CHORUS  But how will it seem good to him? What hope is there? Do you not see that you have wronged? And yet it is not pleasant for me to talk about how you have wronged, and for you it is pain. So, let us quit this theme; and may you seek some release from your ordeal. PROMETHEUS  It is easy for him who keeps his foot free from harm to counsel and admonish him who is in misery. I have known this all the while. Of my own will, yes, of my own will I erred—I will not deny it. By helping mortals I found suffering for myself; nevertheless I did not think I would be punished in this way—wasting away upon cliffs in mid-air, my portion this desolate and dreary crag. And now, mourn no more my present woes; alight on the ground and listen to my oncoming fortunes so that you may be told them from end to end. Consent, I beg you, oh consent. Take part in the trouble of him who is now in sore distress. In truth, affliction wanders impartially everywhere and visits all in turn. CHORUS  Not to unwilling ears have you made this appeal, Prometheus. And so now with light foot I will quit my swift-speeding seat and the pure air, the pathway of birds and draw near to this rugged ground; for I want to hear the whole story of your sorrows.
Enter Oceanus on a winged steed. OCEANUS  I have come to the end of a long journey in my passage to you, Prometheus, guiding by my own will, without a bridle, this swift-winged bird. For your fate, you may be sure, I feel compassion. Kinship, I think, constrains me to this; and, apart from blood ties, there is none to whom I should pay greater respect than to you. You shall know this for simple truth and that it is not in me to utter vain and empty words; come, tell me; what aid can I render you? For you shall never say that you have a friend more loyal than Oceanus. PROMETHEUS  Ha! What have we here? So then you too have come to stare upon my sufferings? How did you summon courage to quit the stream that bears your name and the rockroofed caves you yourself have made and come to this land, the mother of iron? Is it that you have come to gaze upon my state and join your grief to my distress? Look upon me hereâ€”a spectacle, the friend of Zeus, who helped him to establish his sovereign power, by what anguish I am bent by him! OCEANUS  I see, Prometheus; and I want to give you the best advice, although you yourself are clever. Learn to know yourself and adapt yourself to new ways; for new also is the ruler among the gods. If you hurl forth words so harsh and of such a sharp edge, perhaps Zeus may hear you, though throned far off, high in the heavens, and then your present multitude of sorrows shall seem but childish sport. Oh wretched sufferer! Put away your wrathful mood and try to find release from these miseries. Perhaps this advice may seem to you old and dull; but your plight, Prometheus, is only the wages of too boastful speech. You still have not learned humility, nor do you bend before misfortune, but would rather add even more miseries to those you have. Therefore take me as your teacher and do not add insult to injury, seeing that a harsh monarch now rules who is accountable to no one. So now I will depart and see whether I can release you from these sufferings. And may you hold your peace and be not too blustering of speech. Or, can it be that for all your exceeding wisdom, you do not know that punishment is inflicted on a wagging tongue? PROMETHEUS  I envy you because you have escaped blame for having dared to share with me in my troubles. So now leave me alone and let it not concern you. Do what you want, you cannot persuade him; for he is not easy to persuade. Beware that you do not do yourself harm by the mission you take. OCEANUS  In truth, you are far better able to admonish others than yourself. It is by fact, not by hearsay, that I judge. So do not hold back one who is eager to go. For I am confident, yes, confident, that Zeus will grant me this favor, to free you from your sufferings.
PROMETHEUS  I thank you for all this and shall never cease to thank you; in zeal you lack nothing, but do not trouble yourself; for your trouble will be vain and not helpful to meâ€”if indeed you want to take the pain. No, keep quiet and keep yourself clear of harm. For even if I am in sore plight, I would not wish affliction on everyone else. No, certainly, no! since, besides, I am distressed by the fate of my brother Atlas, who, towards the west, stands bearing on his shoulders the pillar of heaven and earth, a burden not easy for his arms to grasp. Pity moved me, too, at the sight of the earth-born dweller of the Cilician caves curbed by violence, that destructive monster of a hundred heads, impetuous Typhon. He withstood all the gods, hissing out terror with horrid jaws, while from his eyes lightened a hideous glare, as though he would storm by force the sovereignty of Zeus. But the unsleeping bolt of Zeus came upon him, the swooping lightning brand with breath of flame, which struck him, frightened, from his loud-mouthed boasts; then, stricken to the very heart, he was burnt to ashes and his strength blasted from him by the lightning bolt. And now, a helpless and a sprawling bulk, he lies hard by the narrows of the sea, pressed down beneath the roots of Aetna; while on the topmost summit Hephaestus sits and hammers the molten ore. There, one day, shall burst forth rivers of fire, with savage jaws devouring the level fields of Sicily, land of fair fruitâ€”such boiling rage shall Typho, although charred by the blazing lightning of Zeus, send spouting forth with hot jets of appalling, fire-breathing surge.  But you are not inexperienced, and do not need me to teach you. Save yourself, as you know best; while I exhaust my present lot until the time comes when the mind of Zeus shall abandon its wrath. OCEANUS  Do you not know then, Prometheus, that words are the healers of a disordered temper? PROMETHEUS  If one softens the soul in season, and does not hasten to reduce its swelling rage by violence. OCEANUS  What lurking mischief do you see when daring joins to zeal? Teach me this. PROMETHEUS  Lost labor and thoughtless simplicity. OCEANUS  Leave me to be affected by this, since it is most advantageous, when truly wise, to be deemed a fool. PROMETHEUS  This fault will be seen to be my own.
OCEANUS  Clearly the manner of your speech orders me back home. PROMETHEUS  So that you won't win hostility for yourself by lamenting for me. OCEANUS  In the eyes of the one who is newly seated on his omnipotent throne? PROMETHEUS  Beware lest the time come when his heart is angered with you. OCEANUS  Your plight, Prometheus, is my instructor. PROMETHEUS  Go away, depart, keep your present purpose. OCEANUS  Your urging meets my eagerness; for my four-footed winged beast fans with his wings the smooth pathway of the air; and truly he will be glad to rest his knees in his stall at home. Exit. CHORUS  I mourn your unfortunate fate, Prometheus. Shedding from my eyes a coursing flood of tears I wet my tender cheeks with their moist streams. For Zeus, holding this unenviable power by self-appointed laws, displays towards the gods of old an arrogant spirit.  Now the whole earth cries aloud in mourning; . . . mourn the greatness of the glory of your time-hallowed honor, the honor that was yours and your brother's; and all mortals who make their dwelling place in holy Asia share the anguish of your most lamentable suffering; and those who dwell in the land of Colchis, the maidens fearless in fight; and the Scythian multitude that inhabits the most remote region of the earth bordering the Maeotic lake; and the warlike flower of Arabia, which hold the highcragged citadel near the Caucasus, a hostile host that roars among the sharp-pointed spears.  One other Titan god before this I have seen in distress, enthralled in torment by adamantine bonds â€”Atlas, pre-eminent in mighty strength, who moans as he supports the vault of heaven on his back. The waves of the sea utter a cry as they fall, the deep laments, the black abyss of Hades rumbles in response, and the streams of pure-flowing rivers lament your piteous pain. PROMETHEUS  No, do not think it is from pride or even from willfulness that I am silent. Painful 13
thoughts devour my heart as I behold myself maltreated in this way. And yet who else but I definitely assigned their prerogatives to these upstart gods? But I do not speak of this; for my tale would tell you nothing except what you know. Still, listen to the miseries that beset mankind—how they were witless before and I made them have sense and endowed them with reason. I will not speak to berate mankind, but to set forth the friendly purpose that inspired my blessing.  First of all, though they had eyes to see, they saw to no avail; they had ears, but they did not understand; but, just as shapes in dreams, throughout their length of days, without purpose they made all things in confusion. They had neither knowledge of houses built of bricks and turned to face the sun, nor yet of work in wood; but dwelt beneath the ground like swarming ants, in sunless caves. They had no sign either of winter or of flowery spring or of fruitful summer, on which they could depend but managed everything without judgment, until I taught them to discern the risings and settings of the stars, which are difficult to distinguish.  Yes, and numbers, too, chiefest of sciences, I invented for them, and the combining of letters, creative mother of the Muses' arts, with which to hold all things in memory. I, too, first brought brute beasts beneath the yoke to be subject to the collar and the pack-saddle, so that they might bear in men's stead their heaviest burdens; and to the chariot I harnessed horses and made them obedient to the rein, to be an image of wealth and luxury. It was I and no one else who invented the mariner's cloth-winged chariot that roams the sea. Wretched that I am—such are the arts I devised for mankind, yet have myself no cunning means to rid me of my present suffering. CHORUS  You have suffered sorrow and humiliation. You have lost your wits and have gone astray; and, like an unskilled doctor, fallen ill, you lose heart and cannot discover by which remedies to cure your own disease. PROMETHEUS  Hear the rest and you shall wonder the more at the arts and resources I devised. This first and foremost: if ever man fell ill, there was no defense—no healing food, no ointment, nor any drink—but for lack of medicine they wasted away, until I showed them how to mix soothing remedies with which they now ward off all their disorders. And I marked out many ways by which they might read the future, and among dreams I first discerned which are destined to come true; and voices baffling interpretation I explained to them, and signs from chance meetings. The flight of crook-taloned birds I distinguished clearly—which by nature are auspicious, which sinister—their various modes of life, their mutual feuds and loves, and their consortings; and the smoothness of their entrails, and what color the gall must have to please the gods, also the speckled symmetry of the liver; and the thigh-bones, wrapped in fat, and the long rib-bone I burned and initiated mankind into the occult art. Also I cleared their vision to discern signs from flames, which were obscure before this. Enough about these arts. Now as to the benefits to men that lay concealed beneath the earth—bronze, iron, silver, and gold— who would claim to have discovered them before me? No one, I know full well, unless he likes to babble idly. Hear the sum of the whole matter in the compass of one brief word —every art possessed by man comes from Prometheus. 14
CHORUS  Do not benefit mortals beyond reason and disregard your own distress; although, I am confident that you will be freed from these bonds and will have power in no way inferior to Zeus. PROMETHEUS  Not in this way is Fate, who brings all to fulfillment, destined to complete this course. Only when I have been bent by pangs and tortures infinite am I to escape my bondage. Skill is weaker by far than Necessity. CHORUS  Who then is the helmsman of Necessity? PROMETHEUS  The three-shaped Fates and mindful Furies. CHORUS  Can it be that Zeus has less power than they do? PROMETHEUS  Yes, in that even he cannot escape what is foretold. CHORUS  Why, what is fated for Zeus except to hold eternal sway? PROMETHEUS  This you must not learn yet; do not be over-eager. CHORUS  It is some solemn secret, surely, that you enshroud in mystery. PROMETHEUS  Think of some other subject, for it is not the proper time to speak of this. No matter what, this must be kept concealed; for it is by safeguarding it that I am to escape my dishonorable bonds and outrage. CHORUS  May Zeus, who apportions everything, never set his power in conflict with my will, nor may I be slow to approach the gods, with holy sacrifices of oxen slain, by the side of the ceaseless stream of Oceanus, my father; and may I not offend in speech; but may this rule abide in my heart and never fade away. Sweet it is to pass all the length of life amid confident hopes, feeding the heart in glad festivities. But I shudder as I look on you, racked by infinite tortures. You have no fear of Zeus, Prometheus, but stubbornly you revere mortals too much.
