Prometheus Bound as Tragedy

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Aeschylus’ tragedy, Prometheus Bound, is an interesting example of Aristotle’s tragedy because it encompasses a god’s own reversal leading to suffering brought upon his fellow gods. Prometheus Bound is the story of the god Prometheus and the events that follow after he disobeys the new ruler, Zeus, by granting gifts of survival, namely fire, to humankind. Catharsis is found in the play because the audience pities Prometheus for having to suffer for an act of kindness. Prometheus Bound combines hamartia with catharsis because of the intentions of the hero and its elements of Aristotle’s tragedy.

Prometheus’ hamartia is brought on because of his error in judgment by granting the gift of fire to the humans against Zeus’ will. Prometheus was a god that created mankind and, in order to ensure its survival, tried to protect them. His hamartia fits in Aristotle’s definition of tragedy because Prometheus is the perfect example of a god in ultimate happiness on Mount Olympus literally falling to Earth to be chained to the side of a mountain. Hermes references Prometheus’ hamartia as the source of his downfall by saying, “Only your own folly will entangle you in the inextricable net of destruction” (52). Prometheus has no proud characteristic like hubris but merely makes a mistake by disobeying the ruler of the gods. Prometheus is morally innocent because he committed a selfless, kind act but must be punished for failing to recognize what his actions would cause.

Every tragedy, according to Aristotle, must contain a reversal, discovery and suffering and, in Prometheus Bound, Prometheus’ reversal is the unintended results his action causes followed by his discovery. Prometheus intends to help mankind by committing a selfless act but instead causes his own destruction. The situation is ironic because Prometheus gets in trouble for doing something good but suffers because the people he aides are the ones who cannot help him. In the beginning of the play, the character...
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