Prometheus Bound

Summary

The play comprises three acts:

Act 1

The first Act opens with Prometheus standing in front of the gigantic altar of Fire and his children gathering wood at the altar’s foot. Prometheus had a dream the night before that the time he had at his disposal to teach humans is coming to an end. He thanks Moira (Fate) for keeping the eagle away for so many years, thus giving him time to accomplish his task and ‘kindle’ the first ‘flames’ within his children, and invites – even orders – Zeus’ bird to come to ‘eat, drink, and pave the way’ (Ἀιτέ, κρυφέ μου συνεργάτη, τώρα / ποὺ ὁλόρθος πῆρε φόρα ὁ νοῦς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, / καιρὸς νὰ κατεβεῖς ν’ ἀποτελέψεις, / θὲς καὶ δὲ θές, τὴ λύτρωση μαζί μου∙ / τὰ σπλάχνα μου γιὰ σένα τά ‘χω θρέψει, / γιὰ σένα παραθράσεψαν, κατέβα / νὰ φᾶς, νὰ πιεῖς καὶ νὰ μοῦ ἀνοίξεις στράτα! p. 96). Pandora then arrives in order to warn Prometheus that Epimetheus is contriving something against him and that he attempts to summon Zeus’ eagle. Accordingly, she exhorts the Titan to kill him. Once again she openly confesses her love and passion to Prometheus and prompts him to unite with her. Prometheus resists, indicating that he has wedded ‘Fire’ and that his spirit is his one and only concern. Pandora departs threatening him that she will never cease trying to ‘harness’ him. Prometheus’ children gather around the altar of ‘Fire’ igniting their torches; they dance and recount the various arts that Prometheus has taught them − how to eat, dress, and fulfil all the needs of the body. Prometheus then advises a young couple about love, and talks discusses with a young man about music. The Act closes with the young man singing and Prometheus taking delight in his children’s progress. As he remarks, their pursuit for music indicates that now they crave for more than food and clothing; they want to ‘feed’ their spirit and soul (Ἄλλη ἀμοιβὴ δὲ ζήτησα οὔτε θέλω∙ / νικήθηκε τὸ ζό, κι ἀνθὸ γαλάζο / πέταξε ἡ ρίζα ἡ λασπερὴ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου − / ἔγινε ὁ μόχτος ὁ βουβὸς τραγούδι. / Ἀνάγκη, αἱματερὴ τοῦ ἀντρὸς βουκέντρα, / φτάσαμε πιὰ σὲ μιὰν κορφὴ τοῦ ἀγώνα! pp. 115-6).     

 

Act 2

The second Act opens with Violence and Wrath fastening Prometheus on Caucasus. Prometheus remains silent throughout the procedure, without voicing his distress and pain. After Violence and Wrath depart, first comes to visit the Titan his brother. Epimetheus, who exults over the fettered Prometheus, scorns him for his arrogance and insolence, and shows no compassion or empathy for his suffering. Second comes Pandora, who volunteers to intervene in order to assuage the tension between Prometheus and Zeus. Once again, she confesses her love to him, even though Prometheus steadfastly repeats that his spirit is the only thing he cares for. Third in row arrive the Oceanids, daughters of Ocean, who try to comfort and support him. Prometheus confesses to them that his deeds were motivated by his love for freedom. His major hope, as he reveals, is to beget a son, who will surpass him. Suddenly Ζeus’ bird crops up and the Oceanids witness it devouring Prometheus’ intestine. At the scene immediately arrives Pan with his entourage, and he starts playing his flute as a relief to Prometheus’ suffering. After a lapse of many years during which Prometheus is being tortured by the eagle, the Titan reveals to the Oceanids, who had stood by his side all these years, that the time has come for his son to be born. Last comes to visit Prometheus a woman vaguely named Choriata (“peasant girl”), one of Prometheus’ granddaughters. She holds in her hands a simulacrum of a baby, which she places at Prometheus’ feet, and the Titan prophesies that she will give birth to his ‘Saviour’ (Ὤ σὺ χωριατοπούλα, γειὰ χαρά σου! / ἀπ’ ὅλες τὶς γυναῖκες διαλεγμένη / τὴ στάλα τοῦ Θεοῦ στὰ σωθικά σου / νὰ τὴ δεχτεῖς κι ὑγιὸ νὰ μοῦ τὴ θρέψεις! p. 144). The Act closes with the Oceanids’ brief song to Hope, the power which incites man to traverse the Abyss (Ἀεροκαύκαλη Ἐλπίδα, ποὺ φτέρουγες / στὸ σκουλήκι τὸ ἀνθρώπινο / τοῦ κολνᾶς νὰ περάσει τὴν ἄβυσσο! / Ὤ στερνὴ φιλενάδα στὸν ἄνθρωπο / μὲ τὰ μάτια τὰ πράσινα! p. 147).

