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Voices in the Past and in the Present: Tony Harrison’s Reworking of the Prometheus Myth

Steve Woodward, The Open University, UK 

On reading a recent review of Tony Harrison’s Prometheus I was struck by the fact that, after a protracted critique of the complex portrayal of Prometheus himself and the ideas this represents, Io’s participation was mentioned in the penultimate paragraph almost as an afterthought.

The film also attempts to update the story of Io...The boy's Mam suddenly finds herself impelled to start running very fast...In her vagabond and filthy state she slowly begins to resemble a Friesian heifer, and somewhere in Bulgaria is slaughtered by Kratos and Bia in an abattoir. Perhaps the implication is that her son, or one of his descendants, as in the legend, will grow up to be Heracles, the liberator of Prometheus. Cinematically, however, these episodes seem irrelevant and confusing. [1]

This struck a chord with my thinking about Harrison’s ‘imitation’ of Prometheus Bound (to use a definition given by another contemporary poet, Tom Paulin, who has used the same play for his reworking called ‘Seize The Fire’ to which I will be referring later.)[2] For the review seems in an uncanny way to mirror to some degree Harrison’s own emphases, the voices of female characters being subordinated.

My reading of Harrison’s Prometheus had set me off on this course of investigation, immediately revealing to me a multi-faceted interpretation of the character Prometheus, mediated in particular by an eloquent Hermes but also by an array of other male characters who all in their different ways use words powerfully and effectively. But where, I wondered, were the female characters? I trawled through the text for the female voice, for Io’s troubled utterances and for words of comfort, advice and exhortation from the Chorus, but found almost nothing, in fact just a few lines altogether in the whole work.

I decided, therefore, to investigate this startling discovery more thoroughly, knowing that reasons must exist in Harrison’s thinking for such a radical act of interpretation. I was aided in this by Harrison’s essay ‘Fire and Poetry’ which is published as a preface to his written version. In this he suggests that the myth of Prometheus is a particularly powerful one in conveying suffering over a long time-scale. Moreover it has the mythic property of being able to, to use his own words, ‘reassess our history’. [3] In composing Prometheus Harrison can, therefore, be seen as reassessing some sort of history, but whose? Like any artist he has to make choices and he has chosen to present female characters in a particular way. Bearing this in mind I have decided to compare and contrast his reception of the Prometheus story with the Prometheus Bound attributed to Aeschylus by which he has clearly been influenced, and yet in which Io is given an articulate voice and where a Chorus of Oceanids speak and sing extensively.

I shall do this by analysing each of the two versions according to three criteria: firstly the structure of action and words within which the characters are placed; secondly voice, which subsumes both which characters are given voices and what words they are allowed to speak through the voices; thirdly, the context of performance. Therefore, the theatrical conventions of Attic theatre in the fifth century BCE for Prometheus Bound, and the nature of film as a medium for Harrison’s Prometheus will be considered, given that ultimately the written version must be seen in conjunction with Harrison’s film, for which it serves as the screenplay. Discussion will lead to provisional answers to the two related questions posed earlier: why the women characters in Prometheus are virtually wordless and whose history is being reassessed. This will lead to further questions about the reception of myths and any limitations that might be imposed either by the myths themselves or by factors arising during the process of reception.

I shall turn first to Prometheus Bound. Following Griffith’s division of the play into prologue, parodos, three episodes, each followed by a choral stasimon, and exodos, I shall concentrate on the parodos, three stasima and the exodos for the involvement of the Chorus, along with any instances elsewhere in the play of choral interaction with other characters, and the third episode involving Io.[4] This statement of intention in itself shows how deeply the female characters are woven into the structure of the drama, one noticeable feature of which is the wide scope it allows for the female voice to be heard. The Chorus have opportunities to interact with Prometheus from the parodos onwards both through their leader, who acts as his interlocutor, and by their more extended discourse in the choral stasima. Aeschylus, or whoever wrote this play, chose to include a Chorus of women to whom he gave a voice.[5] So structurally they appear to matter, providing a constant counterpoint to Prometheus’ assertions of defiance and to the verbal ministrations of the characters who visit him. In common with choruses in other Greek tragedies, they may be on the margins of any action and they may lack powers of intervention but at least they are present and can be heard.[6]

