Prometheus Bound

by

Aeschylus

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Zeus’s son and the messenger of the gods. Hermes visits Prometheus on Zeus’s behalf while Prometheus is bound to the mountain, and he tells him that his suffering will increase by a “threefold tidal wave of misery” if Prometheus does not tell Zeus what he knows about Zeus’s future marriage, son, and supposed “downfall.” Like Kratos and Bia, Hermes exists within the play to carry out Zeus’s orders and do his bidding, and Aeschylus infers that Hermes isn’t exactly free either. Hermes threatens Prometheus with continued confinement and horrific suffering if he does not bend to Zeus’s will, but Prometheus implies that it is Hermes who is really confined by Zeus. “I would not exchange / my own misfortune for your slavery,” Prometheus says to Hermes. While Prometheus is the one in chains, Hermes acts on Zeus’s will, not his own, and it is in this way that he is psychologically confined. Prometheus won’t submit to Zeus’s will so easily, and Aeschylus implies that Prometheus is freer than Hermes because of this.

Hermes Quotes in Prometheus Bound

The Prometheus Bound quotes below are all either spoken by Hermes or refer to Hermes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the New York Review Books edition of Prometheus Bound published in 2015.
Prometheus Bound Quotes

Pompously spoken, as befits
a mouthpiece of the gods.
You’re young, the lot of you, and young in power,
and think your fortress is secure from sorrow.
But I’ve already seen two tyrants fall
and see the third, our present ruler,
falling soon, more suddenly
and much more shamefully than they.
Or do you think I’ll cringe
before these upstart gods, and tremble?
I’m farther from that than you can imagine.
So scurry back again the way you came.
You will receive no answer to your question.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Zeus, Hermes, Kronos
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

But all your vehemence rests on a weak foundation,
mere cleverness, a scheme. What good is obstinate will
untamed by sound thought and good measure?
Consider the storm that will rise up against you
if you refuse to heed my words,
a threefold tidal wave of misery,
impossible to escape. For first,
the Father will destroy this jagged cliff
with thunder and lightning, and bury you,
still gripped by its embrace, inside it.
Then, after an enormous span of time,
you will come back again into the light,
and Zeus’s winged hound, a scarlet eagle,
will carve your body into ragged shreds
of flesh. He will return, day in, day out,
as an unbidden guest, to feast upon
your blackened liver.

Related Characters: Hermes (speaker), Prometheus, Zeus
Related Symbols: Fire, The Liver
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

And to this pain
do not expect a limit or an end,
until some god appears as a successor
to take your tortures as his own and willingly
go down into the gloom of Hades
and the black depths of Tartaros.
Make your decision in the light of that!
These are no boastful threats but true words
all too clearly spoken. For Zeus’s mouth
does not know how to lie. Each word of his
comes true. But you, weigh carefully
what you must do, and don’t hold stubbornness
above considered judgment.

Related Characters: Hermes (speaker), Prometheus, Zeus, Hades
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Prometheus Bound LitChart as a printable PDF.
Prometheus Bound PDF

Hermes Character Timeline in Prometheus Bound

The timeline below shows where the character Hermes appears in Prometheus Bound. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prometheus Bound
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Suddenly, Hermes appears. “But look,” Prometheus says, “here comes [Zeus’s] lackey, / the carrier pigeon of our... (full context)
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Hermes claims it is only “arrogance” that has brought Prometheus to the mountain face. “Let me... (full context)
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Hermes asks Prometheus “what honor is there in [his] insolence,” and Prometheus claims that his “insolence”... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
“You’ve clearly lost your mind,” Hermes says to Prometheus. “This is a sickness.” Hermes again asks Prometheus to answer Zeus’s question... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
“Think better of it, fool!” Hermes says to Prometheus. “Take stock / of who you are and where your fate has... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Hermes warns Prometheus that if he doesn’t tell Zeus what he knows, “a threefold tidal way... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...chorus cries. “It’s shameful for the wise to dwell in error!” Prometheus had known that Hermes was coming, however, and he also knew that he would refuse him. “But for an... (full context)
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Hermes again says that Prometheus is “mad.” He turns to the chorus. “But you, who weep... (full context)