 

Act 3

Athena arrives at Caucasus, motivated, as she declares, by love. Prometheus looks suspicious of her intentions, but Athena reassures him that she has not come on the same errand as Hermes and that she only wants to discuss with him about ‘mortals and immortals, sorrows and hopes / in the desert’. Prometheus confesses to her that she is actually his daughter, and Athena reciprocates emphasising that she always felt certain affinity with him. The goddess then exhorts Prometheus to ascend to Olympus, be equal to the Gods, and enjoy happiness, but he straightforwardly rejects her proposal, countering  that such a thing would bring his ‘Struggle’ to an end. Athena informs him that Zeus is pleased with humankind’s progress and that he still cares for Prometheus; the torture imposed upon him was essential, so that humans might realise that there is order in the world. Athena adds that now it is up to Prometheus to step back and reconcile with Zeus, leaving his anger aside. Prometheus firmly rejects such a prospect and exhorts his Soul not to drink from the water of Forgetfulness. In an attempt to convince him Athena divulges the future to him, by showing to Prometheus a series of pageants. Immediately in front of them appear the Akropolis and the Battles at Salamis and Marathon. Carrying a statue of Prometheus as a token, the fighters defeat the barbarians and raise a triumphal paean, at Prometheus’ rejoice. Athena then reveals the outcomes of war and violence − hunger and death − as well as the future deterioration of the human race. Devastated by this upshot, Prometheus asks for the cause of all this. Athena explains that the humans’ soul “ate and drank and, having become all flesh, couldn’t see anymore in front of her, her greatest Dream, God” (Ὤ γίγαντα, ὤ Πατέρα μου, ἡ ψυχή τους / ἔφαγε κι ἤπιε, γίνηκε ὅλη κρέας / καὶ δὲν μποροῦσε πιὰ νὰ δεῖ μπροστά της / τὸ μέγα τ’ Ὄνειρό της, τὸ Θεό… pp. 166-7). Athena then puts a ring on Prometheus’ finger, in spite of his resistance, stating that the ring belongs to Fate (Moira) and that Zeus also wears one. Conceding that he is ‘suspended in the abyss of Fate’ (Ἐργάτης εἶμαι, ἐργάτης, καὶ δουλεύω / στὴν ἄβυσσο τῆς Μοίρας κρεμασμένος! p. 174), Prometheus succumbs to Athena’s pleas, proclaiming at the same time the advent of his Saviour. It should be stressed, however, that whereas Prometheus acknowledges Fate’s predominance, even now he won’t budge, won’t succumb to Fate. The earth, he says, will create eyes that will be able to look straight into Fate without being blinded! The Act closes with songs of rejoice by Pan and his entourage, and the Oceanids’ description of the approaching Saviour.

Themes

References to Kazantzakis’ Prometheia will be by page number. These page numbers refer to the collective edition of Kazantzakis’ tragedies: N. Καζαντζάκη, Θέατρο: Tραγωδίες (Athens 1964).

Other quotations from Kazantzakis are taken from the following editions:

TόνταΡάμπα (Αthens 1969).

Ασκητική, Salvatores Dei (Athens 1985).

Ancient Greek quotations are taken from H. Weir Smyth (1988) [1922], Aeschylus I: Suppliant Maidens, Persians, Prometheus, Seven Against Thebes [Loeb Classical Library], Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and London.

 

 Pages 95, 104-16

Kazantzakis’ Prometheus Bound opens with the men and women of the Prometheian race gathering wood in front of the great altar of Fire. Later on, we watch them dancing, singing and praising Fire, while through their dialogues Kazantzakis also allows glimpses into their everyday life. This peaceful reality of Prometheus’ children is not Aeschylean. In fact, Prometheus’ forecast of Io’s future journeys rather reveals a primitive and savage world without civil and religious institutions. Kazantzakis’ scene seems to allude to Goethe’s dramatic fragment, more precisely to Act 2, Scene 2, where Prometheus’ newly-created race is presented enjoying life in a valley.  

 

Page 96

Zeus’ Bird as  ‘Freedom’

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

Ἀιτέ, κρυφέ μου συνεργάτη, τώρα

ποὺ ὁλόρθος πῆρε φόρα ὁ νοῦς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου,

καιρὸς  νὰ κατεβεῖς ν’ ἀποτελέψεις,

θὲς καὶ δὲ θές, τὴ λύτρωση μαζί μου∙

τὰ σπλάχνα μου γιὰ σένα τά ‘χω θρέψει,

γιὰ σένα παραθράσεψαν, κατέβα

νὰ φᾶς, νὰ πιεῖς καὶ νὰ μοῦ ἀνοίξεις στράτα!

 In Aeschylus Prometheus’ imminent torture by Zeus’ bird is grimly described by Hermes at the end of the play (PV 1021-5). Prometheus is not disheartened  by the news, but boldly retorts that Zeus should do his worst: “No news to me, in truth, is the message this fellow has proclaimed so noisily. Yet for enemy to suffer ill from enemy is no disgrace. Therefore let the lightning’s forked curl be cast upon my head and let the sky be convulsed with thunder and the wrack of savage winds; let the hurricane shake the earth from its rooted base, and let the waves of the sea mingle with their savage surge the courses of the stars in heaven; and let him lift me on high and hurl me down to black Tartarus with the swirling floods of stern Necessity: do what he will, me he shall never bring to death” (1040-53).

