Customer Service | Help | FAQ | PEP-Easy | Report a Data Error | About
:
Login
Tip: To report problems to PEP-Web…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

Help us improve PEP Web. If you find any problem, click the Report a Problem link located at the bottom right corner of the website.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse, XLIII. 1979: Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Prometheia of Aeschylus. (The Relationship between Omnipotence and Depression.) A. Potamianou. Pp. 375-400.. Psychoanal Q., 53:144-145.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Revue Française De Psychanalyse, XLIII. 1979: Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Prometheia of Aeschylus. (The Relationship between Omnipotence and Depression.) A. Potamianou. Pp. 375-400.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:144-145

Revue Française De Psychanalyse, XLIII. 1979: Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Prometheia of Aeschylus. (The Relationship between Omnipotence and Depression.) A. Potamianou. Pp. 375-400.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

Of the Prometheus trilogy of Aeschylus, only the first play, Prometheus Bound, and some fragments of the second survive. This work has been the subject of many interpretations, yet it has received much less psychoanalytic attention than the Oedipus plays of Sophocles or even the Oresteia of Aeschylus, perhaps because the Prometheus plays deal with preoedipal material. There is, however, much in these plays to interest the analyst, for they concern the development of an individual who accepts and promotes the emotional, social, and psychological order of the "law of the father." This new order is necessary for the oedipal conflict to take place and to prepare the way for genitality. In Prometheus Bound, Prometheus is the son of the goddess Gaia and thus the brother of Kronos. In the war between Zeus and Kronos, Prometheus fights with Zeus against his brother Titans when the latter will not accept his advice. After the defeat of Kronos, Zeus proposes to destroy humanity and to create a

- 144 -

better race. Prometheus saves mankind by giving them fire and teaching them civilization. Zeus, angry at this rebellion, banishes him to a mountain in Scythia where Hephaestos chains him to a rock. Prometheus still refuses to submit and defiantly claims to know a secret which will bring about Zeus' downfall. If released, he will reveal it. Further angered at this new defiance, Zeus has the earth swallow Prometheus. After many years he brings him forth, still in fetters, and sends his eagle to feast upon Prometheus' ever-renewed liver, a torture to continue until a god takes on the sufferings himself. Prometheus is eventually rescued by Herakles. Potamianou considers the problems raised by this play, including dating and the themes of the two lost plays, and she reviews the themes of submission and defiance of authority in other plays of Aeschylus. In the Prometheus trilogy it is important to note the ways in which Aeschylus has altered the myth; e.g., he had made Prometheus the son of Uranus and Gaia, whom he has conflated with the traditional mother, Themis. This places Prometheus in the first generation of Titans, instead of a generation later, as in Hesiod. Aeschylus has also enlarged Prometheus' contribution to human evolution, making him the giver of sciences, mathematics, letters, arts, etc., and his Prometheus is boastful of his omnipotence. In Aeschylus, the female and maternal characters all assist Prometheus, while Zeus is presented as a tyrant inebriated by his new power. In "The Acquisition and Control of Fire," Freud discussed the theft of fire as representative of libido, the gods as symbols of instinctual life, and Prometheus as showing the renunciation required for the development of culture. Potamianou disagrees with this interpretation. Instead, Aeschylus saw Prometheus as bringing to mankind a gift that cannot be given: the fulfillment of all the desires of childhood, the attempt to continue the dream of infantile omnipotence. Prometheus is not in conflict with Zeus as an oedipal rival. What is at issue is the rupture of a narcissistic relationship with the all-powerful mother. His conflict is the attempt to annul an irreversible separation which brings with it the law of the father, the insertion of Zeus, and the new order of things. Since the separation is irreversible, the attempt to annul it leads to inevitable failure and depression. Prometheus at times sounds like the depressive who seeks to restore his feelings of omnipotence by being the worst off, by suffering the most. He is not delivered from his agony until he gives up and mourns his omnipotence. Then Zeus is mollified and Prometheus pardoned and integrated as the god of artisans at Athens, a secondary god. Potamianou supports her analysis of the play with clinical material from depressed patients who illustrate the incapacity of the ego even partially to disengage from narcissistic omnipotence; depression results when mechanisms of anal retentiveness and fantasies of omnipotence fail.

- 145 -

Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse, XLIII. 1979. Psychoanal. Q., 53:144-145

Copyright © 2021, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.