I have always loved mythology. Regardless of the place the they come from, there are life lessons expressed through the stories. Through these lessons we gain a window into the lives and minds of the people who believed in the myths. We see how they think, what they fear, and what they value.
The story of Erysichton is a good example of this. The basics of the myth are that Erysichton desecrates a sacred grove of trees and is cursed with an insatiable hunger that only grows the more he eats. Eventually he’s so hungry that he literally eats himself. The fairly obviously lesson this story teaches is to not mess around with anything sacred or holy, or in any way connected with the gods or you’ll die a terrible terrible death.
Fortunately for me, this play does not follow that story at all except for the lack of respect that Erysichton shows towards anything even remotely connected to religion. He is the devil’s advocate through the whole process. He focuses his belief on logic and reason instead of faith and hope. I have absolutely nothing against looking at a situation logically, but Erysichton pushes this to an extreme level. Even when he is presented with evidence that supports the existence of gods, he refuses to accept it no matter how blatant it may be. He only acknowledges facts that support what he already believes, rather than honestly searching for what is the truth. He stands by what he thinks no matter what.
Despite how vehemently he fights for what he believes, there are multiple moments in the play where he admits that those beliefs do not make him happy. But, as far as I can tell, he is not willing to change his beliefs to make himself happier. He is not willing to take the chance of basing his life around anything that may not really exist. He is even uncertain about whether or not he should follow a moral code because morals may be just another illusion people have created.
I can’t give any sort of complex or well thought out explanation about why Erysichton acts the way he does, or that I can relate to this way of thinking, but it has been fun to explore. I believe that theater gives both the actors and the audience an opportunity to better understand other people as well as ourselves. Erysichton’s beliefs, or lack thereof, lead me to wonder more about why I believe what I believe and how it really does change my life. It has even made me wonder about being wrong. If my beliefs are not the truth, would I come to regret acting the way that I have. or would I still be able to look back on my life and be happy about how it turned out? Am I happy with who I am? What am I searching for?
Hopefully Erysichton’s stubbornness can provide this, or really any, service to anyone who is able to see Prometheus Unbound. I agree with him in that we should always be questioning, we should always be willing to look for something more, even if Erysichton is much more willing to point that out to other people than he is to do the same thing himself. Let’s all keep asking, but more importantly, let’s all be willing to find the answers that come