In Kazantzakis Zeus’ bird is perceived in a completely different way by Prometheus. Not only does Prometheus remain undaunted, but he also anticipates it with joy and incites it −even orders it − to come and devour his intestine. For Kazantzakis’ Prometheus the torture is not merely something that he will endure, but a sine qua non for his ‘Struggle’; it is Zeus’ bird that will pave his way towards freedom. The eagle’s adumbration as a means of freedom is a recurrent idea in the trilogy. In fact, after the killing of the eagle and his release by Heracles, Prometheus takes the dead eagle in his hands and even calls him ‘my child’ (Prometheus Unbound, p. 245):

Αἱματωμένα νύχια τῆς ἀγάπης,

ραμφὶ τῆς ἀνεχόρταγης ἐλπίδας

ποὺ τρῶς τὰ σωθικὰ καὶ τ’ ἀνανιώνεις,

παιδί μου!

 What should be stressed is that in essence the bird is not sent by Zeus, while Epimetheus’ foolish attempts to summon the eagle, in order to cause his brother pain, also misfire. Prometheus summons the bird himself. He appropriates the Eagle. He has conquered it. The bird a projection of his own κιντυνεύουσα ουσία.

 

Pages 117-8

Prometheus’ enchainment on Caucasus

In Aeschylus the scene of Prometheus’ enchainment on Caucasus is placed at the opening of the play and spans 87 lines. Kazantzakis moves this scene at the beginning of the second Act of his Prometheus Bound and radically reduces its length (36 lines). He also alters the characters involved in the scene. In Aeschylus Prometheus is bound on Caucasus by Violence (Βία), Might (Κράτος) and Hephaestus. Kazantzakis keeps Violence, but replaces Might with Wrath (Θυμός). Moreover, whereas in Aeschylus Violence remains silent throughout (persona muta), Kazantzakis gives her voice. Kazantzakis also omits Hephaestus. This omission imparts a grimmer hue upon Prometheus’ plight, for Hephaestus is the only one who shows some compassion for Prometheus in the first scene. Hephaestus’ absence is neither fortuitous nor circumstantial. In Kazantzakis there is no room (or need) for compassion or mercy, since his hero would be offended by pity.  Kazantzakis’ Prometheus himself abhors any such idea and welcomes his passion. 

Kazantzakis’ adumbration of Wrath and Violence echoes their Aeschylean counterparts, Might and Violence; both are Zeus’ henchmen, his blind and unquestioning tools; they insult, mock, and criticize Prometheus for his conduct showing no empathy at all. In both Aeschylus and Kazantzakis Prometheus remains silent throughout the scene. In contrast to Aeschylus, however, Kazantzakis lays more emphasis upon Prometheus’ endurance and allows glimpses at his facial expressions that highlight his desperate attempts to bear his torture with dignity:

BIA

Νά, χτυπῶ, τὸ βουνὸ βγάζει σπίθες∙

μαζωχτῆκαν τὰ φρύδια του, κι ὅλες

βασιλόφλεβες, φλέβες, θὰ σπάσουν∙

μὰ τὰ χείλια βουβὸς τὰ δαγκάνει. (p. 118)

Kazantzakis’ Prometheus accepts what befalls him with obstinate, “Cretan” silence: να μην ντροπιαστείς, να μην ξεπέσεις, να κοιτάς την Άβυσσο και να λες Άβυσσο δεν υπάρχει. 

The presence of Might at the opening of Aeschylus’ tragedy serves to bring forward the juxtaposition ‘force’ (Zeus) and ‘guile’ (Prometheus) prominent throughout the play. In Kazantzakis the notion of Prometheus’ guile is downplayed − if not completely absent−, therefore this juxtaposition is no longer useful. In Kazantzakis Prometheus is a frontal hero. The replacement of Might with Wrath does not seem to be coincidental, in so far as in Kazantzakis’ Prometheia wrath plays a central role; it is a power that ‘enslaves’ both Zeus and Prometheus. Most importantly, it seems to underscore that Zeus has no real κράτος over Prometheus. For instance, in Prometheus Unbound the Titan asserts that his release is approaching because he has managed to outwit rage in his heart (Τὶ ἐντός μου τὴν ὀργή, τὴν ἀνταρσία / καὶ τὴν κραυγὴ τὴ νίκησα, καὶ νιώθω / στὴν ἀνθισμένη γῆς καὶ στὴν καρδιά μου / τῆς λύτρωσης τὸ ἀνάλαφρο ποδάρι! p. 182).

 

Page 119-20

Prometheus’ first soliloquy

Ἀρετή, θυγατέρα μου, Ἀρετή μου,

μονάχα ἐσὲ στὸν πόνο μου φωνάζω,

συντροφιὰ λιονταρίσια στὴν ἐρμιά μου!

[…..]

Ἀρετὴ θυγατέρα, ἀκέριο ἀνάγκη

τοῦ τρόμου τὸ ανηφόρι ν’ ἀνεβοῦμε −

τράβα μπροστὰ καὶ δεῖχνε μας τὸ δρόμο!

As soon as Violence and Wrath depart from Caucasus, Kazantzakis’ Prometheus, who kept silent during the enchainment scene, outbursts into a long soliloquy. He invokes Virtue (Ἀρετή), pleading her not to abandon him, but help him to transcend physical pain and transubstantiate his body into soul: Μὰ μὴ βογκᾶς, μὴν κλαῖς, παρακαλῶ σε∙ / ὅσο μπορεῖς καὶ σύ, κορμί μου, ἀνέβα, / γίνου ψυχὴ καὶ νίκησε τὸν πόνο (p. 119). This outburst echoes Prometheus’ soliloquy in Aeschylus (PV 88-127).  There, however, Prometheus’ monologue is an appeal not to Virtue but to the elements (the sky, the wind, rivers and the sea, the earth and the sun), something which throws into relief the setting’s isolation from a human habitation. Despite this divergence, in both cases the Titan declares that what he did was a conscious decision for which he does not regret: Τὶ ξέραμε καὶ θέλαμε τὰ πάντα / καὶ τὸ κακὸ προσμέναμεν ἀκέριο / νὰ πέσει ἀπ’ τὸ Θεὸ στὴν κεφαλή μας (p. 119; cf. PV 101-5). 

