From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Prometheus Bound is attributed to Aeschylus by ancient authorities. Since the late 19th century, however, scholars have increasingly doubted this ascription, largely on stylistic grounds. Its production date is also in dispute, with theories ranging from the 480s BC to as late as the 410s.
The play consists mostly of static dialogue. The Titan Prometheus is bound to a rock throughout, which is his punishment from the Olympian Zeus for providing fire to humans. The god Hephaestus and the Titan Oceanus and the chorus of Oceanids all express sympathy for Prometheus' plight. Prometheus is met by Io, a fellow victim of Zeus' cruelty. He prophesies her future travels, revealing that one of her descendants will free Prometheus. The play closes with Zeus sending Prometheus into the abyss because Prometheus will not tell him of a potential marriage which could prove Zeus' downfall.
Prometheus Bound seems to have been the first play in a trilogy, the Prometheia. In the second play, Prometheus Unbound, Heracles frees Prometheus from his chains and kills the eagle that had been sent daily to eat Prometheus' perpetually regenerating liver (then believed the source of feeling. We learn that Zeus has released the other Titans which he imprisoned at the conclusion of the Titanomachy, perhaps foreshadowing his eventual reconciliation with Prometheus.
In the trilogy's conclusion, Prometheus the Fire-Bringer, it seems that the Titan finally warns Zeus not to sleep with the sea nymph Thetis, for she is fated to beget a son greater than the father. Not wishing to be overthrown, Zeus marries Thetis off to the mortal Peleus. The product of that union is Achilles, Greek hero of the Trojan War. After reconciling with Prometheus, Zeus probably inaugurates a festival in his honor at Athens.
Influence outside of Greek Culture
Aeschylus' works were influential beyond his own time. Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Regius Professor of Greek Emeritus at Oxford University) wrote extensively on Wagner's reverence of Aeschylus and the ensuing effect on his works. Michael Ewans argues in his Wagner and Aeschylus. The 'Ring' and the 'Oresteia' (London: Faber. 1982) that the influence was so great as to merit a direct comparison, character by character, of Wagner's 'Ring' and Aeschylus' 'Orestia.' Reviews of his book, while not denying Lloyd-Jones' views that Wagner read and respected Aeschylus, refute Ewans' arguments on the grounds that they seem unreasonable and forced.
Sir J. T. Sheppard argues in the second half of his Aeschylus and Sophocles: Their Work and Influence that Aeschylus, along with Sophocles, had a major part in the formation of dramatic literature from the Renaissance to the present, specifically in French and Elizabethan drama. He also claims that their influence went beyond just drama and applies to literature in general, citing Milton and the Romantics as his prime examples.
Robert Kennedy invoked Aeschylus on the night of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaking at a campaign stop, he said: "My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black. ...... Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world." ...Senator Robert F. Kennedy , Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Indianapolis, Indiana 4th April 1968.