The Theology of “Prometheus Bound.” -- By: John Bouton Lawrence
BSac 70:279 (July 1913) p. 421
The Theology of “Prometheus Bound.” 1
The “Prometheus Bound” is one of the most famous of all Greek tragedies. One reason of this is its lofty theme; others are its masterly treatment, its boldness of outline, and its advance of prophetic vision. Æschylus treats here, not of the misfortunes or woes of man, not of the scandals of gods and goddesses; but rather of Fate, of Justice, of Judgment, of Duty — the sterner virtues of mind and soul. These all with a colossal intellect he has wrought out, and therewith ventured to entertain and mold the entire populace of the Grecian capital. Here, thousands of Athenians, who worship an unknown God, assembled to listen to the serious words, quite as much as to witness the august action of deities, wrought over into the form and thought of men.
Such theme and treatment as draw our modern populace, for the most part, to the playhouse, as it is called, the Greeks of Æschylus’ day would not have tolerated for a moment. Their theater was no playhouse for mere amusement’s sake. Laughter was not so much in demand, for more serious business than pleasure as an end in itself was occupying the Greek mind. At the theater they presented the philosophies of human and divine problems in soberest outline. Life was no mere sportive play, and its superficialities appeared too trivial for
BSac 70:279 (July 1913) p. 422
consideration. The mystery of human motive, the character of deity, and the relationship of one to the other — such thoughts, and plots of like warp and woof, drew as a magnet thousands of Athens’ citizens into her vast public theater, not for some commercial profit to a small company of the avaricious, but rather for the gratification of that innate instinct of man for an unfolding of the marvel of marvels, the divine origin and destiny of the human race.
Æschylus drew, and always will draw, sober, thinking people in all generations, to his plays, whether they be staged or not; for he is a painter of the colossal. Eternity, the eternal gods, eternal right and justice, human worth and salvation, — all in an atmosphere of eternal mystery and ministry,— thoughts like these can never fail to challenge attention and awaken the interest of men bound to eternity.
In these days of ours one would appear to be straining the religious sentiment of his age in speaking seriously of the theology of some theatrical piece. Even while there are some plays of a wholesome moral tone in their literary structure and movement, yet would it not be pursuing the science of criticism quite too far if one were to attempt to search out and set forth the theistic elem...
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