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Prometheus Bound | Parodos | Summary

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Summary

The Chorus members tell Prometheus they are his friends and have come after having heard the sounds of Hephaestus pounding the irons into the rock. They see how Prometheus suffers on the rock because of the cruelty of the new master of Olympus, Zeus, who rules by his own, new laws, having wiped out the "powers of the past." Prometheus wishes Zeus had chained him under the earth in Tartarus rather than here, where other gods can mock him. The Chorus asks, "What god is cruel-hearted enough / To find joy in such a sight?" and says any god would suffer with him, except Zeus. Zeus, inflexible, is determined to crush the children of Ouranos, and Zeus will not stop unless he is overthrown.

Prometheus then says, even in this humiliated state, he will be needed in the future to reveal how Zeus will one day be overthrown. But, Prometheus says, he will not tell what he knows until he is freed from these chains and compensated for this outrage. The Chorus says he speaks too freely, and they fear for his fate: "the son of Cronos is unapproachable in temper, / And no words can soften his heart." Prometheus says he knows Zeus is ruthless, but Prometheus predicts Zeus's temper will soften and they will once again become friends.

Analysis

This scene establishes the idea Prometheus's punishment is unusually cruel in his suffering is put on full display for all to see. Unlike his fellow Titans hidden away in the depths of Tartarus, Prometheus can be seen and jeered at by any passerby. The Chorus assures him they've come only because they were frightened by the sounds of Hephaestus's pounding, implying they have come to sympathize, not to delight in his suffering.

The Chorus's attitude establishes a sense of the norm, of what any decent person would feel, which serves to highlight again the cruelty of Zeus's actions. They make the point Zeus rules tyrannically by his own, new laws as he destroys the "powers of the past." Their concern Prometheus speaks too freely helps to reinforce the sense of how ordinary citizens have to behave in the kind of totalitarian state Zeus rules. Prometheus, with his rebellious attitude toward the tyrannical Zeus, is clearly an outlier.

This scene also reinforces the idea of Prometheus as a wise god who knows the future. He knows the secret of how Zeus will be overthrown, and he even anticipates reconciling with the ruler of the Olympians one day.

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