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Prometheus Bound (Promētheus Desmōtēs) is a surviving tragic play from Ancient Greece. It is believed to have been written some time in the 5th century BC, but its precise date and the identity of its author are in doubt. Historically, it has most often been attributed to Aeschylus, but this attribution has been questioned on metrical and stylistic grounds.
The play draws from the myth of the titan Prometheus, who was punished by Zeus for giving fire (and, in this version, culture) to humankind. The play begins with Prometheus being chained to his rock, where he remains for the duration while various characters come to visit and hold conversations with him, during which Prometheus prophesies about their futures and that of Zeus.
Prometheus Bound is thought to have formed a trilogy with two other plays that are now known only through quotations and references in other works. Prometheus Unbound (Promētheus Lyomenos) is a sequel that depicts Prometheus' liberation by Heracles. Prometheus the Fire-Bringer (Prometheus Pyrphoros) has only one surviving line of dialogue, and disagreement exists over whether it is the final play of the trilogy, depicting the reconciliation of Prometheus and Zeus, or the first, depicting Prometheus giving fire to humankind and being caught by Zeus.
Prometheus Bound provides examples of:
- Because Destiny Says So: Prometheus's accounts to Io: both her miserable wanderings, and that her descendant will free him.
- Come to Gawk:
Prometheus: Ha! what has brought thee?
Hast thou also come
To look upon my woe?
- Distressed Dude: Prometheus
- Driven to Suicide: Io contemplates suicide after Prometheus tells her her troubles are only just beginning.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Prometheus' punishment.
- Greek Chorus: Composed of Oceanids (water spirits, daughters of the titan Oceanus) who come to keep Prometheus company.
- Jerkass Gods: Zeus.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Prometheus
- Royal Blood: Prometheus tells Io that a descendant of hers will bear "A royal race in Argos."
- Satan Is Good: The play's depiction of Prometheus as humanity's benefactor and Zeus as a cruel tyrant is an inversion of earlier versions of the story, where Zeus was a wise and just god who supplied all humanity's needs, while Prometheus was to blame for the suffering of humanity by creating dissatisfaction (not unlike the snake in the Garden of Eden). This is one of the reasons why the authorship of the play is doubted: Aeschylus' usual take on Zeus is much more positive.
- Stern Chase: Io, chased by a gadfly.