Prometheus Unbound

2394 words 10 pages
Prometheus Unbound:
The Quintessential Philosophy of Percy Bysshe Shelley

Three years before his death, Shelley wrote what many consider his masterpiece, Prometheus Unbound. Considering Shelley's rebellious nature, the choice of the authority defying Prometheus as hero is not surprising. For Shelley, Prometheus came to symbolize the mind or soul of man in its highest potential. Two of Shelley's favorite themes lie at the heart of Prometheus Unbound: the external tyranny of rulers, customs, or superstitions is the main enemy, and that inherent human goodness will, eventually, eliminate evil from the world and usher in an eternal reign of transcendent love. It is, perhaps, in Prometheus Unbound that Shelley most completely expresses
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In addition, Shelley's own belief that Prometheus Unbound "was never intended for more than 5 or 6 persons" attests to his feeling that the work was not to be staged (Berthin 132). Thus, Shelley affords himself a dual freedom: the ability to speak of silence as an attribute through the work as text and to represent it as enacted between characters through the work as performance.
In spite Shelley's choice of the creatively, flexible lyrical drama, any philosophical poem runs the risk of becoming inaccessibly abstract. Shelley recognized the danger: "The imagery which I have employed will be found in many instances to have been drawn from the operations of the human mind, or from those external actions by which they are expressed" (Shelley 207). William Blake, whose prophetic books convey a message similar to that of Prometheus Unbound, created a personal mythology to embody his ideas (Abrams "Supernatural" 67). Shelley's poem is no less mythopoeic. In the creation of Prometheus Unbound, Shelley rejected a mere imitation of Aeschylus or Milton but rather the poet relied on an already existing framework, much like the Hellenic dramatists drew from Homer but interpreting the material in their own way. As Shelley remarked, "The Agamemnonian story was exhibited on the Athenian theatre with as many variations as dramas" (Shelley 206).
For Shelley humankind suffers because it has fallen into