Cf. Kazantzakis’ remarks on the notion of Virtue (Arete) in his Report to Greco 573.

 

Pages 121-2

Prometheus to Epimetheus, who scorns him for his current plight

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

κάλλιο ζουλεύω ἐγὼ τὸν ἀδελφό μας

τὸν Ἄτλαντα, ποὺ ἀσκώνει ἀπὰ στοὺς ὤμους

μὲ δίχως βαρυγκόμηση τὸν κόσμο∙

πονάει, μὰ δὲ μιλάει μηδὲ τρεκλίζει.

When visiting Prometheus on Caucasus Epimetheus openly declares that he prefers to live an airy life on earth “harvesting the sweet honey of Necessity” (Μὰ ἐγὼ στὴ γῆς ἐτούτη ριζωμένος, / μὲ ἀνθρώπους καὶ θεοὺς θὰ δέσω ἀγάπη / καὶ τῆς Ἀνάγκης θὰ τρυγῶ τὸ μέλι, p. 121). Prometheus retorts stating that he is jealous of their brother Atlas, who holds the whole world upon his shoulders without grumbling about it. Aeschylus’ Prometheus also refers to Atlas in his discussion with Ocean (PV 345-50). However, whereas in Kazantzakis Atlas’ paradigm is offered as an exemplum par excellence that calls for emulation, in Aeschylus Prometheus expresses his grief at his brother’s plight: “Even if my fortunes are poor, I wouldn’t for that reason want suffering to strike as many others as possible! Certainly not, seeing how distressed I am by the fate of my brother Atlas, who stands in the lands of the west, supporting on his shoulders the pillars of heaven and earth, a grievous burden on his arms”.

 

Pages 124-5

Pandora and Prometheus

ΠΑΝΔΩΡΑ

Λόγο δὲν καταδέχεσαι οὔτε τώρα,

ἄχ! τρυφερὸ νὰ πεῖς, παρηγοριά μου;

Ἦρθα νὰ μεσιτέψω στὸν Ἀφέντη

τῆς γῆς καὶ τ’ οὐρανοῦ, γιὰ σέ, καλέ μου!

Pandora’s offer to intercede with Zeus on Prometheus’ behalf brings to mind Ocean in Aeschylus’ play, who is also presented as a conciliator and appeaser. Just like Pandora, Ocean visits Prometheus offering to reconcile the Titan with Zeus (PV 325-7).

 

Pages 128-9

The advent of the Oceanids

Ἔρχονται ἀπανωτές, τρία κύματα, ἀπὸ τέσσερεις τὸ κάθε κύμα, οἱ Ὠκεανίδες (p. 128)

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

Καλῶς τὶς χιονοστράγαλες τὶς κόρες

τοῦ γέροντα Ὠκεανοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπημένου!

Γιατί τὰ μαλακὰ φυκιοστρωμένα

λημέρια παρατήσατε, κι ἀπάνω

στ’ ἀγκρίφια αὐτὰ πατᾶτε τὸ ἄσπρο πόδι;

Γυρίστε στοῦ γιαλοῦ τὴ δροσεράδα! (p.129)

 From the second Act of Kazantzakis’ Prometheus Bound to the end of the trilogy the Chorus consists of the Oceanids. Kazantzakis specifies that the Oceanids are 12 in number, a clear allusion to Aeschylean tragedy. Aeschylus does not specify the number of the Oceanids in his play, but he is traditionally credited with reducing the number of the members of the Chorus to 12. Apart from their number, Kazantzakis also keeps the Οceanids’ genealogy, as daughters of Ocean (see PV 140).

In Aeschylus the Oceanids are the first who visit the fastened Prometheus. In Kazantzakis they visit Prometheus third in row, after Epimetheus and Pandora, both of whom serve as the Titan’s mental tormentors. Whereas Kazantzakis’ Prometheus gladly welcomes the Oceanids, initially he prompts them to return back home (cf. p.134: Ἀφρόκορμες, καλόγνωμες κυράδες, / στὰ γαλανὰ ἁρμυρὰ νερὰ κρυφτεῖτε / τ’ ἀπάρθενά σας μάτια μὴν τρομάξουν). This comes into contrast with the stance adopted by Aeschylus’ Prometheus, who not only welcomes the Oceanids, but beseeches them not to leave. Κazantzakis’Prometheus is the quintessential Moνιάς (this is how Kazantzakis calls Odysseus).

Even though the Oceanids are young, timid, and somewhat naive, in both plays they gain Prometheus’ trust and, as a result, the Titan confides his feelings and sorrows to them.

 

Page 131

The Oceanids question Prometheus

ΩΚΕΑΝΙΔΕΣ: Ἄχ, τί φριχτό! πῶς τό ‘καμε ἡ καρδιά σου

μὲ τὸ Θεὸ νὰ θὲς νὰ παραβγαίνεις;

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ: Ἀπ’ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπη!

