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Promethean Motif


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Promethean Motif

Humankind’s pursuit of knowledge is represented in the Prometheus myth. The punishment of Prometheus is a reflection of the double nature of knowledge: it can be used for the benefit or the destruction of humanity. The influence and legacy of the Promethean myth can be traced through history. It has been reused and recycled until it holds a distinctly familiar, yet strangely obscure grip on the imagination. There is no doubt that the Promethean tradition has become an everyday aspect of literary and artistic society: Shakespearean lines such as “Women’s eyes are the source of true Promethean fire” to “And faster bound to Aaron’s charming eyes, than is Prometheus tied to the Caucaus” illustrate this.
The great Romantic Poets offered their interpretations of the myth in Byron’s “Prometheus” and Shelley’s sequel “Prometheus Unbound”. Milton used the Promethean myth to shape his characterisation of Satan in Paradise Lost; indeed The Book of Genesis can be seen as an example of the complete Promethean myth: Adam’s temptation with forbidden knowledge and subsequent fall from grace completely encapsulates the Prometheus myth. In this case it is an example of a Greek myth being appropriated and assimilated into Christian, Jewish and Islamic dogma. A more contemporary example is Hitler’s description of Napoleon : “He is the Prometheus of Mankind.” The myth also poses the motif of one man toiling against the odds, the example of a defiant hero or rebel risking all for the many. Prometheus is up against Zeus, leader of the Gods. This head to head contest is very unevenly matched. Zeus is never seen in Aeschylus’ play, but we have a fair indication of how Aeschylus wants the audience to view him. Strength and Violence treat the fallen Titan akin to a mere mortal “Why do you not hate a God who is an enemy to all the gods?”. Aeschylus uses the introduction of

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