The most important character to visit Prometheus is arguably Io whose intervention is centrally placed in the third episode, which is by far the longest in the play, extending to over three hundred lines of a relatively short work (561-886). This can be subdivided (again following Griffith) into nine sub-sections.[7] Io’s importance is demonstrated by the solo voice she is given in the first, third and ninth of these to bemoan her fate (561-608), to recount her journey (631-686) and to voice the madness that prompts her to resume it and by her stichomythic interactions with Prometheus in the second and sixth (609-630 and 742-781). Even the subsections in which she does not speak are centred on her as subject, spoken by Prometheus, the fifth (696-741), seventh (782-822) and eighth (823-876) and sung by the Chorus, the fourth (687-695). In fact the episode is devoted largely to the story of her wanderings, past, present and future, which although told in a fractured and disjointed way, can be pieced together into a continuous sequential narrative.

Having established that the Chorus are given ample opportunity to speak, I now turn to the second criterion, what they say. This depends to some extent on the characters they portray. As Daughters of Oceanus, who follows them into the action, they are firmly embedded in the play and as young women provide a lighter touch than that of the heavy-handed characters of the violent prologue. In their capacity as goddesses they can relate to the divine elements of the play, including the characters, whilst their relative unimportance allows them to become sympathetic mediators for the audience. As a group one of their collective functions is to sing songs which in turn express friendship (parodos) and sympathy (first stasimon) towards Prometheus, remind him of the power of Zeus[8] (second stasimon) and show fear at Io’s words (short choral song in the third episode), which they reiterate when she leaves (third stasimon), stressing the importance of marriage at an appropriate social level. Overall, as Vickers, for example, recognises, they highlight the human nature of suffering, and in so doing match Prometheus, who although like them not technically human can be seen as representing humanity in the face of punishment dispensed by the tyrannical power of Zeus. In Greek tragedy generally humans are shown as having to work as best they can in a cosmos controlled by divine power and fate. In this particular play the protagonist, Prometheus, is not actually human but is presented in the sort of position relative to a god that a human might occupy.

The Chorus are equally important in respect of the words they communicate as they interact with Prometheus, extending sympathy tempered with criticism (127ff), drawing out the significance of Prometheus’ gifts of hope and fire to humans (242ff), showing the power of Zeus and Fate and prompting Prometheus to foretell Io’s future. They also interact crucially with Hermes at the climax of the play when, having just a few lines before urged Prometheus to comply with his demands, they assert their final position as siding with Prometheus:

‘I am willing to suffer whatever is necessary with him.’ (1067) (tr. S. Woodward)

By all these tokens the Chorus are integral to the drama and have a pivotal role through speech-acts in highlighting Prometheus himself, reinforcing themes and even taking a bold stance in backing Prometheus at the end of the play.

Io has a more concentrated but no less significant effect on the unfolding drama. Her relationship with Prometheus, unlike that of the Chorus, is not developed through several distinct phases but she too forms a bond with him, providing a female counterpoint of suffering based on the narration of a sequence of journeys through Europe, part of Asia and North Africa, which intertwine with, and provide a contrast to, his static agonies, which like her tribulations, have been induced by Zeus. Through a series of questions and other utterances she expresses her bewilderment, pain and powerlessness and forges a bond with Prometheus, whom she asks to prophesy her future. In a stichomythic exchange with him she finds out that Zeus is responsible for his punishment before going on to describe in some detail her pursuit by Zeus. She has been given a distinctive voice through which she has articulated her distress. Although she is often seen as a victim, she is not a dumb victim, not a victim who is simply observed in anonymity. She has a name, a voice and a history, which as Prometheus’ detailed descriptions demonstrate, will extend into a future reaching as far as Egypt, where she will give birth to a son who despite being fathered by Zeus will give rise ultimately to Heracles, the destined liberator of Prometheus. Io, then, is a hopeful figure, who in spite of intense suffering gives embodiment to the hope which Prometheus has granted.

