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Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Time Event
11:13a
An oldie ...
(sigh) I am so backed up on these reviews ... I'm frankly hoping that I'm going to get 2-3 written today just to try to get close to being caught up!

This is yet another of those "filling lacunae" reads ... plus being one of those throw-ins (gotta love the Dover Thrift Editions) to push an Amazon order into the free-shipping zone. Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound dates for 500 BCE in a period when Greek sacred myth performance was evolving into the beginnings of what we'd recognize as theater. I learned quite a bit on the subject that I'd not previously encountered in the brief, uncredited, fore note in this ... including that, before Aeschylus, the traditional format involved a single actor and a chorus, his innovation being in having multiple actors on the stage simultaneously. Aeschylus' work inspired the next generation of writers, including Sophocles and Euripides, although (to our loss), only 32 plays from these three have survived. The following (which I've opted to quote rather than to try to describe), was also new to me:

Possibly unfamiliar to some readers are the terms "strophe", "antistrophe", and "epode". These are parts of the choral ode that was one of the components of Greek tragedy. Each type of verse was accompanied by its own kind of dance step. In the antistrophe, the chorus moved in the direction opposite to that of the strophe. The strophe and antistrophe were frequently, though not always, followed by and epode, the concluding portion of a choral ode.
This did, unfortunately, have me envisioning Rockettes-like (or vaudeville hoofer) transitions of the chorus, which I'm pretty sure is not the way the ancient Greeks staged these things!

Now, most people, with an education worthy of the name, know the basic outlines of the story of Prometheus ... one of the last generations of Titans, he earns Zeus' wrath by initially tricking him into institutionalizing a lesser form of sacrifice from humans, and then "stealing fire" for humanity, after Zeus had taken it away to invalidate the lesser sacrifices. In retribution, Zeus has the immortal Prometheus chained onto a rock, and eventually ups the ante by having a bird of prey daily come to eat his liver (which regenerates every night). This play, however, was only the first of a trilogy (which were performed in sequence on a single day), with the other two not surviving, so we never get to the eat-the-liver part, although at the end it is described by Hermes to Prometheus as what his continued defiance of Zeus will bring.

Prometheus, whose name means "forethought", is an on-going threat to Zeus, and he knows pretty much all future events (as is played out in a visit by Io, whose wanderings and memorials, and eventual spawning a challenger to Zeus he details). He is also credited as being a specific protector and teacher of mankind:

... hearken to the plight
Of man, in whom, born witless as a babe,
I planted mind and the gift of understanding,
...
... (they) labored without wit
In all their works, till I revealed the obscure
Risings and setting of the stars of heaven.
Yea, and the art of number, arch-device,
I founded, and the craft of written words,
The world's recorder, mother of the Muse.
I first subdued the wild beasts of the field
To slave in pack and harness and relieve
The mortal laborer of his heaviest toil,
And yoked in chariots, quick to serve the rein,
The horse, prosperity's proud ornament;
And none but I devised the mariner's car
On hempen wing roaming the trackless ocean.
Such the resources I have found for man, ...
It has been argued elsewhere that the Promethean myth was the Greeks searching for the same sorts of psychological and/or developmental factors that are now found in books on brain development, sensing that there was a time when mankind did not produce what modern (or, in this case, Classic) man did, and finding a reason why.

Prometheus Bound, being a Dover Thrift Edition, has the remarkably low cover price of $2.00 ... which means that your local brick-and-mortar probably won't have it on its shelves (though you might try ordering it), and Amazon frequently (like now) will charge an additional $1.99 "sourcing fee" to get a copy (I guess if they have them in stock they don't charge this, but if they're out they do, as it seems to appear unpredictably). Needless to say, with the new/used vendors getting $3.99 for shipping, even a 1¢ "like new" copy isn't much of deal. This is, however, a good (albeit short read), which has all sorts of educational value (the literary equivalent of eating your spinach!), so if you're so inclined, you might want to consider picking up a copy.


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