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Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus
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Prometheus Bound

by Aeschylus

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9051714,765 (3.94)26
  1. 00
    The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Reading Aeschylus's play through the lens of Camus's interpretation of the absurd hero is interesting.
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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
An amazing play. This is a recommended read for anyone interested in classics, ancient Greek literature, and drama. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Dec 24, 2018 |
41. Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, translated by Paul Roche
1st performed: c ~456 bce ?? (alternately 430 bce, authored by Aeschylus' son, Euphorion)
format: 128 page Paperback - 1964 Mentor Classic
acquired: unknown. It comes from my childhood home. Perhaps one of my parents used it in high school or college.
read: July 2-3
rating: 4

I read this recently with a different translator. That review includes a brief summary. See HERE.

As far as I can tell, Paul Roche is a pretty obscure translator. I thought he created something really nice, keeping the poetry and recreating the rhythms. It's not as clean as David Grene, Robert Fitzgerald etc, and it's not as poetic as Philip Vellacott, but it is somewhere between these two. It's easily readable, but also provides noticeable poetic feel. Roche includes an introduction and various thoughts afterward in the format of questions and answers. I found the introduction particularly interesting as he talks about his struggle to translate this. He had translated about half the play unhappily. He studied the translation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, then went back to the Greek and noticed how clean the line endings were. Based on this, he re-worked the translation over again, trying to focus on clean line endings, with the rhyme, alliteration, assonance etc similar to the original. He even diagrams a few examples. No easy thing this, and very interesting to read about in brief, as he has it.

As far as re-reading the play itself, I'm struck first by Prometheus's character. Pinned to a rock the entire play, literally just hanging there, everything hinges on what he says and how he says it. He is an elegant stoic, in the modern sense, never losing his composure regardless of the pain and the endlessness of it all. He also makes Zeus, who condemned him, out to be an absolute tyrant, in the sense of, say, a Persian emperor. Zeus can do as he pleases and command endless torture for any frivolous reason, and there is no one even to complain to. It's a clear political point. (Critics have felt the negative light he writes of Zeus is inconsistent with his other works. Some have tried to give the play to other authors.) ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Jul 4, 2016 |
I can see Prometheus Bound serving as an excellent first play in a trilogy, but unfortunately any sequels to this work have been lost to the sands of time. As a standalone work Prometheus Bound has some fascinating characteristics, but spends so much time on long monologues of exposition and establishing conflicts that never come to fruition that it doesn't succeed in isolation.

As the title would suggest the titan Prometheus takes center stage in this play, the work opening after he has already disobeyed Zeus and given fire (and with it the arts and sciences) to humanity. Prometheus did this knowing full well that he would be punished for it, tortured in fact, but he accepts this fate in order to save mankind. When he is being chained and nailed to the mountainside it's impossible not to note the parallels between the figure of Prometheus and that of Jesus Christ, but while the suffering to redeem others is the same, no third day ascendance is at hand for Prometheus. Likewise, though Prometheus has taken action knowing what fate would result, he does not accept such punishment as did Christ. Prometheus is not going quietly into the night, nor is he a humble figure, but instead he continues to struggle against the injustice that has been done to him and refuses to bow down to the perpetrator of that injustice, despite acknowledging the superior power of Zeus. While Christ acted in accordance with God's wishes and suffered at the hands of those he sought to redeem, Prometheus went against Zeus for the sake of mankind, and suffers at the hands of Zeus because of it. Prometheus is, in short, a fascinating character, the very embodiment of the idea that tyranny should never be bowed to, but always struggled against. He is prideful, to be sure, but is being humble the correct response to injustice?

The other focus of the play is the newly enthroned Zeus, a character who never appears within the text of the play but who nevertheless influences every part of it. Through Prometheus, the chorus, Io, and Hermes the messenger, Aeschylus paints a dictatorial Zeus that has already begun to abuse his power. Zeus lords over both gods and man, taking what he wants and threatening to crush any opposition. He is a powerful God, but far from just, the only character who seems to conflate the two being Hermes his messenger. Of Zeus' newfound power Prometheus states that there "is a sickness, it seems, that goes along with dictatorship-inability to trust one's friends." A lesson still worth knowing now, over 2,400 years after the play was written. Like Prometheus is a fascinating character for resisting tyranny, Zeus is a fascinating character to look to for the descent into tyranny and the corrupting influence of power. He is not just powerful, but the ultimate power in the universe, and while there is the well known adage that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," Zeus' position at the head of the pantheon means that he will have to be dealt with before Prometheus is to be freed, and force is not an option.

