Prometheus Unbound Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

" (Rossetti, 1886)

Mary Shelley is noted as having stated that it would require "…a mind as subtle as his own to understand the mystic meanings scattered throughout the poem." (Rossetti, 1886) Mary writes that rough the whole poem there "There reigns a sort of calm and holy spirit of love, it soothes the tortured, and is hope to the expectant, till the prophecy is fulfilled, and love, untainted by any evil, becomes the law of the world…" (as cited in: Rossetti, 1886) it is agreed upon by all Shelley critics, according to Ristic that the imagery of the "…lyric built drama is bold and original and that its lyrical splendor is one of the wonders of English poetry. Thirty-six different verse forms have been counted, "all perfectly handled," and the drama has been compared to symphonic music." (Ristic, 2000)

Shelley writes in the Preface to Prometheus Unbound that the "only imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus…is Satan; and Prometheus is, in my judgment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandizement, which in the hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest… highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and the truest motives to the best and noblest ends." (Shelley as cited in Ristic, 2000) While Shelley does not make any reference to his admiration for Christ and this in spite of Shelley's "hatred of institutional Christianity" there is a great deal of evidence in the Shelley's portrayal of Prometheus of this. (Ristic, 2000)

Asia questions Demogorgon on the nature of God and Demogorgon "refuses to utter his name..." stating only "he reigns" and later adding that "All spirits are enslaved which serve things evil: / Thou knowest if Jupiter be such or no…/for Jove is the supreme of living things." (Ristic, ) When Asia asks who the master of the slave is, Demogorgon replies by stating:

If the abysm

Could vomit forth its secret… but a voice

Is wanting, the deep truth is imageless;

For what would it avail to bid thee gaze

On the revolving world? What to bid speak

Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance, and Change? To these

All things are subject but eternal love

Ristic states that the meaning of these lines "is quite clear: love is the only power which is beyond all powers and is not subject to Fate and Chance, while the deep truth which Asia wants to know is "imageless" and has no approachable and visible form." (2000)

Shelley ends this story Prometheus being unbound and reunited with Asia. It is related the prophecy of the Spirit of Hour's that there will be a "forthcoming process of overall rebirth and regeneration of the world in which there is no room for oppression." (Ristic, 2000)

The last seven lines are stated by Ristic to indicate that "chance and death and mutability, being limitations entirely human, do not allow man to reach the impossible" however, Ristic notes that J.R. Watson stated that these seven lines "illustrate very well the power of Prometheus Unbound to combine the human and earthly with the superhuman and the infinite." (2000)

Summary and Conclusion

Shelley's 'Prometheus Unbound' goes beyond the concept of any particular age of man and is relevant in any age that is troubled and clearly shows the need for a heart to be purged if the very difficult path of regeneration in which the mind and heart of man is to begin.


Bromwich, David (2002) Love Against Revenge in Shelley's Prometheus. Philosophy and Literature. Vol. 26, No. 2, October 2002. pp. 239-259.

Reading Justice: From Derrida to Shelley and Back. (2007) Studies in Romanticism. 1 Jan 2007 Available online at:

Ristic, Ratomir (2000) Shelley's First Major Lyrics and Prometheus Unbound. Facta Universitatis. Linguistics and Literature Vol. 2, No. 7, 2000.

Rossetti, William M. (1886) Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. Lecture Delivered to the Shelley Society December 1886. Online available at:

Shelley, Percy Bysshe (2008)…

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