 Come, my friend, how mutual was your love? Tell me, what kind of help is there in creatures of a day? What aid? Did you not see the helpless infirmity, no better than a dream, in which the blind generation of men is shackled? Never shall the counsels of mortal men transgress the ordering of Zeus. I have learned this lesson from observing the luck, Prometheus, that has brought about your ruin. And the difference in the song stole into my thought—this song and that, which, about your bridal bed and bath, I raised to grace your marriage, when you wooed with gifts and won my sister Hesione to be your wedded wife. Enter Io. IO  What land is this? What people? By what name am I to call the one I see exposed to the tempest in bonds of rock? What offense have you committed that as punishment you are doomed to destruction? Tell me to what region of the earth I have wandered in my wretchedness? Oh, oh! Aah! Aah! A gad-fly, phantom of earth-born Argus is stinging me again! Keep him away, O Earth! I am fearful when I behold that myriad-eyed herdsman. He travels onward with his crafty gaze upon me; not even in death does the earth conceal him, but passing from the shades he hounds me, the forlorn one, and drives me famished along the sands of the seashore.  The waxen pipe drones forth in accompaniment a clear-sounding slumberous strain. Alas, alas! Where is my far-roaming wandering course taking me? In what, O son of Cronus, in what have you found offense so that you have bound me to this yoke of misery—aah! are you harassing a wretched maiden to frenzy by this terror of the pursuing gadfly? Consume me with fire, or hide me in the earth, or give me to the monsters of the deep to devour; but do not grudge, O Lord, the favor that I pray for. My far-roaming wanderings have taught me enough, and I cannot discern how to escape my sufferings. Do you hear the voice of the horned virgin? PROMETHEUS  How can I fail to hear the maiden frenzied by the gadfly, the daughter of Inachus? It is she who fires the heart of Zeus with passion, and now, through Hera's hate, is disciplined by force with interminable wandering. IO  Why do you call my father's name? Tell me, the unfortunate maid, who you are, unhappy wretch, that you thus correctly address the miserable maiden, and have named the heaven-sent plague that wastes and stings me with its maddening goad. Ah me! In frenzied bounds I come, driven by torturing hunger, victim of Hera's vengeful purpose. Who of the company of the unfortunate endures—aah! aah!—sufferings such as mine? Oh make it clear to me what misery I am fated to suffer, what remedy is there, what cure, for my affliction. Reveal it, if you have the knowledge. Oh speak, declare it to the unfortunate, wandering virgin. PROMETHEUS  I will tell you plainly all that you would like to know, not weaving riddles, but in 16
simple language, since it is right to speak openly to friends. Look, I whom you see am Prometheus, who gave fire to mankind. IO  O you who have shown yourself a common benefactor of mankind, wretched Prometheus, why do you suffer so? PROMETHEUS  I have only just now finished lamenting my own calamities. IO  You will not then do this favor for me? PROMETHEUS  Say what it is you wish; for you can learn all from me. IO  Tell me who has bound you fast in this ravine. PROMETHEUS  Zeus by his will, Hephaestus by his hand. IO  And for what offense do you pay the penalty? PROMETHEUS  It suffices that I have made clear to you this much and no more. IO  No, also tell me the end of my wanderingâ€”what time is set for wretched me. PROMETHEUS  It would be better not to know than to know, in your case. IO  I beg you, do not hide from me what I am doomed to suffer. PROMETHEUS  No, it is not that I do not want to grant your request. IO  Why then your reluctance to tell me everything? PROMETHEUS  I am not unwilling; but I hesitate to crush your spirit.
IO  Do not be more kind to me than I myself desire. PROMETHEUS  Since you insist, I must speak. Listen, then. CHORUS  No, not yet. Grant us too a portion of the pleasure. Let us first inquire the story of her affliction and let her with her own lips relate the events that brought horrid calamity upon her. Then let her be instructed by you as to the toils still to come. PROMETHEUS  It is for you, Io, to grant them this favor, especially since they are your father's sisters. For it is worthwhile to indulge in weeping and in wailing over evil fortunes when one is likely to win the tribute of a tear from the listener. IO  I do not know how to refuse you. You shall learn in truthful speech all that you would like to know. Yet I am ashamed to tell about the storm of calamity sent by Heaven, of the marring of my form, and of the source from which it swooped upon me, wretched that I am.  For visions of the night, always haunting my maiden chamber, sought to beguile me with seductive words, saying: “O damsel greatly blessed of fortune, why linger in your virginity so long when it is within your power to win a union of the highest? Zeus is inflamed by Cupid’s arrow for you and is eager to unite with you in love. Do not, my child, spurn the bed of Zeus, but go forth to Lerna's meadow land of pastures deep and to your father's flocks and where his cattle feed, so that the eye of Zeus may find respite from its longing.”  By such dreams was I, to my distress, beset night after night, until at last I gained courage to tell my father of the dreams that haunted me. And he sent many a messenger to Pytho and Dodona so that he might discover what deed or word of his would find favor with the gods. But they returned with report of oracles, riddling, obscure, and darkly worded. Then at last there came an unmistakable utterance to Inachus, charging and commanding him clearly that he must thrust me forth from home and native land to roam at large to the remotest confines of the earth; and, if he would not, a fiery thunderbolt would come from Zeus that would utterly destroy his whole race.  Yielding obedience to such prophetic utterances of Loxias, he drove me away and barred me from his house, against his will and mine; but the constraint of Zeus forced him to act by necessity. Immediately my form and mind were distorted, and with horns, as you see, upon my forehead, stung by a sharp-fanged gadfly I rushed with frantic bounds to Cerchnea's sweet stream and Lerna's spring. But Argus, the earth-born herdsman, untempered in his rage, pursued me, peering with his many eyes upon my steps. A sudden death robbed him of life unexpectedly; while I, still tormented by the gadfly, am driven on from land to land before the heaven-sent plague.