The third factor I would like to introduce is context of performance. It has already been established that the Chorus and Io are articulate and significant participants in the drama. What difference do performance factors make to this? Firstly the staging in the theatre of Dionysus, in so far as it can be known with certainty, has been seen by scholars as spectacular, from the arrival of the Chorus in carts through their various stages of deployment in the orchestra to their defiant stand against Hermes; from Io’s dramatically unexpected entry to her equally explosive exit.[9] These are examples of theatrical effectiveness, which were intended to enhance the words spoken and sung. The conditions of performance, to an audience probably consisting predominantly of Athenian citizens, who were male like the actors of both the Chorus and Io, would also have been a positive force.[10] Nonetheless, whilst various nuances of performance might have occurred as a result of shared assumptions within this male nexus and despite the particular dimension of interpretation afforded by male performance of a woman’s role, the words in performance still would have belonged to some extent to a female voice.

I will now turn to Tony Harrison’s Prometheus, discussing first his structuring of the work. I will do this initially from the written text in order to maintain parity with my discussion of Prometheus Bound, although inevitably the structure reflects its composition as the screenplay for the film which Harrison himself directed. This is immediately apparent in the division of it into one hundred and ninety separate scenes of varying length, but mostly short, numbered sequentially. As well as the words, which are written in rhyming couplets and which appear to form the core of the work as a spoken entity, there are copious directions giving precise indications of scene and action to the extent that without them the spoken element, on closer examination, would be only a fragmentary expression of the author’s poetic intention.

This is particularly applicable to the female characters, as I will show later. These scenes are divided into several narrative threads, each of which represents the journey of an individual or group, starting at Knottingley coal-fired power-station in Yorkshire and continuing through Europe from the Humber Bridge via Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to Elefsina in Greece and back to Knottingley, which two characters, the Boy and The Old Man/Granddad, have never left. Not all individuals or groups go to all places, each journey being unique, but periodically their paths cross in a complex interthreading; a group of miners, including the Boy’s father (called Dad), is driven in a cattle-truck to meltdown in Germany, their bodies forged into part of the massive golden statue of Prometheus which is conveyed on a lorry through Dresden, Auschwitz, Romanian forests and a carbon-factory to Elefsina, where it is pinioned to a rock-face; Io, who starts as the Boy’s mother (called Mam), runs towards the cooling-towers from her home near Kirkby Main Colliery, is not mentioned again until described as crossing a bridge near Dresden and then travels increasingly frenetically and desperately through the Czech Republic, Poland, Bratislava and Romania until, being picked up in the cattle-truck that carried her miner husband to his fiery transformation, she is brutally dumped to a horrific death at an abattoir in Bulgaria; the twelve-strong female Chorus feature intermittently, starting as workers travelling by bus to the Oceanus fish-processing plant near Knottingley and transformed through the agency of the ubiquitous Hermes into the Daughters of Ocean in order to cross the Humber Estuary before occasional river sightings in Germany, the Czech Republic and Romania and an appearance at the end when Knottingley Palace Cinema is consumed by fire; Kratos (Strength) and Bia (Violence) drive the cattle-truck at the behest of Hermes, who pops up everywhere manipulating the action as the agent of Zeus; The Boy and Granddad remain in Knottingley, the former travelling in a fantasy-world stimulated by the scrap-bus he ‘drives’ in the wrecking yard, the latter leaving his home and eventually arriving at the disused cinema, where chain-smoking, he dwells on the past and views much of the action in black and white until his fiery fate.

A number of extended scenes punctuate the first half of the work, all involving male familial relationships. In the first the Boy quarrels with his Dad and in the second and third the male bonds are re-formed through the interactions of the Boy and Grandad in the wrecking yard. In the second half through the silver cinema-screen Hermes confronts Granddad, who soliloquises at length and is ultimately transformed into a Promethean figure through speech if not in bodily form.