ΩΚΕΑΝΙΔΕΣ: Στοὺς ἀνθρώπους;

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ: Ἀπ’ τὴν πολλὴ στὴν λευτεριὰν ἀγάπη.

When the Oceanids request Prometheus to disclose his incentive for his ‘crime’, the Titan boldly declares that his actions emanated from his love for freedom. This comes into contrast with Aesch. PV 123, where the Titan claims that he did what he did because of his love for humans (διὰ τὴν λίαν φιλότητα βροτῶν).

Prometheus’ riposte brings to mind the Cretan Crane’s words in Toda-Raba: Δὲν πρέπει ν’ ἀγωνιζούμαστε γιὰ τὴν ἀνθρωπότητα, μὰ γιὰ τὴ φλόγα τούτη ποὺ μεταμορφώνει σὲ φωτιὰ τὸ ὑγρὸ ἄχερο, τὸ ἀνήσυχο, τὸ ἄθλιο, ποὺ καλοῦμε Ἀνθρωπότητα! (99)

As far as the theme of love is concerned, it should be noted that love looms large in Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound as well but in a very different manner. There Love is personified by Prometheus’ wife Asia, who journeys to Caucasus to reunite with her husband. When Jupiter is defeated and Prometheus is freed in Act III, the reunion of Man and Wife is that of Mankind and Nature.

 

Page 132

Τhe Oceanids reproach Prometheus

ΩΚΕΑΝΙΔΕΣ

Tὰ σύνορα ξεπέρασες, Πατέρα∙

κι ἡ Ἀρετή, σὰν κι αὐτὴ παραπληθύνει,

ἔχουν νὰ ποῦν, τὴν ὀμορφιὰ της χάνει

καὶ πιὰ δὲν ξεχωρίζει ἀπὸ τὸ κρίμα.

Μεγάλη ‘σαι ψυχή, τρανὸς ὁ νοῦς σου,

τὶς χάρες ὅλες σοῦ ‘δωκεν ἡ Μοίρα∙

μονάχα μιὰ δὲ σοῦ ‘δωκε: τὸ Μέτρο!

κι ὅλες θὰ πᾶν οἱ χάρες σου χαμένες!

Αfter questioning Prometheus about his deeds, the Oceanids scold him for excess and transgression of the boundary line. These criticisms bring to mind the Oceanids’ reproach in Aesch. PV 178-80: “You are bold, and do not yield to your bitter pangs; you give too much license to your tongue”. However, it should be noted that in Kazantzakis this transgression of μέτρον is the Struggler’s virtue par excellence 

 

Page 133

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

Δροσάτη, πελαγόστηθη κοπέλα,

μὴν κλαῖς καὶ δὲν μπορεῖ κανένας, μάθε,

νὰ μὲ γκρεμίσει, τὶ κρατῶ στὸ νοῦ μου,

κι ὄχι μονάχα μὲς στὸ νοῦ, δὲ φτάνει!

Στὶς δυό μου αὐτὲς ἐργάτισσες παλάμες

σφιχτὰ κρατῶ τὴν πιὸ μεγάλη Ἐλπίδα!

[…..]

ΩΚΕΑΝΙΔΕΣ: Τί ἐλπίζεις πὰ στοῦ ἀνέλπιδου τὸ γκρέμνο;

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ: Ἡ γῆς νὰ κάμει ὑγιὸ καλύτερό μου!

Prometheus beseeches the Oceanids not to worry too much, because he holds tight in his hand the greatest Hope; the fact that he will beget a son morally superior to him. Aeschylus’ Prometheus is likewise optimistic when enquired by the Oceanids about the ending of his sufferings. Yet, in Aeschylus this optimism emanates from the knowledge that Prometheus holds about Zeus’ future wedding − the fact that Zeus will beget a son greater than him (PV 168-77).

The vision of a son who will surpass his sire is a core  idea that permeates all three plays of Kazantzakis’ trilogy. In fact, this is the gist of Kazantzakis’ thinking; every generation to rise a step higher in the never-ending Ἀνἠφορος. The idea also occurs in Kazantzakis’ Odyssey: γιατὶ τὸ κάστρο ἐτοῦτο, ἀδέλφια μου, κάστρο τοῦ γιοῦ λογᾶται  − / τοῦ γιοῦ ποὺ ξεπερνάει τὸν κύρη του καὶ στὸ Θεὸ ξαμώνει! (ο 564-5).

(Cf. Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, where Prometheus’ evolutionary hope is also prominent).

 

Page 134

The Oceanids decide to stay with Prometheus until the very end

ΩΚΕΑΝΙΔΕΣ

α’  Φύγε! μοῦ κράζει τὸ κορμί∙ τί στέκεις;

Μεῖνε! φωνάζει μου ἡ ψυχή∙ ντροπή ‘ναι

νὰ παρατᾶς  στὸν κίντυνο τὸ φίλο! 

β΄  Θὰ μείνω ἐγώ, κι ἂς σπαραχτεῖ ἡ καρδιά μου∙

νὰ δῶ, νὰ σύρω μιὰ φωνὴ μὲ τρόμο,

μιὰ σταλα ἀπ’ τὴν τρομάρα του να πάρω!