 That is what happened; and if you can declare what toils still remain, reveal them. Do not, from pity, seek to soothe me with untrue words; for I consider false words to be the foulest sickness. CHORUS  Oh, ah, go away, alas! Never, oh never, did I dream that words so strange would greet my ears; or that sufferings so grievous to look upon, yes, and so grievous to endure, a tale of outrage, would strike my soul as if with double-pronged spear. Alas, O Fate, O Fate, I shudder to behold the plight that has befallen Io. PROMETHEUS  You lament and are full of fear all too soon. Wait until you have learned the rest as well. CHORUS  Proceed, tell all. It is comforting for the sick to know clearly beforehand what pain still awaits them. PROMETHEUS  You gained your former request easily from me; for you first desired the story of her ordeal from her own lips. Hear now the sequel, the sufferings this maid is fated to endure at Hera's hand. And may you, daughter of Inachus, lay to heart my words so that you may learn the end of your wanderings.  First, from this spot, turn yourself toward the rising sun and make your way over untilled plains; and you shall reach the Scythian nomads, who dwell in thatched houses, perched aloft on strong-wheeled wagons and are equipped with far-darting bows. Do not approach them, but keeping your feet near the rugged shore, where the sea breaks with a roar, pass on beyond their land. On the left hand dwell the workers in iron, the Chalybes, and you must beware of them, since they are savage and are not to be approached by strangers. Then you shall reach the river Hybristes, which is aptly named. Do not cross this, for it is hard to cross, until you come to Caucasus itself, loftiest of mountains, where from its very brows the river pours out its might in fury. You must pass over its crests, which neighbor the stars, and enter upon a southward course, where you shall reach the host of the Amazons, who loathe all men. They shall in time to come inhabit Themiscyra on the Thermodon, where, fronting the sea, is Salmydessus' rugged jaw, evil host of mariners, step-mother of ships. The Amazons will gladly guide you on your way. Next, just at the narrow portals of the harbor, you shall reach the Cimmerian isthmus. This you must leave with stout heart and pass through the channel of Maeotis; and ever after among mankind there shall be great mention of your passing, and it shall be named after you: the Bosporus. Then, leaving the soil of Europe, you shall come to the Asian continent.  Does it not seem to you that the tyrant of the gods is violent in all his ways? For this god, desirous of union with this mortal maid, has imposed upon her these wanderings. Maiden, you have gained a cruel suitor for your hand. As to the tale you now have heardâ€”understand that it has not even passed the introduction.
IO  Ah me, ah me, alas! PROMETHEUS  What! You are crying and groaning again? What will you do, I wonder, when you have learned the sufferings still in store for you? CHORUS  What! Can it be that you have sufferings still left to recount to her? PROMETHEUS  Yes, a tempestuous sea of calamitous distress. IO  What gain have I then in life? Why did I not hurl myself straightaway from this rugged rock, so that I was dashed to earth and freed from all my sufferings? It is better to die once and for all than linger out all my days in misery. PROMETHEUS  Ah, you would hardly bear my agonies to whom it is not foredoomed to die; for death would have freed me from my sufferings. But now no limit to my tribulations has been appointed until Zeus is hurled from his sovereignty. IO  What! Shall Zeus one day be hurled from his dominion? PROMETHEUS  You would rejoice, I think, to see that happen. IO  Why not, since it is at the hand of Zeus that I suffer? PROMETHEUS  Then you may assure yourself that these things are true. IO  By whom shall he be robbed of the scepter of his sovereignty? PROMETHEUS  By himself and his own empty-headed purposes. IO  In what way? Oh tell me, if there be no harm in telling. PROMETHEUS  He shall make a marriage that shall one day cause him distress. 20
IO  With a divinity or with a mortal? If it may be told, speak out. PROMETHEUS  Why ask with whom? I may not speak of this. IO  Is it by his mate that he shall be dethroned? PROMETHEUS  Yes, since she shall bear a son mightier than his father. IO  And has he no means to avert this doom? PROMETHEUS  No, noneâ€”except me, if I were released from bondage. IO  Who then is to release you against the will of Zeus? PROMETHEUS  It is to be one of your own grandchildren. IO  What did you say? A child of mine will release you from your misery? PROMETHEUS  The third in descent after ten generations. IO  Your prophecy is not easy to understand. PROMETHEUS  Yes, so do not seek to learn the full extent of your own sufferings. IO  Do not offer me a favor and then withdraw it. PROMETHEUS  I will present you with one or other of two tales. IO  Which two? Set them forth and offer me the choice.
PROMETHEUS  I am making the offer: choose whether I shall reveal the sufferings still in store for you or the one who will be my deliverer. CHORUS  Consent to bestow on her one of these favors, and on me the other; do not deny me the tale. Tell her about her further wanderings; tell me who will deliver youâ€”for I would like to know this. PROMETHEUS  Well, since you are bent on this, I will not refuse to proclaim all that you still crave to know. First, to you, Io, will I declare your much-vexed wandering, and may you engrave it on the recording tablets of your mind.  When you have crossed the stream that bounds the two continents, toward the flaming east, where the sun walks, . . . crossing the surging sea until you reach the Gorgonean plains of Cisthene, where the daughters of Phorcys dwell, ancient maids, three in number, shaped like swans, possessing one eye amongst them and a single tooth; neither does the sun with his beams look down upon them, nor ever the nightly moon. And near them are their three winged sisters, the snake-haired Gorgons, loathed of mankind, whom no one of mortal kind shall look upon and still draw breath. Such is the peril that I bid you to guard against. But now listen to another and a fearsome spectacle. Beware of the sharp-beaked hounds of Zeus that do not bark, the gryphons, and the one-eyed Arimaspian folk, mounted on horses, who dwell about the flood of Pluto's stream that flows with gold. Do not approach them. Then you shall come to a faroff country of a dark race that dwells by the waters of the sun, where the river Aethiop is. Follow along its banks until you reach the cataract, where, from the Bybline mountains, Nile sends forth his hallowed and sweet stream. He will conduct you on your way to the three-angled land of Nilotis, where, at last, it is ordained for you, O Io, and for your children to found your far-off colony.  If anything of this is confusing to you and hard to understand, may you question me yet again, and gain a clear account; for I have more leisure than I crave. CHORUS  If there is anything still remaining or passed over of her direful wandering that you have to tell, oh speak. But if you have told all, grant us in turn the favor we requestâ€” you probably have it still in memory. PROMETHEUS  She has now heard the full end of her travels; yet so she may know that she has heard no vain tale from me, I will describe the toils she has endured before she came here, giving this as a sure proof of my account. Most of the weary tale I shall leave out and come to the very close of your wanderings.  For when you reached the Molossian plains and the sheer ridge that encircles Dodona, where lies the prophetic seat of Thesprotian Zeus and that marvel, passing all belief, the talking oaks, by which you clearly, and in no riddling terms, were saluted as the renowned bride-to-be of Zeus (is any of this pleasing to you?), then, stung by the 22
gadfly, you rushed along the pathway by the shore to the great gulf of Rhea, from where you are tossed in backward-wandering course; and for all time to come a recess of the sea, be well assured, shall bear the name Ionian, as a memorial of your crossing for all mankind.  These, then, are the tokens to you of my understanding, to show that it discerns more than has been made manifest. The rest I shall declare both to you and her, returning to the track of my former tale.  There is a city, Canobus, on the extremity of the land at the very mouth and sandbar of the Nile. There at last Zeus restores you to your senses by the mere stroke and touch of his unterrifying hand. And you shall bring forth dark Epaphus, named due to the manner of Zeus' impregnation; and he shall gather the fruit of all the land watered by the broad-flowing Nile. Fifth in descent from him, fifty maidens shall return to Argos, not of their own free choice, but fleeing marriage with their cousin kin; while these, their hearts ablaze with passion, like falcons eagerly pursuing doves, shall come in pursuit of wedlock unlawful to pursue; but God shall grudge them enjoyment of their brides. Pelasgian soil shall offer the maids a home, when, in the watches of the night, their husbands have been slain by a deed of daring wrought by the women's murderous blows. For each bride shall take the life of her lord, dyeing a two-edged sword in his blood—in such ways may Love come upon my enemies! However, love's desire shall charm one of the maidens not to slay her mate; rather, her resolve will lose its edge; for she will make her choice between two evil names to be called coward rather than murderess. She it is who shall give birth in Argos to a royal line—a long story is necessary to explain this clearly; of her seed, however, shall be born a man of daring, renowned with the bow, who shall deliver me from these toils. Such is the oracle recounted to me by my mother, Titan Themis, born long ago. The manner and the means—these need lengthy speech to tell, and to learn them all would not be of any benefit. IO  Oh! Oh! Alas! Once again convulsive pain and frenzy, striking my brain, inflame me. I am stung by the gadfly's barb, unforged by fire. My heart knocks at my ribs in terror; my eyeballs roll wildly round and round. I am carried out of my course by a fierce blast of madness; I've lost all mastery over my tongue, and a stream of cloudy words beats recklessly against the billows of dark destruction. Exit. CHORUS  Ah, wise, wise indeed, was he who first pondered this truth in his mind and with his tongue gave it utterance—that to marry in one's own class is far the best—a poor man should not desire to marry among those who are pampered by riches, or who are mighty in pride of birth.  Never, oh never, immortal Fates, may you see me the partner of the bed of Zeus, and may I be wedded to no husband who descends to me from heaven. For I shudder when I behold the loveless virginity of Io, cruelly crushed like this by her toilsome wanderings sent by Hera. 23
 When marriage is on equal terms, in my opinion it is no cause for dread; so never may the love of the mightier gods cast on me its irresistible glance. That would indeed be a war that cannot be fought, a source of never-ending misery; and I do not know what would be my fate, for I do not see how I could escape the designs of Zeus. PROMETHEUS  Yes, truly, the day will come when Zeus, although stubborn of soul, shall be humbled, seeing that he plans a marriage that shall hurl him into oblivion from his sovereignty and throne; and then immediately the curse his father Cronus invoked as he fell from his ancient throne, shall be fulfilled to the uttermost. Deliverance from such ruin no one of the gods can show him clearly except me. I know the fact and the means. So let him sit there in his assurance, putting his trust in the crash reverberating on high and brandishing his fire-breathing bolt in his hands. For these shall not protect him from falling in humiliating and unbearable ruin. Such an adversary is he now preparing despite himself, a prodigy irresistible, even one who shall discover a flame mightier than the lightning and a deafening crash to outroar the thunder; a prodigy who shall shiver the trident, Poseidon's spear, that scourge of the sea and shaker of the land. Then, wrecked upon this evil, Zeus shall learn how different it is to be a king and a slave. CHORUS  Surely, it is only your own desire that you utter as a curse against Zeus. PROMETHEUS  I speak what shall be brought to pass and, moreover, my own desire. CHORUS  Must we really look for one to gain mastery over Zeus? PROMETHEUS  Yes, and he shall bear upon his neck pangs more galling than these of mine. CHORUS  How is it that you are not afraid to utter such taunts? PROMETHEUS  Why should I fear since I am fated not to die? CHORUS  But he might inflict on you an ordeal even more bitter than this. PROMETHEUS  Let him, for all I care! I am prepared for anything. CHORUS  Wise are they who do homage to Necessity.