In a scant forty pages Aeschylus establishes two fascinating characters (one of which doesn't even appear in person) and sets up a fascinating dynamic between the two. Unfortunately, that is all he does with this piece. The next two plays, if they existed, might have brought to fruition all of the potential this play contains, and if that had occurred then the Prometheus Cycle would have eclipsed the Oresteia and become a centerpiece of classical study. As it stands, however, all we have left is this introductory piece, with all the threads left dangling. We have lost whatever other parts of the cycle existed, and are left to wonder what might have been.
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
Prometheus bound is Aeschylus' play about Prometheus, the minor Greek deity who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humankind. For this act of rebellion, he is punished by Zeus. He is chained to a rock and forced to endure a crow eating his internal organs every day. By night he regenerates, never to die and never to escape the crow. He only gets freed by Herakles (Hercules), who is strong enough to break the chains binding Prometheus.

As a classics major, I encounter a lot of ancient literature. And much of that literature exists in bland public-domain translations from the late 1800s. Even worse, some translators render beautiful ancient poetry into prose. I avoid as much of that stuff as possible.

This translation is just the opposite. The product of a collaboration between Scully (a poet) and Herington (a classicist), this rendering is a very beautiful even if a bit loose. See this speech by the chorus:

"May Zeus never turn
His world
wide
power against my mind
may I never
hesitate
to approach the gods
with holy feasts
of blood drenched bulls
where Father Ocean, our father, streams and streams

may I never
say a sinful word

may this be ever
engraved in my mind
not melt
as words on wax

Nothing is sweeter
than life
lived
as long as this may be

always to hope
and feast, keep
the heart while it throbs
alive, lit up
with happiness
O but my blood runs cold, I'm cold, seeing you

raked over with
ten thousand tortures

you won't cower for Zeus,
you've a mind of your own
and you
honor humans

too much! Prometheus!"

Definitely not your standard translation!

I really like how Aeschylus brings out some of the nuances in this story. We're not sure whether or not Prometheus is telling the truth about his motives - he claims he wanted to help humans. We are also not sure whether or not Zeus acted justly or unjustly in punishing Prometheus. Was he being petty and vindictive, or just setting an example for those rebelling against his authority?

I like this edition, because it also has forewards from the translators and an appendix with fragments from the other two plays in the trilogy. (Greek plays entered in the Dionysian theater-competitions were always in a trilogy, which need not be one storyline. "Prometheus Bound" is the first of this trilogy, and the only one we still have. The second and third plays, "Prometheus Unbound" and "Prometheus Firebearer," exist only in scattered quotations and paraphrases from other authors.)

I'll leave with this statement from the translator:

"This is one play that seems to have been written with the head, hands, and heart: bunched, impacted, in the solar plexus. Ideally it would not be read or seen, but undergone." (25)
1 vote JDHomrighausen | Apr 15, 2014 |
I had to read Prometheus Bound for my Greek Tragedies class. I was pleasantly surprised with it, it was relatively quick, and easy to follow. I loved it, quite frankly. It was fun to read, however it felt too short! (Crazy, right?) ( )
  TheInvernessie | Nov 26, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (121 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aeschylusprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burke, Marjorie L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Droysen, Johann GustavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Groeneboom, P.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lowell, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roche, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stolpe, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Svensson, Lars-HåkanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thomson, GeorgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Torné i Teixidó, RamonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weissman, AlanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
for KIUMON FRIAR
homage with the great tradition
(Let any greeks here enter in by lot
according to the law,
and I shall prophesy as the god leads on.)
-The Eumenides 31-33

Slices from Homer's mighty dinners
(Aeschylus, of his own works: Athenaeus 8.347e)
First words
This is the world's limit that we have come to; this is the Scythian country, an untrodden desolation. - (tr. Grene, 1942)
We've come to the end, then--the world's end:
This Scythian tract, a desert without men.,
[Tr. Paul Roche, 1964]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is for translated versions of Prometheus Bound, not the original greek.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195061659, Paperback)

For readers accustomed to the relatively undramatic standard translations of Prometheus Bound, this version by James Scully, a poet and winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize, and C. John Herington, one of the world's foremost Aeschylean scholars, will come as a revelation. Scully and Herington accentuate the play's true power, drama, and relevance to modern times. Aeschylus originally wrote Prometheus Bound as part of a tragic trilogy, and this translation is unique in including the extant fragments of the companion plays.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In Greek legend, Prometheus was the Titan who, against the will of Zeus, stole fire from the gods for the benefit of man. His terrible punishment by Zeus, and his continuing defiance of Zeus in the face of that punishment, remain universal symbols of man's vulnerability in any struggle with the gods. In the epic drama Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus (c. 525-456 BC), first of the three great Greek tragic poets, re-creates this legendary conflict between rebellious subject and vengeful god. Chained for eternity to a barren rock, his flesh repeatedly torn by a ravaging eagle, Prometheus defends his championship of mankind, rejoicing in the many gifts of language and learning he has given man despite Zeus's cruel opposition. Inspired by Prometheus's spirit, Aeschylus reaches beyond the myth to create one of literature's most gripping portrayals of man's inhumanity to man. How Prometheus clings to his convictions and braves his harsh fate give Prometheus Bound its extraordinary vitality and appeal. For over 2,000 years, this masterpiece of drama has held audiences enthralled. It is reprinted here in its entirety from the translation by George Thomson.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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