γ’   Κι ἐγώ!  

α’  Κι ἐγὼ θὰ μείνω, κι ἂς πεθάνω!

The sudden appearance of Zeus’ bird in the sky terrifies the Oceanids. Nevertheless, they make the conscious decision to stay with Prometheus and share his suffering. Their stance brings to mind the end of Aeschylus’ play where, despite Hermes’ admonition to abandon the Titan, the Oceanids steadfastly declare that they will not betray him, but will stand by his side until the very end (PV 1063-70).

 

Pages 131-2

Prometheus enumerates the gifts he bestowed to humankind 

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

Σκότωσε αὐτὸς μὲ φλόγες τοὺς ἀνθρώπους −

κι ἐγὼ μὲ λάσπη κι αἵματα κι ἱδρώτα

καὶ μ’ ἄγριο κεραυνὸ τοὺς ξαναπλάθω.

Ἔκαμε αὐτὸς τὴν πείνα − τὴ σφεντόνα

ἔφτιασα εὐτὺς ἐγὼ καὶ τὸ δοξάρι,

καὶ βγάζω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους στὸ κυνήγι.

Ἔκαμε αὐτὸς τὴν παγωνιὰ − τὸ τζάκι

στελιώνω ἐγὼ κι ἀσκώνω τὸ καλύβι∙

ἀρρώστιες ἔριξε στὴ γῆς − μὰ σκύβω

καὶ βρίσκω ἐγὼ ξαρρωστικὰ βοτάνια∙

τὸ θάνατο μᾶς ἔπεψε − κι ἀνάβω

στὰ στήθια ἐγὼ τὶς φοβερὲς ἐλπίδες,

ποὺ ξεπερνοῦν καὶ καταλυοῦν τὸ Χάρο.

Βόδια, σκυλιὰ κι ἀλόγατα θεριὰ ‘ταν −

κι ἐγὼ τὰ μέρωσα ὅλα, ἐγίναν δοῦλοι

πιστοὶ καὶ συνεργοὶ ἀκριβοὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

Κι ὁλοστερνὰ − χαρὰ κι ἐλευτερία! −

πῆρα τοῦ ταύρου τὸ ἀδειανὸ κεφάλι,

ἀρμάτωσα τὴν τραγουδίστρα λύρα,

κι ἔγινε εὐτὺς γλυκὸ τραγούδι ὁ πόνος!

Here Prometheus enumerates the gifts that he bestowed to humankind. As he points out, he helped humans to dispel the miseries under which they laboured by showing them how to hunt (hunting), how to keep themselves warm and build their houses (architecture/building), how to cure diseases with various herbs (medicine), and how to domesticate various animals and put them under their control (domestication and harnessing of animals). He also taught them the art of music. Cf. pp. 105-6 where reference is also made to agriculture (sowing, ploughing, harvesting), bread-making, and music. 

Aeschylus’ Prometheus embarks upon a similar enumeration of his benefactions (PV 445-471, 476-506). Yet, his list is much more extensive and elaborate. In addition to the above, in Aeschylus Prometheus includes carpentry, meteorology and astronomy, numbers and writing, sailing, prophecy through dreams, omens and sacrifice, and mining.

It is significant to note that the art of music, which Kazantzakis adds to his Prometheus’ list, is not mentioned by Aeschylus. As Prometheus remarks, music is a sophisticated refinement that helps humans to transform and transmute pain into sweet song. (see also pp. 110-6 where we encounter the first reference to the bull-skull turned into a musical instrument.) By way of music and artistic creation Man rises above the material station of the bull, the beast of burden.  Prometheus’ ordeal (his duty towards himself) can only begin when his work on earth, i.e. his duty towards the Race, is done; and this will happen, not when humans have mastered the skills of survival alone, but when they have learned how to sing.

In both lists much emphasis is laid upon Prometheus’ role as a benefactor of society. It was Prometheus who helped man to progress from savagery to civilisation.

 

Page 132

Prometheus’ gift of Hope 

τὸ θάνατο μᾶς ἔπεψε − κι ἀνάβω

στὰ στήθια ἐγὼ τὶς φοβερὲς ἐλπίδες,

ποὺ ξεπερνοῦν καὶ καταλυοῦν τὸ Χάρο.

 

Prometheus’ inclusion of ‘hope’ among the gifts he bestowed to man alludes to Aesch. PV 246-50:

CHORUS: Did you perhaps transgress even somewhat beyond this offence?

PROMETHEUS: Yes, I caused mortals to cease foreseeing their doom.

CHORUS: Of what sort was the cure that you found for this affliction?

PROMETHEUS: I caused blind hopes to dwell within their breasts.

Cf. Plato Gorgias 523d, where Prometheus undertakes to stop men from foreknowing their death.

Yet, the significance of the noun ‘hope’ seems to differ in the two plays. In Aeschylus hopes are described as ‘blind’ (τυφλάς), in so far as they do not allow humans to foresee their death. Βy not being aware of the exact limit of their lives humans can enjoy life and live happily. Interestingly, Kazantzakis tags ‘hope’ with the adjective ‘dreadful’ (φοβερὲς). Moreover, his hopes do not merely hinder men from foreseeing their doom but rather prompt them to transcend and annihilate death.  This is, in fact, the Cretan Glance: νὰ κοιτᾶς τὴν Ἄβυσσο μὲ ἀθόλωτο μάτι καὶ νὰ λές: ἄβυσσο δὲν ὑπάρχει.