PROMETHEUS  Worship, adore, and fawn upon whoever is your lord. But for Zeus I care less than nothing. Let him do his will, let him hold his power for his little day—since he will not bear sway over the gods for long. But wait, for over there I see his messenger, the servant of our new lord and master. Certainly he has come to announce some news. Enter Hermes. HERMES  To you, the clever and crafty, bitter beyond all bitterness, who has sinned against the gods in bestowing honors upon creatures of a day—to you, thief of fire, I speak. The Father commands that you tell what marriage you boast of, whereby he is to be hurled from power—and this, mark well, set forth in no riddling fashion, but point by point, as the case exactly stands; and do not impose upon me a double journey, Prometheus—you see Zeus is not appeased by dealings such as yours. PROMETHEUS  Bravely spoken, in truth, and swollen with pride is your speech, as befits a minion of the gods. Young you are, as young your power, and you think indeed that you inhabit heights beyond the reach of grief. Have I not seen two kings cast out from these heights? A third, the present lord, I shall live to see cast out in ruin most shameful and most swift. Do you think I quiver, perhaps, and cower before these upstart gods? Far from it— no, not at all. But scurry back the way you came; for you shall learn nothing about which you question me. HERMES  Yet it was by such proud stubbornness before, too, that you brought yourself to this harbor of distress. PROMETHEUS  For your servitude, rest assured, I'd not barter my hard lot, not I. HERMES  Better, no doubt, to serve this rock than be the trusted messenger of Father Zeus! PROMETHEUS  Such is the proper style for the insolent to offer insult. HERMES  I think you revel in your present plight. PROMETHEUS  I revel? Oh, I wish that I might see my enemies reveling in this way! And you, too, I count among them.
HERMES  What! You blame me in some way for your calamities? PROMETHEUS  In one word, I hate all the gods that received good at my hands and with ill requite me wrongfully. HERMES  Your words declare you stricken with no slight madness. PROMETHEUS  Mad I may be—if it is madness to loathe one's enemies. HERMES  You would be unbearable if you were prosperous. PROMETHEUS  Alas! HERMES  “Alas”? That is a word unknown to Zeus. PROMETHEUS  But ever-aging Time teaches all things. HERMES  Yes, but you at least have not yet learned to keep a sober mind. PROMETHEUS  Or else I would not have addressed you, a henchman. HERMES  It seems you will answer nothing that the Father demands. PROMETHEUS  Yes, truly, I am his debtor and I should repay favor to him. HERMES  You taunt me as though, indeed, I were a child. PROMETHEUS  And are you not a child and even more witless than a child if you expect to learn anything from me? There is no torment or device by which Zeus shall induce me to utter this until these injurious shackles are loosed. So then, let his blazing lightning be hurled, and with the white wings of the snow and thunders of earthquake let him confound the
reeling world. For nothing of this shall bend my will even to tell at whose hands he is fated to be hurled from his sovereignty. HERMES  Look now whether this course seems to profit you. PROMETHEUS  Long ago has this my course been foreseen and resolved. HERMES  Bend your will, perverse fool, oh bend your will at last to wisdom in face of your present sufferings. PROMETHEUS  In vain you trouble me, as though it were a wave you try to persuade. Never think that, through terror at the will of Zeus, I shall become womanish and, with hands upturned, aping woman's ways, shall plead with my greatly hated enemy to release me from these bonds. I am far, far from that. HERMES  I think that by speaking much I will only speak in vain; for you are not soothed nor are you softened by my entreaties. You take the bit in your teeth like a newharnessed colt and struggle against the reins. Yet it is a paltry device that prompts your vehemence, for in the foolish-minded mere stubbornness gets you less than anything at all. But if you will not be won to belief by my words, think of what a tempest and a towering wave of woe shall break upon you past escape. First, the Father will shatter this jagged cliff with thunder and lightning-flame, and will entomb your body, while the rock still holds you clasped in its embrace. But when you have completed a long stretch of time, you shall come back again to the light. Then indeed the winged hound of Zeus, the ravening eagle, coming like an uninvited feaster the whole day long, with savage appetite shall tear your body piecemeal into great rents and feast his fill upon your liver until it is black with gnawing.  Look for no term of this your agony until some god shall appear to take upon himself your woes and of his own free will descend into the sunless realm of Death and the dark deeps of Tartarus.  Therefore be advised, since this is no counterfeited vaunting but utter truth; for the mouth of Zeus does not know how to utter falsehood, but will bring to pass every word. May you consider warily and reflect, and never deem stubbornness better than wise counsel. CHORUS  To us, at least, Hermes seems not to speak untimely; for he bids you to lay aside your stubbornness and seek the good counsel of wisdom. Be advised! It is shameful for the wise to persist in error.
PROMETHEUS  No news to me, in truth, is the message this fellow has proclaimed so noisily.Yet for enemy to suffer ill from enemy is no disgrace. Therefore let the lightning's forked curl be cast upon my head and let the sky be convulsed with thunder and the wrack of savage winds; let the hurricane shake the earth from its rooted base, and let the waves of the sea mingle with their savage surge the courses of the stars in heaven; and let him lift me on high and hurl me down to black Tartarus with the swirling floods of stern Necessity: do what he will, me he shall never bring to death. HERMES  Such indeed are the thoughts and the words one hears from men deranged. Where does his prayer fall short of raving? Where does he abate his frenzy?â€”But, at all events, may you who sympathize with his anguish, withdraw in haste from this spot so that the relentless roar of the thunder does not stun your senses. CHORUS  Use some other strain and urge me to some other course in which you are likely to convince me. This utterance in your flood of speech is, I think, past all endurance. How can you ask me to practice baseness? With him I am content to suffer any fate; for I have learned to detest traitors, and there is no pest I hate more than this. HERMES  Well then, bear my warning in memory and do not blame your fortune when you are caught in the toils of calamity; nor ever say that it was Zeus who cast you into suffering unforeseen. Not so, but blame yourselves. For well forewarned, and not suddenly or secretly shall you be entangled in the inescapable net of calamity by reason of your folly. Exit Hermes. PROMETHEUS  Indeed, now it has passed from word to deedâ€”the earth rocks, the echoing thunderclap from the depths rolls roaring past me; the fiery wreathed lightning bolts flare forth, and whirlwinds toss the swirling dust; the blasts of all the winds leap forth and set in hostile formation their embattled strife; the sky is confounded with the deep. Behold, this stormy turmoil advances against me visibly, sent by Zeus to frighten me. O holy mother mine, O you Earth that revolves the common light of all, you see the wrongs I suffer! The scene closes with earthquake and thunder, in the midst of which Prometheus and the Daughters of Oceanus sink into the abyss. THE END
a new prometheus Below is the first scene from Prometheus Bound, a new musical written by Tony Award winning playwright and lyricist Steven Sater (Spring Awakening). Compare and contrast Sater’s opening with Aeschylus’s. What are the key differences? SCENE 1 (The sound of prison doors locking down. A blinding flash of light reveals a detention facility. The traveling PLAYERS enter, with a prop trunk, a rock band in tow. They perform for the audience as inmates: “The Gods Are Still the Gods.”) PLAYERS Shall we have a song For the things we've gone through, For the things we fear Really brought us here...? Let us play the clowns Of the clowns around you — Tyrants holding sway, Much like those today. The gods are still the gods, And love their little laws. And when you're bent in pain, Why should they explain? Take Violence for a start; Kings make her their partner. When a hero falls, Nail him to the wall. Hear a hero groan, Lock him up alone there. Shut the prison door For now and evermore. And those who hear his cries, What are they but spies? Those who shed his tears Learn how to live in fear. The gods are still the gods, And love their little laws. 29
