The play begins in Scythia, the ends of the earth. Hephaestus, the blacksmith of the gods, enters with Power and Force and they begin to discuss the fate of Prometheus. Prometheus is condemned by Zeus because he stole fire from the Gods to give to the mortals. Zeus’ anger invoked a terrible punishment for Prometheus. He was nailed to a rock and forced to have his liver eaten by an eagle only to grow back each day for eternity.
Hephaestus is upset by this terribly violent punishment, and tells Prometheus he is sorry, but what did you expect would happen if you give the mortals too much power? Power and Force are not sympathetic at all and chide Hephaestus for having so much pity for his cousin. They also warn Hephaestus that he should not protest too loudly over the fate of Prometheus, lest it happen to him as well.
After being chained to the rock, Prometheus speaks of his suffering, and how he knows the fate of the world, but cannot change either his own fate or that of mankind. He runs into Io, the poor woman who was seduced by Zeus and then turned into a cow by Hera to be tortured by flies and spurned across the earth for the rest of her days. All the suffering at the Gods mercy upsets both the lives of this poor mortal, Io, and the God Prometheus. As he is chained to a rock and tormented, Prometheus gains nobility and takes his burden with more grace than the higher Gods live their lives.
The play is a treatise on tyranny and heroism. Prometheus, by giving enlightenment to mortals is the ideal hero. Despite his terrible fate, the man entered his punishment with open eyes and has no regrets for with knowledge comes responsibility. Prometheus also knows that eventually Zeus will need his help, and the ruler of the Gods will release him from his terrible bonds.