 

Pages 141-7

The advance of the Choriata

The Choriata (literally ‘the Peasant Girl’) is the last one who visits Prometheus in the play. This is not coincidental, as she is the one who is destined to give birth to Prometheus’ Saviour’. The Choriata scene brings to mind the Io episode in Aeschylus’ play (PV 561-886), even though there the dialogue between Io and the Titan is much more extensive and elaborate. Even though in Aeschylus it is not Io herself who will give birth to Prometheus’ Saviour, her future is interwoven with that of Prometheus inasmuch as he will be released by one her descendants from her eventual union with Zeus in Egypt (PV 871-3).

Despite the similarities between the Io and the Choriata scene, Kazantzakis diverges from Aeschylus on certain points: a) Io has cow’s horns, while the Choriata has the face of Pandora; b) Io comes from a royal family, while Kazantzakis’ decision to name the young woman ‘Choriata’ points to the opposite direction; Choriata is the humble principle that  united with the Sublime will bring down the arrogant order of Zeus c) in Aeschylus the Io scene serves to put into relief the harshness and cruelty of Zeus and his regime, something that is not evident in the Choriata scene.

 

Page 144

The Choriata recounts her dreams to Prometheus  

ΧΩΡΙΑΤΑ

Tὸν ταῦρο μας μιὰ μέρα ποὺ βοσκοῦσα

καμάρωνα νὰ τρέχει στὸ λιβάδι

καὶ ξάστραφταν ὀρθὰ τὰ κέρατά του.

Κατάκορφα μᾶς κέντρωνεν ὁ γήλιος,

καὶ ξάφνου λὲς νὰ σάλεψε ὁ μυαλός μου

καὶ στὸ περίσσιο φῶς ἐχάθη ὁ ταῦρος∙

κι ὡς ἔσυρα φωνὴ, θωρῶ στὴ χλόη

γαλαζογένην ἄντρα διωματάρη

νὰ μὲ κοιτάει κι ἀργὰ νὰ μὲ μαυλίζει.

“Ποιὸς εἶσαι, τί μὲ θές, γιατὶ μὲ σούρνεις;”

βογκοῦσα ξωπαρμένη, κι ἄθελά μου

μὲ γόνατα τὸν ζύγωνα κομμένα...

Prometheus questions the Choriata about her husband to be, and she confesses to her father that she met him in the meadow, without naming him, though. One day, while she was pasturing their bull, the bull disappeared and in its place appeared a blue-blooded man. The story of the Choriata brings to mind Aeschylus’ Io and the description of her dream in PV 645-54.

 

Pages 168-71

Fate

AΘΗΝΑ

Τὴν ἁλυσίδα τῆς σκλαβιᾶς σου, μάθε,

δὲν τὴν κρατᾶ ὁ Θεός, δὲν εἶναι ὁ Ἀφέντης∙

καὶ λευτεριὰ δὲ θὰ γευτεῖς, μὴν τρέμεις!

καὶ τὸ Θεὸ στὰ Τάρταρα ἂν τὸν ρίξεις.

Ἀλλοῦ τὸ ἀφεντικό ‘ναι, ἀλλοῦ, Πατέρα!

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

Ἀλλοῦ τὸ ἀφεντικό ‘ναι; Ποιό; Μολόγα!

Πιὸ πάνω ἀπ’ τὸ Θεό; πιὸ κάτω; λέγε!

AΘΗΝΑ

Παντοῦ! καὶ στῆς δροσούλας, νά, τὴ στάλα

καὶ μὲς στὸ φωτερὸ μυαλὸ τοῦ Δία.

Καὶ μήνυμα σοῦ στέλνει αὐτό, Πατέρα∙

ἄχ! πές το δαχτυλίδι, μὴν τρομάξεις!

[…..]

Ὤ, μὴν τινάζεις ἄγρια τὸ κεφάλι∙

χαιρετισμὸ σιωπώντας σοῦ τὸ στέλνει,

ἄχ! ἡ τυφλή, κουφή, βουβή ἀνυφάντρα −

ἡ ἀρραβωνιαστικιά σου!

Athena reveals to Prometheus that everyone, even Zeus, is subject to the power of Fate (Moira) and cannot escape. It is the Moira, Prometheus’ “blind, deaf, silent weaver, and ‘fiancée'”, that sends the chain, which the Titan has to wear as if it were a ring. The way in which Fate is described here, as an omnipotent power that controls everything, alludes to Aesch. PV 511-8, even though in Aeschylus this role is assigned to Necessity (Ἀνάγκη).

PROMETHEUS

Not in this way is Fate, who brings all to fulfillment, destined to complete this course. Only when I have been bent by pangs and tortures infinite am I to escape my bondage. Skill is weaker by far than Necessity.

CHORUS 

Who then is the helmsman of Necessity?

PROMETHEUS

The three-shaped Fates and mindful Furies.

CHORUS

Can it be that Zeus has less power than they do?

PROMETHEUS

Yes, in that even he cannot escape what is foretold.