Oh shall we make it plain â€” There's no room for complaint. Let us play the tribe That they send to bribe you. Join us in their game, Naming all the names. Then we'll play the fools That they send to school you. Learn to speak the speech, Practice what they preach. And if we touch your heart, Pretend it's just the art. Don't let the warden say You saw him in our play. The gods are still the gods, And love their little laws. And when they're feeling bored, They kill us for their sport. Shall we have a song For the world that wronged you? Shall we roll the dice On human sacrifice? The gods are still the gods, And love their little laws. Don't look for their applause, The gods are still the gods. The gods are still the gods... The gods are still the godsâ€Ś (The lights shift. FORCE and VIOLENCE emerge from among the PLAYERS, and tear PROMETHEUS from the stage. HEPHAISTOS follows, carrying his smith's tools) FORCE Here, at last: the very end of the earth, the Scythian plain, where no mortal sets foot. Now you, Hephaistos, do as the Father commands: (The FORCE Underscore begins) Bind this reckless miscreant to these steep-cliffed rocks with chains unyielding and unbreakable. 30
He stole bright, all-devising fire — your flower — and gave it to those born-to-die. For this outrage, he must render just payment to the gods, that he may learn to honor the rule of Zeus and desist in this love of humankind. HEPHAISTOS In you, Force, and you, Violence, the commands of Zeus find their perfect conduit; for nothing impedes their course. (The FORCE Underscore morphs into the HEPHAISTOS Underscore) HEPHAISTOS (Cont’d) (To PROMETHEUS) High-devising son of straight-counseling Themis, against my will, and yours, I will bind you, in never-loosening bronze, to this crag far from those born-to-die. You, a god, did not cower before the gods, but gave more honor than was just to those creatures-of-a-day. Wherefore, you must stand vigil upon this joyless rock, and utter many a meaningless groan; for the Mind of Zeus is hard to prayer. Like all those new to power, he is impervious. FORCE Come, what is the delay? Why pity him in vain? Would you disobey the Word of the Father? (Underscore out. Silence) HEPHAISTOS I merely wish another had drawn this lot. (Music sounds -- the intro to “In This Nothing Hell”) FORCE Do not let the father see you loiter. (To PROMETHEUS) The gods erred when they named you — “Forethought”. You, yourself, will need some “Prometheus”, to free you from this device. (FORCE and VIOLENCE sing, “In This Nothing Hell.” As the song plays, HEPHAISTOS nails 31
PROMETHEUS to the rock, banding his legs and battering him into iron chains) FORCE (Cont’d) In this nothing hell with you There is nothing left to do, But tell me — why so sad? There was nothing much before — Though it felt, somehow, like more. It was all you had… Though it felt, somehow, like war, How'd it go so bad? VIOLENCE When it went too far — with you — We trusted, sure, That you had the heart — in you — To love as much as hurt… What we loved in you — so sweet — Was all that mind. There was no way to compete With all your grand designs… FORCE Oh and who could stand the pain — tonight — Or the sad-as-laughter nights that remain...? FORCE & VIOLENCE So, you ghostly king — so blind — How much we loved you! Oh, and we — we'll sigh — To see how you are through. FORCE Oh and can you stand the pain — tonight — Or the bad-ass-laughter nights that remain...? When it went too far — with you — We trusted, sure, That you had the heart — in you — To love as much as hurt...
VIOLENCE What we loved in you — so sweet — Was all that mind. There was no way to compete With all your grand designs... FORCE Oh you lonely thing — so blind — We did so trust you! FORCE & VIOLENCE Oh, and we — we'll cry — To watch what you go through. In this nothing hell with you... In this nothing hell with you… In this nothing hell with you… In this nothing hell with you… VIOLENCE Oh to f***ing hell with you... FORCE Oh to f***ing hell with you… (FORCE, VIOLENCE, and HEPHAISTOS exit. The underscore ends. PROMETHEUS hangs, alone. Silence. The empty wind) PROMETHEUS You, Divine Ether; you, Winds, with your quick wings; you, Springs of rivers; and you, numberless smiles of the waves that break on the sea; you, Earth, mother of all; and you, Sun, who circle Earth in fire, seeing everything: look and see how I, a god, suffer at the hands of the gods. (MUSIC begins. “What Do You Find?”) PROMETHEUS (Cont’d) Nothing but blue falling, And it's winter, all right. Nothing to do but haunt the moon tonight... The stars like some hazy notion That no one's around. And there's nothing but night, through those lazy clouds. 33
You fumble along — in the fog for a minute. In the fog for a minute, with a long way to go. And what do you find, in your heart, but delusion? A thought that eludes them, A love that went, futile and blind... O, you can't — you can't — get loose — and what do you find? What do you find? You walk like a fool, silent, And you wonder what's wrong. Nothing to think but somehow something's gone; And how do you stop counting On a love that cannot be? Nothing but night, and you wander the dream… You fumble along — in the fog for a minute. In the fog for a minute, with a long way to go. And what do you find, in your heart, but delusion? A thoughtless confusion. A love that went, futile and blind... O, you can't — you can't — get loose — and what do you find? What do you find? How are the words to say the stars above you — And how they rise, and meet the cold? How does the purple day hold something of you? How does the night know something of your soul? You fumble along — in the fog for a minute. In the fog for a minute, with a long way to go. And what do you find, in your heart, but delusion? A thoughtless collusion With love that went, futile and blind... O, you can't — you can't — get loose, and what do you find? What do you find? What do you find? What do you find? What do you find? What do you find? What do you find? What do you find? What do you find? What do you find?
titans, gods and goddesses The characters in Aeschylus’ play are drawn from ancient Greek religion. Here is an introduction to the myth behind each Titan, God and Goddess in Prometheus Bound: Prometheus Prometheus, whose name means “forethought,” was the Titan god of foresight and crafty counsel. During the war between the Titans (the old gods) and the Olympians (the new gods), Prometheus foresaw the downfall of his Titan brethren and joined Zeus, the King of the Olympian gods, on the winning side. His wise counsel helped Zeus defeat Kronos and imprison the Titans in Tartaros— the deepest part of Hades. Later, Zeus gave Prometheus the job of molding mankind out of clay. Prometheus always wanted to better the lives of his creation, and this often caused him to butt heads with Zeus. First, he tricked the gods out of the best portion of the sacrificial feast, allowing humans to eat the animal’s meat and leave just the bones and fat for the gods. Then, when Zeus withheld fire, he stole it from heaven and delivered it to humans inside a fennel-stalk. As punishment for these rebellious acts, Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora, the first woman, as a means to cause man misfortune. Prometheus, meanwhile, was arrested and bound to a stake on Mount Caucasus (near modern-day Azerbaijan) where an eagle was set to feed upon his liver, which would regenerate each day. Many generations later, the great hero Hercules came along and slew the eagle with his bow and arrow. A centaur named Chiron, who had been accidentally wounded by one of Hercules’ poisoned arrows, offered to take Prometheus’ place in Tartaros. Zeus allowed it, and Prometheus offered up his secret as a means of reconciling with the King of the Gods: if Zeus were to bed Thetis (a nymph that both he and Poseidon had their eyes on), she would bear a son more powerful than the father. Armed with this information, Zeus and Poseidon arranged to have Thetis married to a mortal, Peleus; from this union, Achilles the hero of Troy was born. So the prophecy proved true, as Achilles was a thousand times stronger than his mortal father. If Zeus had remained ignorant of what Prometheus foresaw and slept with Thetis anyway, it would have meant his downfall. Achilles would have been a thousand times stronger than Zeus.