I have covered the structure in some detail in order to show firstly how complex Harrison’s treatment is and secondly that female characters have a part to play in the overall scheme, the Chorus participating in eighteen of the scenes, Io in thirty. It is interesting that in the still-photographs from the film version which punctuate the text the ratio of female characters is much higher with Io appearing in six out of twenty-seven and the Chorus in three. Perhaps this shows that we should not trust the evidence of the text out of context! Any importance female characters might have is not, however, apparent in the words apportioned. Miners, even when unnamed, are given lines to speak, and significantly ones that rhyme, indicating their right to speak in poetic form:


Miner 1: Have you noticed summat?

Miner 2: What?

Miner 1: Every time
we make a sentence it ends up wi’a rhyme![11]

Hermes on the other hand assumes this to be a right exclusive to gods:


Hermes: It’s quite beyond mere mortal reach,
this pure Olympian form of speech.
It’s a pure Olympian privilege
forbidden folk from Ferrybridge[12]

The official Chorus, made up exclusively of women, utter no words. Their songs consist simply of melodies and harmonies. Even when riding on the Oceanus bus they cannot be heard as individual voices and hence are rendered characterless. The miners, however, despite their solidarity as a group, are individualised, thus constituting a group built of individuals in contrast to an amorphous mass of women.

Io/Mam speaks only twice, firstly after the quarrel between the Boy and his Dad shouting

‘Jack, come back, he didn’t mean it he’s upset
your Dad.’ [13]

and secondly in a dream while she is on the run in the Czech Republic repeating the German negative ‘nein’ in response to Hermes’ evocation of Nazism.[14]

She is spoken to, for example on a train and in a bakery, but on both occasions in a foreign language she does not understand, and she is spoken about by others, but either in derogatory terms (for example as ‘poor cow’ by Hermes in Scene 131 )[15] or as the last expression of despair of the Boy as fire consumes the Palace Cinema. She has no human voice to express her feelings and thoughts, quite unlike the Io of Aeschylus. Like Harrison’s Chorus, however, she is mute in the sense of wordless, self-expression taking place through gesture and movement. In contrast the Chorus sing unscripted music. Even though this does not deny them a voice completely, any voice they are given is severely limited.

This leads to consideration of the context of performance, which opens up a wide range of possibilities, for, as I have already mentioned, an unperformed text which was written for performance is incomplete and misleading. We have the advantage with this work of being able to consider the written text in relation to the film for which it serves as screen-play. This has helped to determine its structure but it also allows a wider range of modes of expression to be employed. The Chorus have a visual presence in the film, described in the text which also shows the point in the storyline at which it is active. In the early stages its identity is naturalistically human, the women depicted as a crowd waiting for a bus, riding on it and travelling to the Oceanus factory past the Knottingley cooling-towers. They speak to one another but their words cannot be heard. On entering the factory they don garments that dehumanise them to the extent of covering their hair and bodies in identical blue uniforms. Their sudden transformation into Daughters of Ocean is visually striking, their bodies having become shop-window dummies clad in diaphanous robes surmounted by head-encasing masks. As a group of twelve they move and sing on an open raft, stylised and alien. The music they sing appears disembodied, not coming from their mouths, something the text does not explain. There are no words.

Io has a visual presence but hardly any voice; she is shown almost always as running away, or about to run away or having just stopped running away, generally from exhaustion. After a brief explicatory function as Mam she enters her running mode in Yorkshire and then remains unseen for a long time, until in fact putting in an appearance at Dresden. She gradually becomes dirtier, hungrier and more desperate as she travels through Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, losing human appearance, (Harrison explicitly stating that she comes to resemble a heifer), but having acted in human modes, for example in taking a lighted candle at a monastery. She figures most prominently in three blocks, each made up of several scenes: firstly at the base of the statue of Prometheus in the carbon works when she rips off part of her ragged dress to wipe carbon from the statue and kisses its calf and foot. No words are spoken but visual images convey the feelings in a way only glimpsed in print that a viewer of the film shares . The second highlight is a sequence of scenes in a bakery where she is given kind words and bread, dumbly retreats and is robbed by Kratos and Bia who bundle her into their cattle-truck. Her story continues to its grisly conclusion in a third fluid sequence, starting from inside the cattle-truck against whose sides she bangs her body like the trapped animal she represents. Again no words are spoken, but through her brindled appearance and movements the female actor conveys the terror of captivity. She is then stunned, strung up on a meat-hook and, presumably, slaughtered before disappearing into a blazing oven. This evocative and powerful portrayal of victimhood is effected without words, the moving image speaking through a non-verbal language.

