Prometheus Bound

by

Aeschylus

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Chains Symbol Analysis

Chains Symbol Icon

When Prometheus is punished by Zeus for stealing fire and giving it to humankind, Prometheus is chained to the face of a steep mountain. Thus, chains represent Prometheus’s imprisonment and physical confinement within Prometheus Bound, but they are also symbolic of Hephaistos, the Greek god of blacksmiths and metalworking. Zeus forces Hephaistos to chain Prometheus to the mountain because Hephaistos is the god of fire and Prometheus has stolen Hephaistos’s “flower,” but Hephaistos is also the blacksmith of the gods. In addition to forging all their weapons and armor, he presumably fashions the strongest “unbreakable” chains as well. Hephaistos has compassion for Prometheus, however, and doesn’t want to bind him, but that choice is not Hephaistos’s to make. As he binds Prometheus to the mountain with his chains, Hephaistos curses his own “skill.” “I hate you,” Hephaistos says of his “handiwork” and ability to forge metal in fire, thereby reflecting his resentment for both the chains and his “flower,” fire.

While chains represent Prometheus’s physical confinement, they represent Hephaistos’s confinement as well. Hephaistos is not physically chained in quite the same way as Prometheus, but he is bound by his chains all the same. Even though Hephaistos doesn’t want to bind Prometheus and feels compassion and sympathy for his plight, he is still forced by his own fear of Zeus’s power to participate in Prometheus’s punishment. Hephaistos isn’t free to act upon his own will, and Aeschylus thus implies that Hephaistos is just as confined as Prometheus is.

Chains Quotes in Prometheus Bound

The Prometheus Bound quotes below all refer to the symbol of Chains. 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

We have arrived at the far limit of the world.
These are the Scythian mountains, desolate and vast.
Hephaistos, you must carry out the Father’s will
and bind the criminal to this steep looming rock
with chains of adamant, unbreakable.
It was your flower he stole, the bright and dancing fire,
and gave its wonderworking power to mortals.
This is the crime for which he now must pay
the price to all the gods, that he may learn
to love the tyranny of Zeus
and quit his friendship with the human race.

Related Characters: Kratos (Might) (speaker), Prometheus, Zeus, Hephaistos, Bia (Force)
Related Symbols: Fire, Chains
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

And yet
I can’t accept my lot—
neither in silence, nor in speech:
that I was yoked in chains
for bringing gifts to mortal men.
I hunted out and stole the secret spring
of fire, and hid it in a fennel stalk,
to teach them every art and skill,
with endless benefit. For this offense
I now must pay the penalty: to live
nailed to this rock beneath the open sky.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker)
Related Symbols: Fire, Chains
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Prometheus Bound LitChart as a printable PDF.
Prometheus Bound PDF

Chains Symbol Timeline in Prometheus Bound

The timeline below shows where the symbol Chains 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
...the Father’s will / and bind the criminal to this steep looming rock / with chains of adamant, unbreakable.” It was the “flower” of Hephaistos, the “bright and dancing fire,” that... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...of Zeus / and quit his friendship with the human race.” Hephaistos doesn’t want to chain Prometheus to the rock, but “Necessity compels [him] to it.” Hephaistos is forced by the... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
...what I, a god, must suffer at the hands of the gods.” He will be chained to the mountain to suffer “through endless time” and “miseries.” Prometheus knew he would be... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
But Prometheus still “can’t accept [his] lot.” He is “yoked in chains” for giving the mortals fire to “teach them every art and skill, / with endless... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Suffering, Compassion, and Hope Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
Creation, Art, and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...refuses to 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... (full context)
Power vs. Reason Theme Icon
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
According to Prometheus, Zeus can “avert this doom” only if he frees Prometheus from his chains. “But who will free you against Zeus’s will?” Io asks. “My savior will descend from... (full context)
Freedom and Confinement Theme Icon
...own misfortune for your slavery.” Hermes thinks his own “slavery” is better than Prometheus’s fate chained to a rock. “A tyrant’s trust dishonors those who earn it,” Prometheus says. (full context)