Oceanos Ancient Greek myth held that the world’s oceans, rivers, springs and wells were all part of one gigantic world-river, called Oceanos. This river is personified as a Titan of the same name, who was also in charge of the rise and set of the moon and sun. His wife was Tethys, “the nurse,” who helped distribute Oceanos’ water to the world through underground rivers and geysers. Their children were the Potamoi (or River Gods) and Oceanids, nymphs of springs and fountains. Oceanos refused to take sides in the war between Zeus and the Titans; just as he refused to participate in the overthrowing of Ouranos (Father Sky) by Zeus’ father, a Titan named Kronos. He was often depicted as a muscular man with horns and the lower body of a serpent. Chorus These are the daughters of Oceanos, called the Oceanids or freshwater Nymphs. There were upwards of 3000 Oceanids, and each had her own spring, cloud, stream, lake, pond or flower to preside over. According to Aeschylus and Acusilaus (an ancient Greek genealogist), Prometheus was married to an Oceanid named Hesione-- so the Chorus are something like his sisters-in-law. Here is a hymn dedicated to the Oceanids: “Nymphai, who from Okeanos famed derive your birth, who dwell in liquid caverns of the earth; nurses of Bakkhos, secret-coursing powers, fructiferous Goddesses, who nourish flowers: earthly-rejoicing, who in meadows dwell, and caves and dens, whose depths extend to hell. Holy, oblique, who swiftly soar through air, fountains, and dews, and winding streams your care, seen and unseen, who joy with wandering wide, and gentle course through flowery vales to glide; with Pan exulting on the mountains’ height, inspired, and stridulous, whom woods delight: Nymphai odorous, robed in white, whose streams exhale the breeze refreshing, and the balmy gale: with goats and pastures pleased, and beasts of prey, nurses of fruits, unconscious of decay. In cold rejoicing, and to cattle kind, sportive, through ocean wandering unconfined. O Nysiai, insane, whom oaks delight, lovers of spring, Paionian virgins bright; with Bakkhos and with Deo hear my prayer, and to mankind abundant favour bear; propitious listen to your suppliant’s voice, come, and benignant in these rites rejoice; give plenteous seasons and sufficient wealth, and pour in lasting streams, continued health.” - Orphic Hymn 51 to the Nymphs
Force and Violence Violence (Bia) and Force (Kratos) are siblings, along with Victory (Nike) and Rivalry (Zelos). These four winged spirits were the children of Pallas, the Titan god of warfare, and Styx, one of the Oceanids. Violence and Force were Zeus’ personal enforcers and stood by his throne.
Io Io was an Oceanid born from the river Inachus. Zeus loved Io, but when Hera walked in on them making love, he quickly turned Io into a white heifer and acted like nothing was going on. Hera was not deceived, and asked that Zeus give her the heifer as a gift. She placed Io under the watch of Argus Panoptes, a giant with a hundred eyes, who tied her to an olive tree in Hera’s grove at Mycenae. Zeus sent Hermes to rescue Io. Hermes killed Argus Panoptes with a stone and released Io from her imprisonment. But Hera somehow resurrected Argus Panoptes in the form of a biting gadfly, which tormented Io all throughout her wanderings, until at last she found peace on the banks of the Nile. Zeus restored Io to human form by the touch of his hand; this touch also made Io pregnant, and she gave birth to Epaphos, who became King of Egypt. As Prometheus tells her, she is the ancestor of Hercules, the greatest of all heroes. Io is associated with the moon and with the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Hephaistos Hephaistos is the Olympian god of fire, metalwork and fine arts. He was born crippled, which horrified his mother Hera, who promptly threw baby Hephaistos from the top of Mount Olympus. He fell for nine days and nine nights and landed in the ocean, where he was raised by the Oceanids Eurynome and Thetis. Thetis is the same nymph whom Prometheus warned Zeus not to impregnate, as she would bear a son more powerful than the father. Hephaistos later repaid Thetis by crafting magical armor for her son Achilles. Hephaistos grew to become a master blacksmith and was allowed back into Olympus when the gods decided he could be useful to them. Back in Olympus, he got revenge on his mother by crafting a golden throne that, once she sat in it, bound her to the seat. Hephaistos refused to release Hera until he was given the love goddess Aphrodite’s hand in marriage. It was Hephaistos who, at Zeus’ request, crafted Pandora from clay and sent her to Earth as the first woman. He made the unbreakable chains that bound Prometheus. Hermes 37
Hermes was the versatile Olympian god of animal husbandry, roads, travel, hospitality, heralds, diplomacy, trade, thievery, language, writing, persuasion, cunning, athletic contests, gymnasiums, astronomy and astrology. He was also the personal agent and herald of Zeus. He is credited with the invention of the lyre, gymnastics, the alphabet, numbers and the first sacrifice to the gods. As messenger of the gods, Hermes is the god of eloquence and skillful speaking, and so he is the patron of public speakers. He was one of the liaisons between the Olympian gods and humanity, and cultivated a good reputation with mankind. He protected the roads and advocated goodwill towards travelers who lost their way. Hermes also held the power to give sleep or to take it away. His other important function was to guide the shades of the dead from the upper world into the Underworld. Hermes is traditionally depicted as a young man with a brimmed traveling hat, often with wings on either side; golden sandals; and a staff of two entwined snakes. Below is a hymn dedicated to Hermes: â€œMousa, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia, lord of Kyllene and Arkadia rich in flocks, the luck-bringing, messenger of the gods whom Maia bare, the rich-tressed Nymphe, when she was joined in love with Zeus . . . [Zeus] commanded that glorious Hermes should be lord over all birds of omen and grim-eyed lions, and boars with gleaming tusks, and over dogs and all flocks that the wide earth nourishes, and over all sheep; also that he only should be the appointed messenger to Hades, who, though he takes no gift, shall give him no mean prize . . . He consorts with all mortals and immortals : a little he profits, but continually throughout the dark night he cozens the tribes of mortal men. And so, farewell, Son of Zeus and Maia; but I will remember you and another song also.â€? - Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes
THE GREAT FESTIVAL OF DIONYSUS Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound would have most likely premiered at one of the biggest festivals in ancient Greece: the Great Dionysia in Athens. This festival was held every spring in honor of the Greek god Dionysus— the god of wine, madness and partying. Naturally, Dionysus was the patron deity of the theatre. For ancient Athenians, the Theatre of Dionysus was a place to engage in civic dialogue and purge powerful emotions. It was a massive, 15,000 seat open-air theatre carved into the southern slope of the Acropolis. In the center, the chorus sang and danced in a circular orchestra. Just behind that, the actors performed in or in front of the skene, a large structure with doors and balconies built in. Below is an artist’s reconstruction of what the Theatre of Dionysus’ skene might have looked like during the 5th century B.C.:
Below is what the Theatre looks like today:
The first three days of the Great Dionysia were dedicated to tragic plays. Each day, one of three selected playwrights would present a trilogy. All Greek drama was written in trilogies, though only one full trilogy has survived: The Oresteia, by Aeschylus. During the Great Dionysia, audiences would see all three plays in one day; the first would start in the morning, and the last would end at sunset. Each trilogy also contained a comedic mini-play, called a “satyr play,” which a chorus of clowns would perform either before or after the main trilogy was over. On the final day of the festival, judges would select the winners of the tragedy competition and the comedy competition (which would take place on the sixth day of the festival). The winning playwrights would receive a wreath of ivy for a trophy. Aeschylus won almost every year, from the first competition he entered in 484 B.C. until 458 B.C.— two years before he died. He was a popular and controversial figure in theatre. Before Aeschylus, tragedies only had one actor and a chorus. Aeschylus not only introduced the second actor, he also experimented with the chorus speaking directly to the actors. We see both of Aeschylus’ innovations in Prometheus Bound. Although it probably premiered at the Dionysia, nobody knows when Prometheus Bound was written. Some scholars believe it was one of Aeschylus’ earliest plays, written around 480 B.C.; others think it premiered many years after Aeschylus’ death, as late as 410 B.C. 40
the lost chapters Prometheus Bound ends with a cliffhanger…literally. Zeus sends a thunderbolt to strike Prometheus’ stone, which sends the whole mountainside crashing through the earth into the deepest part of the Underworld. However, the episode following has been lost, and historians can only speculate as to what happened next. Since Greek drama was written in trilogies, there were actually two more tragedies in Aeschylus’ Prometheus cycle. We know what the other two plays were called: Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus the Fire-Bearer. The satyr play, a bawdy short play that played after the main trilogy, was called Prometheus the Fire-Kindler. Archaeologists have unearthed fragments of these plays — pieces of dialogue and second-hand descriptions from audience members. What we might never know is in what order Aeschylus intended the plays to be shown, or how he tackled the rest of the Prometheus myth. Prometheus eventually reconciles with Zeus and uses his foresight to advise Zeus. But after writing such an anti-Zeus play as Prometheus Bound, how did Aeschylus make us reevaluate the King of the Gods? And is Fire-Bearer a prequel to Bound, set when Prometheus first brought fire to humanity? Read the fragments below and try to imagine their original context. Imagine your own version of Prometheus the Fire-Bearer and Prometheus Unbound. Prometheus the Fire-Bearer (Promêtheus Pyrphoros) A line of dialogue from Gellius, Attic Nights xiii. 19. 4. • “Both silent, when there is need, and speaking in season.”