A brief appearance is made at the beginning by Grandma, who is a peripheral figure used to highlight Granddad and not involved in any form of communication between women to set against that between the male characters. All the female roles are played by women, but in a mixture of styles, ranging from the naturalism of the early scenes to the stylisation of the later ones.

In terms of the conditions of performance a film such as Prometheus, whilst not necessarily being designed for a mass audience and for that reason likely to be viewed only by those with a particular interest, is equally likely to play to an audience of women as of men. Nonetheless, in the film certain assumptions about shared values and social norms create collusion among men, for example through the device of positioning Granddad as the cinema spectator confronting Hermes face to face. Theoretically at least, however, the process of performance is more potentially open than that pertaining in fifth century BCE Attic theatre, which perhaps makes the absence of the female voice all the more remarkable.

I will now draw together my discussion by examining Harrison’s intentions in so far as they can be gauged from his Prometheus, from other dramatic work of his and from his essay ‘Fire and Poetry’ in which he not only associates fire with poetry but also with film, citing Pasolini’s idea of a ‘cinema of poetry’ differentiated from the cinema of prose through its use of a distinct language. This ‘language’ includes, what Pasolini calls the ‘libre indiretto discorso’ (translated as free indirect discourse/subject) manifest in the use of the camera particularly in Point of View (POV) shots.[16] Yet he rejects what he calls Pasolini’s ‘jargon’ when it comes to more precise theoretical descriptions. He is also careful to distance himself from such ideas by his statement that his own Prometheus combines his ‘experience of film verse and theatre verse’. This emphasis on verse rather than poetry implies the priority of method above meaning and can be used to help in the interpretation of Prometheus. For those sections that use a verse form spoken exclusively by male characters as a predominant mode of presentation are in a different style from those that are silent and unversed, involving female characters, for example the Io sequences analysed above. This latter type can be more easily analysed using Pasolini’s cinematics. As John Orr points out in his discussion of Pasolini and the cinema of poetry, the language of cinema arises from the moving image and how it is moulded into narrative,[17] something to which Harrison again alludes in his observations in ‘Fire and Poetry’ about the affinity between the number of frames per minute and poetic form, but which again he does not pursue[18].

Harrison is nearer to achieving a cinema of poetry in his scenes involving female characters, whose voices, it could be argued, are communicated through a relationship between their actions, the contexts within which they act and the shifts of camera-angle that mediate the moving image to the audience. The scenes in the cattle-truck where Io is both a woman and a heifer, with the complex connotations of cruelty to humans and animals that arise, come nearest to realising a cinema of poetry, although one might still wonder about the conscious omission of that one mode of communication that is distinctly human (i.e. speech).

There remains the question of how satisfactory this is in a film that has a predominance of scenes where dominant male figures speak verse in at times a theatrical manner, using direct eye-contacting collusion with a camera that has a manipulative and didactic effect.[19] This applies particularly to Hermes who is in a dominant position in the narration but also to the Old Man/Granddad when he asserts himself as a representative of the Promethean spirit. This hybrid film, whilst dabbling in the cinema of poetry, is perhaps more memorable, for its verse, which predominates in the written text as one would expect but which is also memorable cinematically, which is more surprising.

