Summary of The Myth of Pandora’s Box

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Aeschylus was said to have been born in about 525 or 524 BCE in Eleusis, a small town just northwest of Athens. His first play was performed when he was only 26 years old (in 499 BCE), and fifteen years later he won his first prize at Athens’ annual Dionysia playwriting competition. It is interesting to note that at that period of time, poets and philosophers were writing works praising and honoring Zeus (Greek God).

In the beginning, Mankind did not have fire. They ate raw food, were cold in the winter and could not shape metals to make weapons. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and handed it over to man. Mankind’s life improved, but Zeus the king of gods was enraged and decided to punish Prometheus for stealing from the gods.

He chained Prometheus to a mountain and set an eagle over him to eat his liver each day. Prometheus was an immortal, so he could not die. The liver grew back every day and he was attacked again and again, so he was in pain daily. He was freed by the hero Heracles.

To punish mankind, Zeus cunningly asked the other gods to create Pandora. Pandora was given several qualities by various gods: beauty, special clothes and pearls, grace, musical talent and the gift of healing. She was also given the ability to stay afloat in water without drowning. Hermes gave her cunning, boldness, and charm. Hera gave her curiosity. But Zeus made her idle, mischievous, and foolish. Thus the name ‘Pandora’ means “all gifts”.

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Zeus gifted Pandora to Epimetheus who was the brother of Prometheus. He knew Epimetheus would fall in love with Pandora and marry her. As her wedding gift, Zeus gave her a large storage chest, Pandora’s husband had told her never to open the chest that she had received from Zeus. Prometheus had warned his brother to be careful about gifts from Zeus.

It was a pearly white chest with beautiful flowers and petals crafted on it. It sat in a corner and each day Pandora resisted the temptation to open it and look inside. Sometimes she imagined on enticing perfume in the room that filled her senses. She even thought she heard harps and lutes playing heavenly music when she passed it.

One morning, Pandora’s curiosity got the better of her. Unable to bear the suspense any longer, she approached the chest and slowly opened it. She expected to see fine silks, gold necklaces, fine musical boxes and precious stones. But a hiss came from the opened chest, and soon she was thrown back by a cloud of dark insect-like creatures that flew forth from it in large numbers. The swarms blocked the sun. Pandora was terrified and watched in despair, completely paralysed with horror at what she had done.

She realised that she had released all the misfortunes into the world. Sickness, pain, gloom, depression, jealousy, anger, anxiety, poverty, misery, hardships, disease, wars, malice, old age, hatred, violence, sadness, madness, greed, disasters, cruelty, destruction, and death were blown all over the world. Until then, mankind had lived life in a paradise without worry, now they were constantly miserable. Zeus had taken revenge on mankind for enjoying his stolen fire.

In panic, Pandora jumped up and shut the chest, but she was not fast enough. All the darkest tragedies had escaped into the world. She heard a faint knocking, and something in the box crying to be let out. She had caused so much harm that she refused to open it again. She was sure this was some trick for more miseries to fly out. Hearing her cry, Epithemus came in and saw what she had done. He heard the voice from the box that insisted that it was the only cure for what Pandora had done. He said that there could be nothing more terrible than what had already happened, so Pandora picked up courage and opened the chest again.

A bright and cheerful spirit fluttered out and said she was Hope. She would go and help mankind by giving them hope and comfort and make them feel better. That is why, even when mankind suffers terrible sadness, there is always hope for the future. This helps them to live and rebuild their fortunes again and again. So although Pandora was responsible for letting loose all the evils to poison the earth, she also gave us the most powerful antidote- Hope.

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