Prometheus Unbound (Promêtheus Lyomenos) The following lines of dialogue are from the entrance of the Chorus of Titans, now released from the Underworld by Zeus’ pardon. Prometheus tells the Titans his story and the torture he has suffered since giving fire to mankind. In his search for the golden apples of the Hesperides, Heracles comes to where Prometheus is in chains and receives directions about his journey through the far northlands and the perils he will encounter on the way home. They are from Arrian, Voyage in the Euxine 99. 22; Anonymous in Müller, Fragmenta Historicum Graecorum; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations ii. 10. 23-25; ll.; Strabo, Geography i. 2. 27. p. 33., iv. 1. 7. p. 183, vii. 3. 7. p. 301; Plutarch, On Fortune 3. 98C; Porphyry, On Abstinence 3. 18.; Galen, Commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics vi, vol. xvii. 1.; Stephen of Byzantium, Lexicon 7. 5; Dionysius of Halicarnasus, Early History of Rome i. 41.; Plutarch, Life of Pompey 1. • “We have come to look upon these thy ordeals, Prometheus, and the affliction of thy bonds.” • “[Leaving] the Eritrean Sea’s sacred stream red of floor, and the sea by Oceanus, the sea of the Ethiopians . . . that giveth nourishment unto all, where the all-seeing Sun doth ever, in warm outpourings of soft water, refresh his undying body and his wearied steeds.” • “Here Phasis, the mighty common boundary of the land of Europe and Asia…” • “Ye race of Titans, offspring of Uranus, blood-kinsmen mine! Behold me fettered, clamped to these rough rocks, even as a ship is moored fast by timid sailors, fearful of night because of the roaring sea. Thus hath Zeus, the son of Cronus, fastened me, and to the will of Zeus hath Hephaestus lent his hand. With cruel art hath he riven my limbs by driving in these bolts. Ah, unhappy that I am! By his skill transfixed, I tenant this stronghold of the Furies. And now, each third woeful day, with dreadful swoop, the minister of Zeus with his hooked talons rends me asunder by his cruel repast. Then, crammed and glutted to the full on my fat liver, he utters a prodigious scream and, soaring aloft, with winged tail fawns upon my gore. But when my gnawed liver swells, renewed in growth, greedily doth he return anew to his fell repast. Thus do I feed this guardian of my awful torture, who mutilates me living with never-ending pain. For fettered, as ye see, by the bonds of Zeus, I have no power to drive from my vitals the accursed bird. Thus, robbed of self defense, I endure woes fraught with torment: longing for death, I look around for an ending of my misery; but by the doom of Zeus I am thrust far from death. And this my ancient dolorous agony, intensified by the dreadful centuries, is fastened upon my body, from which there fall, melted by the blazing sun, drops that unceasingly pour upon the rocks of Caucasus.” • “Giving to them stallions – horses and asses –and the race of bulls to serve them as slaves and to relieve them of their toil.”
• “Follow this straight road; and, first of all, thou shalt come to the north winds, where do thou beware the roaring hurricane, lest unawares it twist thee up and snatch thee away in wintry whirlwind.” • “Thereafter thou shalt come unto a people of all mortals most just and most hospitable, even unto the Gabians; where nor plough nor mattock, that cleaves the ground, parteth the earth, but where the fields, self-sown, bring forth bounteous sustenance for mortals.” • “But the well-ordered Scythians that feed on mares’ milk cheese…” • “Thou shalt come to the dauntless host of the Ligurians, where, full well I know, thou shalt not be eager for battle, impetuous though thou art; for it is fated that even thy arrows shall fail thee there; and thou shalt not be able to take from the ground any stone, because the whole place is smooth. But the Father, beholding thy helplessness, shall pity thee, and, holding above thee a cloud, shall overshadow the land with a shower of round stones. Hurling these, thou shalt easily drive back the Ligurian host.” • “May Hunter Apollo speed my arrow straight!” • “Of his sire, my enemy, this dearest son…” Prometheus the Fire-Kindler, the Satyr Play (Promêtheus Pyrkaeus) A description from Pollux, Vocabulary 10. 64. • “And linen-lint and long bands of raw flax.” A line of dialogue from Galen, Commentary on Hippocrates’ Epidemics vi, vol. xvii. 1. 880. • “And do thou guard thee well lest a blast strike thy face; for it is sharp, and deadlyscorching its hot breaths.” A line spoken by Prometheus to a satyr who tried to kiss fire when he saw it for the first time, from Plutarch, How to Profit by our Enemies 2. 86F, Eustathius on Iliad 415. 7. • “Like the goat, you’ll mourn for your beard, you will.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley (pictured above), an English Romantic poet, wrote his own version of Prometheus Unbound in 1820. In the ancient Greek myth, Prometheus finally reunites with Zeus. But Shelley— writing in the free-spirited, individualistic tradition of Romanticism— re-imagines the ending of the myth as not a reunion, but a revolution. Prometheus Unbound is an example of how, throughout history, artists have used Greek drama to shed light on contemporary life, politics or philosophy. Shelley sees the character of Prometheus as the “perfect revolutionary,” who speaks truth to those in power and refuses to compromise. Like in Prometheus Bound, Hermes (Mercury) is sent to torture Prometheus with the worst punishment Zeus can think of: Mercury.  ...Wise art thou, firm and good, But vainly wouldst stand forth alone in strife Against the Omnipotent; as yon clear lamps That measure and divide the weary years From which there is no refuge, long have taught  And long must teach. Even now thy Torturer arms With the strange might of unimagined pains The powers who scheme slow agonies in Hell, And my commission is to lead them here, Or what more subtle, foul, or savage fiends 44
 People the abyss, and leave them to their task. Be it not so! there is a secret known To thee, and to none else of living things, Which may transfer the sceptre of wide Heaven, The fear of which perplexes the Supreme:  Clothe it in words, and bid it clasp his throne In intercession; bend thy soul in prayer, And like a suppliant in some gorgeous fane, Let the will kneel within thy haughty heart: For benefits and meek submission tame The fiercest and the mightiest. Prometheus.  Evil minds Change good to their own nature. I gave all He has; and in return he chains me here Years, ages, night and day: whether the Sun Split my parched skin, or in the moony night  The crystal-wingèd snow cling round my hair: Whilst my belovèd race is trampled down By his thought-executing ministers. Such is the tyrant's recompense: 'tis just: He who is evil can receive no good;  And for a world bestowed, or a friend lost, He can feel hate, fear, shame; not gratitude: He but requites me for his own misdeed. Kindness to such is keen reproach, which breaks With bitter stings the light sleep of Revenge.  Submission, thou dost know I cannot try: …Let others flatter Crime, where it sits throned In brief Omnipotence: secure are they: For Justice, when triumphant, will weep down Pity, not punishment, on her own wrongs,  Too much avenged by those who err. I wait, Enduring thus, the retributive hour Which since we spake is even nearer now. But hark, the hell-hounds clamour: fear delay: Behold! Heaven lowers under thy Father's frown. Mercury. Alas! Thou canst not count thy years to come of pain? Prometheus.  They last while Jove must reign: nor more, nor less Do I desire or fear. 45
Prometheus refuses to give in to Hermes’ (Mercury’s) torture, and never reveals his secret. Zeus, unaware that it will cause his downfall, fathers a child with the nymph Thetis. The hideous demon-spawn Demogorgon is born, a thousand times more powerful than Zeus himself. Demogorgon destroys Zeus. The world is finally free from tyranny, and free from what tyranny has created: lies, hypocrisy, hate and injustice. Love— Prometheus’ final gift to mankind— is free to rule instead: Prometheus. We feel what thou hast heard and seen: yet speak. Spirit of the Hour. Soon as the sound had ceased whose thunder filled The abysses of the sky and the wide earth,  There was a change: the impalpable thin air And the all-circling sunlight were transformed, As if the sense of love dissolved in them Had folded itself round the spherèd world. …I wandering went Among the haunts and dwellings of mankind, And first was disappointed not to see Such mighty change as I had felt within  Expressed in outward things; but soon I looked, And behold, thrones were kingless, and men walked One with the other even as spirits do, None fawned, none trampled; hate, disdain, or fear, Self-love or self-contempt, on human brows  No more inscribed, as o'er the gate of hell, "All hope abandon ye who enter here"; None frowned, none trembled, none with eager fear Gazed on another's eye of cold command… None wrought his lips in truth-entangling lines Which smiled the lie his tongue disdained to speak; None, with firm sneer, trod out in his own heart  The sparks of love and hope till there remained Those bitter ashes, a soul self-consumed, And the wretch crept a vampire among men, Infecting all with his own hideous ill; None talked that common, false, cold, hollow talk  Which makes the heart deny the yes it breathes, Yet question that unmeant hypocrisy With such a self-mistrust as has no name. The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man  Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless, Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king 46
Over himself; just, gentle, wise: but man Passionless? — no, yet free from guilt or pain, Which were, for his will made or suffered them,  Nor yet exempt, though ruling them like slaves, From chance, and death, and mutability, The clogs of that which else might oversoar The loftiest star of unascended heaven, Pinnacled dim in the intense inane. Prometheus Unbound is said to be Shelley’s response to the French Revolution, which he believes failed by replacing a tyrant (the King) with another tyrant (the equally oppressive Committee of Public Safety). Shelley instead imagines a revolution that results in a world without any government at all, which trusts the inner goodness of mankind to govern peacefully. Demogorgon, the demon son of Zeus, has the last word in Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound: Demogorgon. This is the day, which down the void abysm  At the Earth-born's spell yawns for Heaven's despotism, And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep: Love, from its awful throne of patient power In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep,  And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs And folds over the world its healing wings. Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance, These are the seals of that most firm assurance Which bars the pit over Destruction's strength;  And if, with infirm hand, Eternity, Mother of many acts and hours, should free The serpent that would clasp her with his length; These are the spells by which to reassume An empire o'er the disentangled doom.  To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; To forgive wrongs darker than death or night; To defy Power, which seems omnipotent; To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;  Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent; This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free; This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.
