Comparing Prometheus Bound and Hesiod's Prometheus

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Prometheus Bound and Hesiod's Prometheus

Prometheus Bound is quite different from other tragedies in that it is peopled entirely by gods. The play focuses on the story of Prometheus, and we have versions of this myth in Hesiod's famous works. There is reason to think that the author of Prometheus Bound was not only acquainted with Hesiod's version but actually drew on Hesiod directly in this play. This essay therefore aims to establish in what ways the author of Prometheus Bound seems to have drawn from Hesiod's version of myth, in what ways he has diverged from it, and what reasons he might have had for making these changes and innovations. This might therefore highlight any particular emphasis or purpose of Prometheus Bound and what its author might have been trying to get across. Though there is not space in this essay to discuss the problems of attributing this play, it must be recognised that this ambiguity of authorship and dating makes it even more difficult than usual to look at views and purposes behind the play.

We don't have any exact dates for Hesiod, but it seems that his poetic activity dates from around the last third of the 8th century BC. We find his versions of the Prometheus myth in two of his works: the Theogony at lines 521-616, and the Works and Days, at lines 42-89. The Theogony in general discusses the origin and genealogies of the gods and the events that led to the establishment of Zeus as their king. The Works and Days is quite varied in content but overall could be described as giving advice for living a life of honest industry. In the Theogony the story of Prometheus comes as a narrative interlude and aims at explaining the origins of certain institutions ...

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...aces', CQ 8 (1989) 42-60

* Frazer, R. M. The Poems of Hesiod (University of Oklahoma Press, U. S. A., 1983)

* Griffith, M. Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound (Cambridge, 1983)

* Most, G.W., 'Hesiod's Myth of the Five (or Three or Four) Races', PCPS 43 (1997) 104-127

* Scully, J & Herington, C.J., Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound (Oxford University Press, New York 1975)

* Solmsen, F. Hesiod and Aeschylus (Ithaca, New York, 1949)

* Wender, D. Hesiod and Theognis (Harmondsworth, 1973)

* West, M. L. Hesiod: Theogony and Works and Days (Oxford, 1988)

* West, M.L., 'The Prometheus Trilogy', JHS 99 (1979) 130-48

* Vellacott, P. Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound, Supplicants, Seven against Thebes, The Persians (Harmondsworth, 1961)

Endnotes

1. Herington (1986) p158-9

2. Solmsen (1949) p136

3. Solmsen (1949) p130

4. Solmsen (1949) p129

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