Page:Masterpieces of Greek Literature (1902).djvu/117

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

as he depicted Satan, and by the Greek title Prometheus Desmōtes (Bound) was suggested the title of Milton's Samson Agonistes.

The play was presented in the great open-air theatre of Dionysus, at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, about 470 B. C. In the time of Aeschylus the action seems to have been not on a raised stage, but in a circular "orchestra" or dancing-place. The scenery and theatrical machinery were simple. The actors wore masks, and in general Aeschylus employed but two actors for each play. In this play, one actor may have taken the parts of Strength, Oceanus, Io, and Hermes, while the actor who took the part of Hephaestus may have slipped around behind the rocks to speak the verses of Prometheus. This would require a lay figure for the Titan, but would explain how the "adamantine wedge" could be driven through his breast, and would provide a mechanical reason for the silence of Prometheus during the first scene. The dramatic reason for this silence is that the Titan will not demean himself to bandy words with his tormentors. Force is a "mute," a supernumerary.

In 1833, Elizabeth Barrett (Mrs. Browning) published anonymously a translation of the Prometheus,—"completed in thirteen days," she wrote in 1845 to Mr. Browning,—"the iambics thrown into blank verse, the lyrics into rhymed octosyllabics and the like." This work was afterwards suppressed, but Miss Barrett in 1845 thoroughly revised it, and published her new translation in 1850. Another slight revision was made and published in 1856. Mr. Browning wrote that Mrs. Browning was "self-taught in almost every respect," and her Greek scholarship naturally was not that of a philologist of to-day. Of a few words and phrases she failed to catch the exact meaning, and in several instances she thus lost the full connection of thought. But her poetic genius more than atoned for her lack of technical scholarship, and her translation (which follows) is accepted as a true work of art.