The Virtues of Disobedience Prometheus defies Zeus by refusing to take part in the gods’ tyrannical rule over mankind. We see the legacy of Prometheus’ courage in real-life champions of justice and civil liberty. Below are excerpts from two famous writings on “civil disobedience.” Both were written from prison cells. What do the authors have in common with Prometheus, and with each other? How does Prometheus' struggle manifest itself in their words? Henry David Thoreau “Civil Disobedience” (1849) Thoreau was an American author, poet and naturalist. He is best known for his book Walden, about simple living in the woods around Walden Pond, and for his essay, “Civil Disobedience,” an argument for individual resistance to an immoral and unjust government. He wrote the essay from a jail cell in Concord, MA; he was imprisoned for refusing to pay his taxes. …To speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it. After all, the practical reason why, when the power is once in the hands of the people, a majority are permitted, and for a long period continue, to rule, is not because they are most likely to be in the right, nor because this seems fairest to the minority, but because they are physically the strongest. But a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? — in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. A common and natural result of an undue respect for law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power? 48
He who gives himself entirely to his fellow-men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist… How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it. I cannot for an instant recognize that political organization as my government which is the slave's government also… All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of '75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army… If you are cheated out of a single dollar by your neighbor, you do not rest satisfied with knowing that you are cheated, or with saying that you are cheated, or even with petitioning him to pay you your due; but you take effectual steps at once to obtain the full amount, and see that you are never cheated again. Action from principle — the perception and the performance of right — changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was. It not only divides states and churches, it divides families; ay, it divides the individual, separating the diabolical in him from the divine. Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, 49
and do better than it would have them? Why does it always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels? …If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth — certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn. I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name — if ten honest men only — ay, if one HONEST man, in this State of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this copartnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefor, it would be the abolition of slavery in America. For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever. But we love better to talk about it: that we say is our mission. Reform keeps many scores of newspapers in its service, but not one man. Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place to-day, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on that separate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her — the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person. Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight. If the alternative is to keep all just men in prison, or give up war and slavery, the State will not hesitate which to choose. If a thousand men were not to pay their tax-bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood. This is, in fact, the definition of a peaceable revolution, if any such is possible. If the taxgatherer, or any other public officer, asks me, as one has done, “But what shall I do?” my answer is, “If you really wish to do anything, resign your office.” When the subject has refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished. But even suppose blood should flow. Is there not a sort of blood shed when the conscience is wounded? Through this wound a man's real manhood and immortality flow out, and he bleeds to an everlasting death. I see this blood flowing now…
I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up… I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without let or hindrance, and they were really all that was dangerous. As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it. Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man's sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. What force has a multitude? They only can force me who obey a higher law than I. They force me to become like themselves. I do not hear of men being forced to have this way or that by masses of men. What sort of life were that to live? When I meet a government which says to me, “Your money or your life,” why should I be in haste to give it my money? It may be in a great strait, and not know what to do: I cannot help that. It must help itself; do as I do. It is not worth the while to snivel about it. I am not responsible for the successful working of the machinery of society. I am not the son of the engineer. I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to its nature, it dies; and so a man… The authority of government, even such as I am willing to submit to — for I will cheerfully obey those who know and can do better than I, and in many things even those who neither know nor can do so well — is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed. It can have no pure right over my person and property but what I concede to it. The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual. Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Is a democracy, such as we know it, the last improvement possible in government? Is it not possible to take a step further towards recognizing and organizing the rights of man? There will never be a really free and enlightened State until the State comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him accordingly. I please myself with imagining a State at least which can afford to be just to all men, and to treat the individual with respect as a neighbor; which even would not think it inconsistent with its own repose if a few were to live aloof from it, not meddling with it, nor embraced by it, who fulfilled all the duties of neighbors and fellowmen. A State which bore this kind of fruit, and suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a still more perfect and glorious State, which also I have imagined, but not yet anywhere seen. 51
Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963) Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968) was perhaps the most important civil rights leader of the 20th century. He is known for encouraging the use of nonviolent methods (marches, sit-ins, protests, vigils) to end racial segregation and discrimination in America. He wrote the following letter while imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama for participating in civil rights marches— technically, “parading without a permit.” MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN, ...I am in Birmingham because injustice is here...Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative. In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation... You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister 52
may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue... We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”--then 53
you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” …An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured? Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the FirstAmendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest. I hope you can see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly…and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. …We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured…
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides— and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” … Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . . .” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers? I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty. Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rebels with a cause The upcoming production of Prometheus Bound at the American Repertory Theater features original music by Serj Tankian, with lyrics by playwright Steven Sater. Steven Sater was awarded the 2007 Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score for Spring Awakening, a rock musical he wrote with alt-rocker Duncan Sheik based on a controversial 19th century German play. Sater is the author of numerous plays, including a re-conceived version of Shakespeare’s Tempest with music by experimental musician Laurie Anderson. Sater is the lyricist for Sheik’s critically acclaimed album Phantom Moon, and together the two wrote the songs for Michael Mayer’s feature film A Home at the End of the World. Sater is also co-creator and executive producer, with Paul Reiser, of recent pilots for NBC and FX. In addition, Sater works as a screenwriter (on the forthcoming Chitty Chitty Bang Bang remake for Sony Pictures), and as a lyricist with various pop and rock composers. Spring Awakening made a huge splash on Broadway with its earnest indie-rock score and powerful performances by its young ensemble of actors (which included Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff of Glee fame). Sater and Sheik were widely hailed as musical theatre innovators able to take an antiquated text and transform it into a work that resonates deeply with a modern audience. “[Spring Awakening] is doing something entirely new. it’s really trying to push the genre forward. I actually hope it will inspire other musicians from the pop and rock worlds to experiment with writing for theater.” (Charles Isherwood, The New York Times) “The songs connect our time to their time. But issues don't really change; they just get swept under the rug.” (Zuri Washington, high school student) Go to the Spring Awakening myspace page (http://www.myspace.com/ springawakeningonbroadway) and listen to some of the songs from the Broadway production. How is the music different from more traditional musicals like Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, or The Lion King? In his lyrics (http://www.allmusicals.com/ s/springawakening.htm), how does Sater simultaneously evoke the 19th century setting of Spring Awakening and modern teenage life? 56
Serj Tankian is best known as the lead singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of the Grammy Award-winning metal band System of a Down. But he’s also a poet, record producer and dedicated political activist. He and Tom Morello (from Rage Against the Machine) operate a non-profit group called Axis of Justice, which unites musicians and music fans in the fight for social justice. Prometheus Bound is one of the darkest and most politically charged Greek tragedy, and is a perfect fit for Serj Tankian’s musical vision. His debut solo album, 2007’s Elect the Dead, received rave reviews for its ambition, complexity and powerful political message: “The political and personal are interwoven tightly in Tankian's lyrics. He challenges his own poetry and his assertions of social, political, and spiritual belief continually. There is barely time to grasp one idea when another is thrust upon the listener. Coming to grips will take several listens. Perhaps countless listens. The well placed spaces and lithe textural moments of delicate instrumental engagement and interlude prevent Elect the Dead from going by in a blur. Truth of the matter is that if you will only open yourself to it, you'll be able to hang on to those words, debate them, hold them in your heart, in your mind, and all the while have a cathartic emotional experience.” (Thom Jurek, Allmusic) “Cathartic” is a perfect way to describe Tankian’s music— an intense release of pent-up emotions or energy. The word “cathartic” was first used by Aristotle to describe the experience of watching a Greek tragedy. Go to Tankian’s myspace (www.myspace.com/serjtankian) and listen to “Sky is Over.” How does it make you feel? What do you think Serj Tankian is expressing about the world we live in? Does it remind you of Prometheus Bound? If you could guess, what about Aeschylus’ play inspires Tankian? Find more information about Axis of Justice at www.axisofjustice.org.
amnesty international Prometheus has been called “the first prisoner of conscience.” Amnesty International coined the term in the 1960s, using it to describe: “Those who have been imprisoned and/or persecuted for the non-violent expression of their conscientiously-held beliefs.” Prometheus believed in bringing knowledge to humanity. Fearing how this might threaten his rule over mankind, Zeus unjustly imprisoned Prometheus. Amnesty International has advocated for real prisoners of conscience since its formation in 1961. Their mission is to protect human rights: “We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world. We received the Nobel Peace Prize for our life-saving work. With more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in over 150 countries, and complete independence from government, corporate or national interests, we work to protect human rights worldwide. Through our research and action, governments have been persuaded to stop human rights violations and change their laws and practices. Death sentences have been commuted. Torturers have been brought to justice. And prisoners of conscience have been released.” What follows are profiles of prisoners of conscience (POCs) currently being held around the world.