Prometheus: One of the old gods in Greek
mythology. He was able to see the future and that is why he sided
with Zeus when Zeus dethroned Kronos as king of the gods. Aeschylus
uses Prometheus in his play Prometheus Bound as the god that helped man;
the one that has the courage to stand up for what one believes is right
and to endure the resulting punishment for defying the head god.
He is seen as the hero, ever prideful.
Greek mythology alleges Prometheus gave man the gift of fire, before that it was only worthy of the gods. He gave man the stars, language, writing, the arts and sciences, and the metals. It is because of these gifts that Zeus banishes him to the rocky ledges of the Caucuses, hoping Prometheus will relent and bow down to Zeus as the superior god.
Prometheus stands for someone that has knowledge over someone, thus power, yet he doesn't use it for his own gain. He tells Io what the future will be for her and he is very compassionate towards her situation, letting her choose between knowing and not knowing about her future.
It is better to know your situation than not knowing. This is what Aeschylus wanted his audience to know, because if you hide from known circumstances in your life, it is too often easier to hide from everything in life. It takes courage to look at one's self in the mirror, but you can look at yourself or anyone or anything else and know that you did take it on. Whether you gain or lose, you will always gain in the long run.
Clytemnestra: the wife of Agamemnon and the
one that ran the country while he was gone to war. She was a powerful
woman that needed powerful results. In the play Agamemnon, Aeschylus
portrays Clytemnestra in two lights. She is the wife that stays home,
takes care of things, perhaps letting her needs take second place.
In the other light she is the vengeful woman, the tyrant that seeks revenge
and takes over power, the cunning individual that needs revenge as her
She has waited ten years for Agamemnon to return from the war against Troy and when he finally returns, she is insulted right away, he tells her to take good care of his mistress. She has planned to take revenge on him for his callus disregard for life when he had his own daughter sacrificed to appease his troops. Most would agree he deserved to die because of what he did to his daughter.
She needs to make everyone, but herself, pay for what has happened to her. She has married into a house that has great sins built into its foundation. Because she kills her husband and his mistress, the sins of the father should end, but what she has done is open the entire household to perpetual sin. Her acts only removed the physical aspects, and perpetuated the spiritual wrongs that take place. She has added another cycle to the endless cycle of violence.
Jocasta is the wife of Laius and the wife
and mother of Oedipus. In Sophocles' play Oedipus Rex she is portrayed
as the loving wife of Laius, they have a son and because Laius didn't want
the Oracles' vision to come true, they have the child killed by the elements.
Or so they thought.
After Laius is killed in a fight, by Oedipus, she marries Oedipus and they have children. She is very loving and attentive to her husband Oedipus; she represents the good, loving wife every husband should have.
Her brother Creon has returned with the solution to the lands problems and Oedipus thinks Creon wants to take the country away from him, yet Creon doesn't want that. Jocasta shows how loving she is by getting the two men to understand each other. She loves them both and she doesn't want to see any friction between them. She is the first to figure out the Oracle's story had come true and she hangs herself for doing such a hideous thing as marrying her son.
Sophocles uses her to show people that good, kind and loving people make mistakes. That parents don't have all the answers and they also make mistakes. The majority of the time love can conquer all things but sometimes people feel they have done such a horrible deed and the only answer is to make an end of it.
Hesiod: an ancient playwright, probably lived
later than Homer. He gave the ancient people the chronology of the
gods and it is his Theogony of the gods that Aeschylus uses in his plays.
All things came from Kaos and from that came the great Uranus and then
came Kronos the Titan. Kronos knew one of his children would dethrone
him, so he swallowed them. His wife Rhea hides Zeus and gives Kronos
a rock covered in a blanket. Later Zeus trick Kronos into giving
up the children he had swallowed and they help Zeus overthrow Kronos.
His epic poem about works and days, gave reason to the life of rural everyday Greece. He gives reasons why farmers should do certain things on certain days, what were considered lucky and unlucky days. If it goes right, it is a good and lucky day, if it goes not so good, it is unlucky and you shouldn't have done this on this day.