Returning to the question of ‘examining our history’ it is justifiable to ask, given that the text reflects the film in privileging the spoken word, why Harrison has chosen to construct his imitation/version in the way he has. Certainly some of his other writing for performance shows that he is experienced in giving a voice to female characters. In his translation of The Oresteia, in the performance of which the ancient practice of having an all-male cast was replicated, the words were firmly left in the domain of Aeschylus’ characters, female and male, Clytemnestra retaining her voice.[20] In his ‘Mystery Plays’ also the original female characters such as Noah’s Wife are allowed to speak,[21] while in ‘The Common Chorus’, which combines Aristophanes’ ‘Lysistrata’ and Euripides’ ‘Women of Troy’ Harrison gives a strong political impetus to the voices of women.[22] He must, therefore, have a reason or reasons for not giving female characters a spoken voice. The answer may be in his chosen style, the presentation of a voiceless Io and Chorus being a genuine attempt to realise the aims of the cinema of poetry, for particular sequences at least. On the other hand, his understanding of the ‘history’ he is wishing to reassess may be political in a partial sense, focused on social idealism and its flawed realisation where the male worker is elevated to Promethean status and the female is relegated to a support role. For the miners’ work and fate are the core of the film, defining it from the opening sequence of cooling-towers silhouetted and smoking against the sky, while the women, so far from organising support-systems, are portrayed as victims, whose fate has stemmed from that of their menfolk This contrasts with the Aeschylean Prometheus, in which the Chorus act independently of Prometheus from the outset, speaking with their own voice and Io, although still being a victim, has come with an independent story.

This brings me to a final question. How far is it possible in the reception of classical texts based on myth actually to follow the dynamics of the original play, allowing everyone a voice? Is it possible, or even desirable, given the structure of the Prometheus story to adapt/imitate it in such a way as to allow women a full voice as well as men, if the version is to be centred on particular concerns such as pit-closure and the collapse of communism in Europe?

It is not surprising perhaps that feminist critics have concentrated their work either on myths that feature positive women, for example Medea, Alcestis and Iphigenia,[23] or on the Oedipus myth and its constraining impact on Western culture, for example in psychoanalysis.[24] On the other hand, some women present alternatives. Carol Ann Duffy, ironically subverts male-centred myths, for example her undermining of Icarus through her use of ‘Mrs Icarus’ as an alternative perspective:


I’m not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he’s a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock. [25]

She creates her effect by reacting against the traditional version. Yet there still is a traditional, received version of which hers can be seen as a sort of distorted mirror-image, needing the original to be in place so that her invention can be fully appreciated. This may imply that any such myth has a substantial essence that is irreducible if the myth is to remain a viable prototype for future explorations. If we apply this notion to the Prometheus myth we might come to the conclusion that for it to retain its viability, it cannot be changed irrevocably, merely subverted for particular effect, an essential core of storyline remaining as a key to full understanding.

In the end, however, we can only take the artist’s work for what it is, although we are entitled to interpret it from a particular position. Harrison has composed a rich and complex paean, which although it may lack that Promethean gift of hope, does provide a provocative polemic that shares some of the attributes of that other recent reworking I referred to at the beginning of this paper, Tom Paulin’s ‘Seize The Fire’ which ends with the invitation to ‘seize the democratic fire’. The question still remains as to how inclusive that democracy is going to be. [26]


[1] Mark Ford "Missing the Vital Spark" London Review of Books Vol. 21 Number 10 (1999) pp.25 - 26.

[2] Paulin’s definition is given in an audio-taped discussion "The making of Seize the Fire" A294 : Fifth-Century Athens: Democracy and City-State performance cassette 6, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 1989. This complements his version of the Prometheus drama T. Paulin "Seize the Fire" A294: Fifth-Century Athens: Democracy and City-State TV1, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 1989 (published text T. Paulin, Seize the Fire, London, Faber and Faber, 1990). The interplay between a writer’s version and his reflections upon it is also observable in Tony Harrison.

[3] T. Harrison "Fire and Poetry" p. viii in T. Harrison PrometheusLondon, Faber and Faber, 1998

[4] M. Griffith "Commentary" pp. 80, 109, 124, 155, 163, 182, 188, 243, 248-9 and 253-4 in M. Griffith Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1983

[5] A good account of arguments concerning authenticity is given in M.Griffith "Introduction" pp. 31-35 in Griffith Aeschylus : Prometheus Bound pp. 31-35.