 Ιt should be noted that in Kazantzakis  “Fate” serves as another word for the principle of Nada, which is the endgame for Odysseus, as well: not so much a nihilistic conclusion as a necessary condition for the spiritualization of the flesh and the final affirmation of pure Struggle.  As Prometheus falls into a lethargic state at the end of the play, he has reached the final stage of Ascesis, the realisation that και το ένα τούτο δεν υπάρχει.

 

Language

Page 129

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

Ἀκοῦστε, ἐγὼ σᾶς κράζω, ὁ Προμηθέας!

Ἄχ, στὴν κορφὴ τὴν ἄγρια καρφωμένος

τῆς ἐρημιᾶς, τὴν ἐρημιὰ φωνάζω!

Prometheus’ invocation to the Oceanids brings to mind his words in Aesch. PV 140-3:

               δέρχθητ’, ἐσίδεσθ’

οἵωι δεσμῶι προσπορπατός

τῆσδε φάραγγος σκοπέλοις ἐν ἄκροις 

φρουρὰν ἄζηλον ὀχήσω.

“behold, see with what fetters, upon the summit crag of this ravine, I am to hold my unenviable watch”.

 

Page 132

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ

Βόδια, σκυλιὰ κι ἀλόγατα θεριά ‘ταν −

κι ἐγὼ τὰ μέρωσα ὅλα, ἐγίναν δοῦλοι

πιστοὶ καὶ συνεργοὶ ἀκριβοὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

 

A verbal allusion to Aesch. PV 462-5:

κἄζευξα πρῶτος ἐν ζυγοῖσι κνώδαλα

ζεύγλαισι δουλεύοντα σάγμασίν θ’, ὅπως

θνητοῖς μεγίστων διάδοχοι μοχθημάτων

γένοινθ᾿, ὑφ’ ἅρμα τ’ ἤγαγον φιληνίους

ἵππους, ἄγαλμα τῆς ὑπερπλούτου χλιδῆς

 

Pages 155-6

“Ὤ παιδιά τῶν Ἑλλήνων, χιμᾶτε!

Λευτερῶστε τή γῆ τῆς πατρίδας,

λευτερῶστε τὶς κούνιες, τοὺς τάφους,

λευτερῶστε ἀπ’ τά χέρια τῶν βάρβαρων

τὸ μεγάλο Θεὸ τῶν πατέρων μας!”

 Α verbal allusion to Aeschylus’ Persae 402-5, to the paean sung by the Athenians during the battle at Salamis:

                      ὦ παῖδες Ἑλλήνων, ἴτε

ἐλευθεροῦτε πατρίδ’, ἐλευθεροῦτε δὲ

παῖδας γυναῖκας θεῶν τε πατρώιων ἕδη

θήκας τε προγόνων∙ νῦν ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀγών.

“On, you men of Hellas! Free your native land. Free your children, your wives, the temples of your fathers’ gods, and the tombs of your ancestors. Now you are fighting for all you have.”

 

Characters

Prometheus, Young Man, Young Woman, Violence, Wrath, Epimetheus, Pandora, Old Man, Oceanids, Athena, Pan, Silenus

Zeus

As in Aeschylus’ play, Zeus does not appear in Kazantzakis’ trilogy, except through his agents (Violence, Wrath, Eagle, Hermes, Athena). Moreover, he is enslaved by Fate (Moira) and cannot escape. Our first impression is that Zeus is an oppressor and stern tyrant; he destroyed the human race in order to create one that would be submissive to him, he enchains Prometheus on Caucasus, he sends his bird − agent of his wrath − to devour the Titan’s intestine, he demands that everyone would yield to his reign. Yet, this impression gradually changes, as Zeus is subsequently transformed into a rather ‘fatherly’ figure, that takes delight at the mankind’s progress and wants to reconcile with Prometheus. 

Prometheus

Unlike Hesiod’s Prometheus, who is a devious figure and a trickster, Kazantzakis’ Prometheus shares many similarities with his Aeschylean counterpart: he is a rebel (ἀντάρτης), stubborn and defiant, the benefactor of humankind, and the inventor of all arts and sciences. Kazantzakis though also moves a step further; his Prometheus is a man-builder and the creator of the ‘prometheian’ race. Ηe is also the personification of human ‘Mind’ and a power that struggles to transubstantiate Flesh (Matter) into Spirit. One could argue that he is the Great Ascetic, another instantiation of the Odysseus-paradigm, which incorporates some elements of the  Nietzschean Übermensch. Finally, it is important to stress that his struggle in Kazantzakis, as in Shelley, is internalised. The Titan is the creative impetus that brings Freedom nigh.

The Oceanids

The stance adopted by the Oceanids in the last two plays of Kazantzakis’ Prometheia brings to mind their Aeschylean counterpart. Although they are quite naive and timid, Prometheus confides his sorrows to them and the Oceanids stand by his side and empathise with his suffering until the very end.

 

 

Bibliography

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Constantinides, S. 1987. “The Rebirth of Tragedy: Protest and Evolution in Modern Greek Drama”. Comparative Drama 21.2, 156-81.

King, T.L. 1970. Kazantzakis’ Prometheus-Trilogy: The Ideas and their Dramatic Rendering. PhD Indiana University.

Knapp, B.L. 1979. The Prometheus Syndrome. Troy, N.Y.

Lecznar, A. 2013. “Aryan, German, or Greek? Nietzsche’s Prometheus between antiquity and modernity”. Classical Receptions Journal 5.1: 38–62.

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