Hubris as a Major Element in Aeschylus

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Hubris as a Major Element in Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound

Aristotle created the basis for many different subjects including drama, politics and philosophy. Today, many of his works are constantly studied and his modern ideas are still prevalent in society. In Poetics, Aristotle focuses on the best kinds of tragic plot (Aristotle 20). One of the most important aspects of a perfect tragedy is hamartia, sometimes misinterpreted as tragic flaw. The true definition of hamartia is a fatal error committed by a character that results in a change of fortune. When a character commits hamartia, the audience is subjected to emotions such as sympathy, fear and pity.

Although hubris is not explicitly mentioned in the translations of Poetics, it is one of the major causes of hamartia. When hubris is present in the environment, it affects the characters’ choices and decisions. Since hubris can be defined as extreme pride or self confidence (OED), taking advantage of those you have power over is an example of hubris. Fatal errors are committed when hubris is shown towards the character. In the case of Prometheus, hubris brings about stubbornness and rebellion causing him to give the humans fire.

Hubris is a vital element in Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound because it helps us understand why the characters behave the way they do. Since Prometheus is the central character as the play is titled with his name, it would be logical to base this essay around him. However, this essay is focused on how Zeus displays and suffers hubris.

While Zeus is not a character in the play, he is still a central force because he is constantly mentioned. The play revolves around the fact that Zeus has punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock. Even though he has no lines, the audience learns of his character through others. It is therefore perfectly valid to refer to him as a character and show how he exemplifies hubris.

Throughout the play, Zeus displays hubris towards the majority...
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