[6] The marginality of the Chorus and the complex effect this has on their central role in tragedy is discussed by J. Gould "Tragedy and Collective Experience" pp. 217-235 in M.S. Silk Tragedy and the Tragic Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996.

[7] Griffith "Commentary" p.188.

[8] B. Vickers Towards Greek Tragedy London, Longman, 1973 p.73

[9] D. Wiles Tragedy in Athens Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997 pp. 81-2 argues that Prometheus would have been positioned centrally in the orchestra, hearing but not seeing the entry of the Chorus, which would have been, in the view of Griffith Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound p.109, best effected by the use of separate carts.

[10] The question of whether women attended theatrical performances is much debated. For example, R. Rehm Greek Tragic Theatre London, Routledge, 1992 p.16 argues that there were no restrictions on women attending theatrical performances. See too Wiles Tragedy in Athens p. 212 for the idea of homogeneity of citizenship as central to the theatrical experience in Athens, which again implies male predominance. A very clear exposition of the evidence is given by S. Goldhill "the audience of Athenian tragedy" pp. 62-6 in P. Easterling (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997. Goldhill leaves the question open, while a distinction is drawn between ‘conceptual invisibility’ and ‘actual exclusion’, by E. Csapo and W. J. Slater The Context of Ancient Drama Michigan University Press, Michigan, 1994. The sources are documented in E. Csapo and W.J. Slater The Context of Ancient Drama pp. 290-305

[11] T. Harrison Prometheus p. 36.

[12] T. Harrison Prometheus p. 21.

[13] T. Harrison Prometheus p.11.

[14] T. Harrison Prometheus p.59.

[15] T. Harrison Prometheus p. 59.

[16] T. Harrison ‘Fire and Poetry’ p. xxvii in T. Harrison Prometheus, 1998.

[17] J. Orr Contemporary Cinema Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press, 1998 p. 4.

[18] T. Harrison ‘Fire and Poetry’ p. xxvii in T. Harrison Prometheus, 1998.

[19] Much work has been done in recent years in the area of gender and film. For example, E. Ann Kaplan Looking for the Other: Feminism, Film, and the Imperial Gaze, London, Routledge, 1997 p. xvi draws a distinction between the more neutral term ‘looking’ and the term ‘gazing’, which has implications for positionalities and representations, particularly in the ways women are represented by men and in the assumptions men hold in relating to each other. See too M. Humm Feminism and Film Edinburgh University Press, 1997 p. 39 and elsewhere for the view that film mediates white male voyeurism through the use of particular techniques.

[20] T. Harrison The Oresteia Rex Collings, London, 1981.

[21] T. Harrison The Mysteries Faber and Faber, London, 1985.

[22] T. Harrison The Common Chorus London, Faber and Faber, 1989. Harrison provides a fascinating insight into the practicalities of this project and his sympathetic attitude towards the women protesting at Greenham Common, who provide the impetus to his version, in ‘The President’s Address: Facing up to the Muses’ Proceedings of the Classical Association Vol. LXXXV, 1988 pp. 7-32.

[23] For example, there is the discussion of Medea by M. Warner Managing Monsters : six myths of our time The Reith Lectures, Vintage, London, 1994. On a dramatic level the treatment of Alcestis, Medea, Helen and Iphigenia by Euripides is dealt with by R. Blondel, M-K Gamel, N. Rabinowitz and Zweig (tr. and ed.) Women on the Edge: London, Four Plays by Euripides Routledge, 1999.

[24] The most influential voice here has been that of Irigaray, who has argued that the western emphasis on the death of the father, originating from Freud, is constraining and that relationship with the mother is more significant. For example, L. Irigaray ‘The Bodily Encounter with the Mother’ in M. Whitford (ed.) The Irigaray Reader Oxford, Blackwell, 1991 pp. 34-6.

[25] C.A. Duffy The World’s Wife London, Macmillan, 1999.

[26] Paulin, for example, in portraying Io as Marilyn Monroe, emphasises victimhood, albeit in a different way from Harrison’s emphasis on Io as a victim. The former deals with media representation of an icon, while the latter concentrates on the victim of social and economic circumstance. T. Paulin Seize the Fire.