Prometheus Bound

by

Aeschylus

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The Chorus Character Analysis

The daughters of Okeanos. Okeanos’s daughters are also known as the Oceanids in Greek mythology, and they are typically represented as three thousand sea nymphs. The chorus are the first to come upon Prometheus as he is chained to the mountain face, and they are exceedingly compassionate and sympathetic to Prometheus’s punishment and suffering, even though they do not agree with Prometheus’s decision to give fire to humankind. “You give too much honor to mortals,” the chorus says to Prometheus, “this is your punishment.” Despite this, however, the chorus refuses to leave Prometheus to suffer alone, even after Hermes warns them to go. “I want to suffer with him what he suffers,” they say of Prometheus. The chorus represents the comfort of kindness and compassion to those who suffer.

The Chorus Quotes in Prometheus Bound

The Prometheus Bound quotes below are all either spoken by The Chorus or refer to The Chorus. 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

And yet, though I am tortured now
and bound immovably,
the Lord of the Immortals will one day
have need of me
to show him the new plot
that dooms his scepter and his pride.
No honeyed words, or threats, will sway me
to tell him what I know,
until he frees me from my chains
and grants me what he owes me for this outrage.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Zeus, The Chorus
Page Number: 15-6
Explanation and Analysis:

Chorus: Did you perhaps go further than you told us?

Prometheus: I gave men power to stop foreseeing their death.

Chorus: What cure did you prescribe for this disease?

Prometheus: I sowed blind hopes to live as their companions.

Chorus: Truly you brought great benefit to mortals.

Prometheus: I gave them fire.

Chorus: Bright fire! Do the ephemerals have it now?

Prometheus: And from it they will learn much craft and skill.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), The Chorus (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 19-20
Explanation and Analysis:

I transgressed willfully, I won’t deny it.
By helping mortals I drew suffering on myself,
and did so of my own will, freely.
Yet never did I think that by such punishment
I would be made to parch suspended in midair,
clamped to this barren solitary rock.
But don’t lament over my present woes.
Descend from your high carriage, stand beneath me,
that you may hear what is to come
and know the whole of it.
For my sake, please, come down and share my sorrow.
Misfortune is a migrant bird that settles,
now here, now there, on each of us in turn.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), The Chorus
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Listen instead to what I have to tell
of human misery. How I gave shrewdness
to their childish minds, and taught them how to reason.
It’s no reproach to humans when I say this,
but to make clear the benefit I brought them.
From the beginning they could see, but seeing
was useless to them, and hearing, they heard nothing.
Like dreams with shifting shapes, their long lives
ran their course in meaningless confusion.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), The Chorus
Page Number: 29-30
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] Their every act
was without purpose, until I showed them
the rising and the setting of the stars,
not easy to discern. And numbers, too,
the subtlest science, I invented for them,
and the joining of letters, which is
the very memory of things,
and fecund mother to the muses’ arts.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), The Chorus
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

You will be more astonished when you hear
the rest from me: how many arts
and skillful means I invented,
the greatest of them this:
If anyone fell ill, there was no remedy,
no healing food or drink, no salve, no potion.
For lack of medicine they wasted,
until I showed them how to mix
soothing elixirs that can steer the course
of any sickness.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), The Chorus
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

How can I not comply?
In clear words you will learn
all that you want to know.
Though just to speak of it—
the god-sent storm, and then
this hideous mock of my appearance—
makes me ashamed.
Into my maiden chamber, visions came
by night, and came again, secret
visitors that spoke to me
with smooth and urging voices:
“Oh maiden greatly blessed,
why are you still a virgin,
when you could be the bride of the supreme?
Zeus is in love with you, the dart of passion
has set him on fire, he wants to share his pleasure with you.
Don’t spurn the god’s bed, child, but go to Lerna,
to the deep meadow where your father’s flocks graze,
so Zeus’s eye may find relief from longing.”

Related Characters: Io (speaker), Prometheus, Zeus, The Chorus
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 41-2
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] Immediately my shape and mind
became distorted, my head grew horns, and I,
chased by the gadfly, fled with frantic leaps
to that sweet stream, Cerchnea, good to drink from,
and Lerna’s spring. But my appointed cowherd
was earthborn Argos, terrible in his wrath.
He followed me, he watched my steps,
peering with his countless eyes.
Then an unhoped-for sudden death destroyed him.
But I continued, driven by the god-sent scourge,
the gadfly, from land to land.