He gave the ancient world the reasoning for the purpose of the way things are. In the beginning it was the Golden Age, ruled by Kronos, a time of serenity, peace and eternal spring. Then Zeus ruled the Silver Age, a time of prosperity and luxury, yet it had turmoil. The Bronze Age began the period of Strife; the Heroic Age was the time of the Trojan Wars and the present time, the Iron Age, when justice and piety have disappeared.
Cassandra: a prize of the Trojan War, the
slave mistress of Agamemnon. Aeschylus portrays her, in his play
Agamemnon, as the woman caught in the middle. She is a prophetess
at home but home only laughs and scoffs at its prophets and she foresees
her coming death of Agamemnon and herself. She is knowledgeable of
her situation and she accepts what has been given her, yet knowing she
will be destroyed by the powers greater than she, Fate. Aeschylus
is saying women are more than a piece of property or a prize of war.
They are human beings that have value within them, they are not the curse
of man, they are caught up in the struggle of man and they are the pawns
of the rich and powerful.
The fate of the gods is why she has had the life she has, yet it is her ability to handle what has been put upon her that Aeschylus is portraying in her character. You may be helpless to do anything about what the gods have planned for you, but you do have the ability and responsibility to behave appropriately to your situation. It doesn't do any good to sit around and whine, complain or feel sorry for yourself because your life is this way, so be a person of character, stand up when you are knocked down, brush yourself off and begin again.
Eumenides were curses (Arai). They were
originally curses pronounced on a guilty criminal and they referred to
the angry goddesses that would hunt down the criminal and exact their blood
vengeance or rule of force upon them. They became known as well meaning
or soothed goddesses after the trial and acquittal of Orestes by the Areopagus
and Athena invites the avenging furies to live in her city of Athens.
Aeschylus used the Eumenides in his plays and they represented curses, something you can't get rid of no matter what. They are the spirits from within that are called up when you have done something wrong. They punish crimes that are committed by the average person out of disrespect, disobedience to a parent, lying, improper conduct to a stranger. These curses take away the peace of mind; destroys family life and prevents the blessing of children. Nothing can deter them, they become the rule of law and no prayer or sacrifice will deter them. Aeschylus portrayed them as Gorgons, with bodies covered in black, serpents in their hair and blood dropping from their eyes.
Neoptolemus: the son of Achilles. He
is portrayed as the innocent, the one that is manipulated by the more powerful
to achieve their goal and no mater what the cost is to the one being manipulated.
In Philoctetes, Sophocles uses Neoptolemus' innocent willingness to please Odysseus, his commander, by lying to Philoctetes to get him back to Troy. Neoptolemus does what he is commanded to do yet he knows what he is doing is not right. As the play progresses, Neoptolemus can't carry on the charade any longer and he confesses to Philoctetes. He gives back the bow and arrows of the immortal god Heracles and asks for forgiveness from his newfound friend. Sophocles is telling his audience that ill-gotten gain is not the proper way to act. When you are deceitful and conniving you may get your way in the beginning, but in time, you realize you have done wrong and the only way to feel better about yourself is to apologize and ask for the person's forgiveness.
Philoctetes-a play by Sophocles about duty,
the casualties of war and the redeeming gift of friendship. The character
Philoctetes is given the bow and arrow of Heracles as a reward for his
bravery in battle and now that Heracles has died and become a god, it is
this bow and arrow that the battle of Troy will be won. On the way,
Philoctetes is bitten by a snake and he has a very bad smelling infection
that doesn't kill him nor does it get any better. He is abandoned
on an island by the soldiers; because they can't stand the smell and his
cries of pain.
He has to survive on his own, a cave for shelter against the elements and his bow and arrows to gather game for food. His physical pain represents what a person sho9uld be able to endure yet his mental pain becomes more, it becomes part of him. He can alleviate the physical pain for a while to sleep, but the mental pain is continuously with him.
Sophocles is telling his audience that no matter how hopeless your life maybe, there is a redeeming purpose for your life. Everything may be fated by the gods but if you endure and overcome the pain of life, you will be well received in the end. People will remember you and how you handled adversity in your life and that is what is important, how you were thought of and remembered.