It was the loss of the latter two plays that, thousands of years later, gave rise to Prometheus Unbound, a chamber play (ie, one not intended to be staged and performed) by the great Romantic poet Percy Bryce Shelley. Shelley and many of the Romantics identified strongly with Prometheus, in his role as antihero and spirit of rebellion and revolution - Byron and Goethe, for instance, both wrote poems about him. Shelley, essentially, wrote what we would now call a spinoff of the ancient play - but instead of taking the road of piety that was apparently in the original, his Promethean is a brave rebel against God, cursing the heavens solemnly as he suffers the torment Zeus has appointed, knowing that one day Zeus will fall and the world will return to a free state where there is no tyrannical higher power.
To read these one after each other is an experience. The ancient play is fierce and wild in a way that osme of the other Greek plays are not - it does not tidily wrap up a moral, but leaves the reader at the end asking themselves if obedience and piety are better morals than courage and love. The Prometheus of the old play is the very figure of fierce, antiestablishment dignity, and it is easy to see why he would have appealed to the likes of Byron and Goethe, men who believed that freedom and love were the highest laws of human existence. The play DOES feel dated - it's kind of slow, and honestly, not much really HAPPENS in it. He gets chained to the rock, and then he talks. And talks. And talks. I found myself reading the play more as oratory than as drama. Some of this is intrinsic to ancient drama, however (I believe one of Aeschylus' big innovations in drama was in having more than one character on stage. No, really. Fascinating to think plays didn't use to, isn't it? They just talekd to the chorus, that's it). I'm no classical scholar, if I was, I could probably appreciate it more - in my ignorance, the language was beautiful, but it got a bit pedantic.
Shelley is not perfect either - he is NOT exactly a novel writer. The play reads like somethign a poet would wrote, rather than a prose writer - it doesn't worry about the plot as much as it worries about ideas and ideals. There are long speeches in fact where I would forget who was talking. That being said, Shelley's characters have a vividity and epic sweep that made me feel, ironically, as if they were on stage (ironic, since it was written to be read in a boudoir, not performed on stage - this would be one whacked out play on stage). And the language! The language is where you're thankful it was written by Shelley. Take this, for instance, a poem spoken by the moon to the earth:
[The feeling of love is] As in the soft and sweet eclipse,
When soul meets soul on lovers' lips,
High hearts are calm, and brightest eyes are dull;
So when thy shadow falls on me,
Then am I mute and still, by thee
Covered; of thy love, Orb most beautiful,
Full, oh, too full!
Or, my favorite line, and one that I won't forget soon, sung to Prometheus by his lover:
My soul is an enchanted boat,
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
And thine doth like an angel sit
Beside a helm conducting it
The language is powerful, and rich, and is as much of a character as the people in the play, speaking, changing, fading back and growing strident with all the vigor of a master poet. This is a play that ought to be sung.