Related Characters: Io (speaker), Prometheus, Zeus, The Chorus, Argos
Page Number: 42-3
Explanation and Analysis:

First, from this spot, turn toward the rising sun,
and cross the untilled plains until you reach
the Scythian nomads, whose wicker houses
are built on top of wagons with well-wrought wheels,
a warlike tribe armed with far-reaching bows.
Do not go near them, rather keep to the surf line
of the groaning sea, and travel on.
Off to your left there live the ironworking
Chalybes, of whom you must be wary,
for they are savage and do not
bid strangers welcome.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Zeus, Io, The Chorus, Hera
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

The Amazons will guide you on your way,
and they will do so gladly. Then,
just by the narrow portals of the lake,
you’ll reach the isthmus of Cimerria.
You must move on from there and with a bold heart
cross the channel of Maiotis. Forever after
mortals will remember this your crossing,
and call it Bosporus, the Cow’s Ford.
With Europe at your back, you will arrive in Asia.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Io, The Chorus
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

However, one of the maidens will be charmed
by love to spare her bed companion.
Faced with the choice, and with her purpose blunted,
she will prefer to be called coward than murderess,
and it is she who will give birth in Argos
to a race of kings. It would take many words
to tell it clearly. But from this seed
shall spring a hero, famous for his bow,
who will release me from this suffering.
Such was the prophecy my ancient mother,
the Titan Themis, revealed to me.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Io, The Chorus, Heracles, Themis
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Prometheus Bound LitChart as a printable PDF.
Prometheus Bound PDF

The Chorus Character Timeline in Prometheus Bound

The timeline below shows where the character The Chorus appears in Prometheus Bound. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prometheus Bound
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
The chorus, the daughters of Okeanos, arrive in a “winged chariot” and approach Prometheus. “Don’t be afraid,”... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
“Who would not groan with pity / at your sight—except for Zeus?” the chorus asks. The women claim that Zeus’s “wrath is constant,” and “his resolve / to crush... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...tell Zeus what he knows, unless Zeus agrees to free him “from [his] chains.” The chorus is in awe of Prometheus. “You are so daring, / unbending in the face /... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
The chorus asks Prometheus why he has been punished so severely by Zeus. “Tell us,” they say,... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
...he has still punished him. “There is a sickness / among tyrants,” Prometheus tells the chorus. “They cannot trust their friends.” (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Not long after the Battle of the Titans, Prometheus tells the chorus, Zeus “intended to expunge” the human race and “grow another one more to his liking.”... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
“Are these in truth the charges on which Zeus—,” the chorus asks. “Torments me and will never let me go,” Prometheus finishes. “Let the pronouncement that... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
...and flies away. “I weep for you, Prometheus, and I mourn your terrible fate,” the chorus says. “This is a tyrant’s act, cruel and remorseless.” (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...discarded / in this way.” Instead of speaking of his own misfortune, he asks the chorus to listen to what he has to say of “human misery.” He gave “shrewdness” to... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...iron, silver, [and] gold.” Every last “human art” was “founded by Prometheus,” he tells the chorus. (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
“You have already helped these mortals beyond measure,” the chorus says to Prometheus. “Now don’t neglect yourself, unfortunate god.” They tell him he will be... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
“You give too much honor to mortals,” the chorus says to Prometheus, “this is your punishment.” Suddenly, Io appears. “What land is this?” she... (full context)
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
...I want,” Io says. “Since you demand, I will tell you,” Prometheus says. “Listen.” The chorus interrupts. They want to know more about Io’s condition. “Then let her hear from you... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Io tells Prometheus and the chorus of the “hideous mock of [her] appearance,” which she says makes her “ashamed.” She claims... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
“Ea, ea, stop!” the chorus shrieks. They had not anticipated that Io’s story would be so awful. “Horror / freezes... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
...of her “further suffering” or the story of his savior. The choice is hers. The chorus again interrupts. “Grant her one of the two, and me the other. / Do not... (full context)
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
“Since you’re so eager,” Prometheus says to Io and the chorus, “I won’t disappoint you.” He begins with Io. Once she crosses the water between the... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
The chorus is eager to hear the story of Prometheus’s savior, and he begins to tell it... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
In the town of Canopus, Prometheus tells Io and the chorus, Zeus will “cause [Io] to conceive, simply by touching [her].” Io will “bring forth /... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
From this “seed,” says Prometheus to Io and the chorus, “shall spring a hero, famous for his bow, / who will release me from this... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
“I tell you,” Prometheus says to the chorus, “Zeus with all his arrogance / will be brought low.” Zeus is already planning his... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
“You threaten Zeus with what you hope will happen,” the chorus says to Prometheus. “I speak the future and what I desire,” Prometheus says. “[Zeus’s] yoke... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
“Heed his words!” the chorus cries. “It’s shameful for the wise to dwell in error!” Prometheus had known that Hermes... (full context)
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Hermes again says that Prometheus is “mad.” He turns to the chorus. “But you, who weep / on this behalf, hurry / and leave this place, /... (full context)