Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus

Prometheus Bound
By Aeschylus 
Written ca. 430 B.C.E
Translated by G. M. CooksonPrometheus bound to a rock at Zeus’ order for giving man fire, bemoans his fate until it become worse still…

Dramatis Personae 


Mountainous country, and in the middle of a deep gorge a Rock, towards which KRATOS and BIA carry the gigantic form of PROMETHEUS. HEPHAESTUS follows dejectedly with hammer, nails, chains, etc.

Now have we journeyed to a spot of earth 
Remote-the Scythian wild, a waste untrod. 
And now, Hephaestus, thou must execute 
The task our father laid on thee, and fetter 
This malefactor to the jagged rocks 
In adamantine bonds infrangible; 
For thine own blossom of all forging fire 
He stole and gave to mortals; trespass grave 
For which the Gods have called him to account, 
That he may learn to bear Zeus’ tyranny 
And cease to play the lover of mankind.


Kratos and Bia, for ye twain the hest 
Of Zeus is done with; nothing lets you further. 
But forcibly to bind a brother God, 
In chains, in this deep chasm raked by all storms 
I have not courage; yet needs must I pluck 
Courage from manifest necessity, 
For woe worth him that slights the Father’s word. 
O high-souled son of them is sage in counsel, 
With heavy heart I must make thy heart heavy, 
In bonds of brass not easy to be loosed, 
Nailing thee to this crag where no wight dwells, 
Nor sound of human voice nor shape of man 
Shall visit thee; but the sun-blaze shall roast 
Thy flesh; thy hue, flower-fair, shall suffer change; 
Welcome will Night be when with spangled robe 
She hides the light of day; welcome the sun 
Returning to disperse the frosts of dawn. 
And every hour shall bring its weight of woe 
To wear thy heart away; for yet unborn 
Is he who shall release Chee from thy pain. 
This is thy wage for loving humankind. 
For, being a God, thou dared’st the Gods’ ill will, 
Preferring, to exceeding honour, Man. 
Wherefore thy long watch shall be comfortless, 
Stretched on this rock, never to close an eye 
Or bend a knee; and vainly shalt thou lift, 
With groanings deep and lamentable cries, 
Thy voice; for Zeus is hard to be entreated, 
As new-born power is ever pitiless.


Enough! Why palter? Why wast idle pity? 
Is not the God Gods loathe hateful to thee? 
Traitor to man of thy prerogative?

Kindred and fellowship are dreaded names.

Questionless; but to slight the Father’s word- 
How sayest thou? Is not this fraught with more dread?

Thy heart was ever hard and overbold.

But wailing will not ease him! Waste no pains 
Where thy endeavour nothing profiteth.

Oh execrable work! O handicraft!

Why curse thy trade? For what thou hast to do, 
Troth, smithcraft is in no wise answerable.

Would that it were another’s craft, not mine!

Why, all things are a burden save to rule 
Over the Gods; for none is free but Zeus.

To that I answer not, knowing it true.

Why, then, make haste to cast the chains about him, 
Lest glancing down on thee the Father’s eye 
Behold a laggard and a loiterer.

Here are the iron bracelets for his arms.

Fasten them round his arms with all thy strength! 
Strike with thy hammer! Nail him to the rocks!

‘Tis done! and would that it were done less well!

Harder-I say-strike harder-screw all tight 
And be not in the least particular 
Remiss, for unto one of his resource 
Bars are but instruments of liberty.

This forearm’s fast: a shackle hard to shift.

Now buckle this! and handsomely! Let him learn 
Sharp though he be, he’s a dull blade to Zeus.

None can find fault with this: -save him it tortures.

Now take thine iron spike and drive it in, 
Until it gnaw clean through the rebel’s breast.

Woe’s me, Prometheus, for thy weight of woe!

Still shirking? still a-groaning for the foes 
Of Zeus? Anon thou’lt wail thine own mishap.

Thou seest what eyes scarce bear to look upon!

I see this fellow getting his deserts! 
But strap him with a gelt about his ribs.

I do what I must do: for thee-less words!

“Words,” quotha? Aye, and shout ’em if need be. 
Come down and cast a ring-bolt round his legs.

The thing is featly done; and ’twas quick work.

Now with a sound rap knock the bolt-pins home! 
For heavy-handed is thy task-master.

So villainous a form vile tongue befits.

Be thou the heart of wax, but chide not me 
That I am gruffish, stubborn and stiff-willed.

Oh, come away! The tackle holds him fast.

Now, where thou hang’st insult Plunder the Gods 
For creatures of a day! To thee what gift 
Will mortals tender to requite thy pains? 
The destinies were out miscalling the 
Designer: a designer thou wilt need 
From trap so well contrived to twist thee free.


O divine air Breezes on swift bird-wings, 
Ye river fountains, and of ocean-waves 
The multitudinous laughter Mother Earth! 
And thou all-seeing circle of the sun, 
Behold what I, a God, from Gods endure! 
Look down upon my shame, 
The cruel wrong that racks my frame, 
The grinding anguish that shall waste my strength, 
Till time’s ten thousand years have measured out their length! 
He hath devised these chains, 
The new throned potentate who reigns, 
Chief of the chieftains of the Blest. Ah me! 
The woe which is and that which yet shall be 
I wail; and question make of these wide skies 
When shall the star of my deliverance rise. 
And yet-and yet-exactly I foresee 
All that shall come to pass; no sharp surprise 
Of pain shall overtake me; what’s determined 
Bear, as I can, I must, knowing the might 
Of strong Necessity is unconquerable. 
But touching my fate silence and speech alike 
Are unsupportable. For boons bestowed 
On mortal men I am straitened in these bonds. 
I sought the fount of fire in hollow reed 
Hid privily, a measureless resource 
For man, and mighty teacher of all arts. 
This is the crime that I must expiate 
Hung here in chains, nailed ‘neath the open sky. Ha! Ha! 
What echo, what odour floats by with no sound? 
God-wafted or mortal or mingled its strain? 
Comes there one to this world’s end, this mountain-girt ground, 
To have sight of my torment? Or of what is he fain? 
A God ye behold in bondage and pain, 
The foe of Zeus and one at feud with all 
The deities that find 
Submissive entry to the tyrant’s hall; 
His fault, too great a love of humankind. 
Ah me! Ah me! what wafture nigh at hand, 
As of great birds of prey, is this I hear? 
The bright air fanned 
Whistles and shrills with rapid beat of wings. 
There cometh nought but to my spirit brings 
Horror and fear.

Prometheus Bound By Aeschylus