Prometheus Unbound

Published: 2021-07-01 07:57:12
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Category: Culture, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

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In examining Asia’s speech, appearing in Act 2 of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Prometheus Unbound,’ it is evident that Shelley utilised a vast range of themes to create such a unique piece. Overall, the play draws chiefly from areas such as Philosophy, Romanticism, Mythology, Music and Religion (Rossetti). However, the play itself could not have been created without Shelley’s reading of Aeschylus’s play, “Prometheus Bound” (McDonald). In this sense, the play is very much an appropriation of and sequel to the original.
With the above matters combined, Shelley created a work that is conceptually complex, providing the foundations for a challenging yet dramatic play that “paradoxically performs itself inside the mind of the reader” (Quillin). Asia’s speech in Act 2 reveals Prometheus as fundamentally, the first humanitarian. As such, Prometheus is known as the liberator of humanity and referred to as the “culture bringer” (Greenblatt 821). Symbolically, Rossetti affirms, “The unbinding of Prometheus is the unbinding of the human mind” (28).
In addition, Rossetti suggests the cave that retains Prometheus “…is the cavern of the human mind- the recesses of creative and contemplative thought, vocal with human sympathy, fertile of human enlightenment and elevation” (31). Therefore, Shelley's ideas signify Romanticism, as his writing insinuates when individuals attain freedom, the power of their imagination is unlocked (Quillin). This can be seen in the “Prometheus saw, and waked the legioned hopes Which sleep within folded Elysian flowers, Nepenthe, Moly, Amaranth, fadeless blooms; That they might hide with thin and rainbow wings The shape of death; and Love he sent to bind



The disunited tendrils of that vine” “Prometheus saw, and waked the legioned hopes Which sleep within folded Elysian flowers, Nepenthe, Moly, Amaranth, fadeless blooms; That they might hide with thin and rainbow wings The shape of death; and Love he sent to bind The disunited tendrils of that vine” subsequent fragments of Asia’s speech. First and foremost, Asia’s speech is one of unrhymed rhythm and abundant of religious connotations depicting parallels between Greek mythology and Christianity (Quillin). The word ‘Elysian’ refers to Greek mythology and the paradise to which heroes on whom the gods deliberated immortality were sent (Encyclop? ia Britannica). The word ‘hope’ is personified as it is ‘woken’. The awakening of ‘legioned hopes’ may also signify the mass of humanity, in the sense they have been transitorily paralysed by Jupiter’s wrath. It also provides parallels to purgatory, as the forced temporary suffering upon human kind occurs for an unspecified period of time (Padgett). The heavenly flowers act as strength to Prometheus. With Prometheus’ epiphany that love is the answer, the ‘binding’ of the ‘disunited tendrils’ symbolises Prometheus’ realisation that he can be reunited with his wife.
The ‘vine’ may also symbolise the chains that bound Prometheus to the cliff. In addition, metaphorically, the vine could represent the almighty strength of a vine in comparison to Prometheus and Asia’s undying love. Rossetti expands this notion, by stating Prometheus and Asia may be regarded as the “union of the mind and body, or mind and “Which bears the wine of life, the human heart; And he tamed fire which, like some beast of prey, Most terrible, but lovely, played beneath The frown of man, and tortured to his will Iron and gold, the slaves and signs of power, And gems and poisons, and all subtlest forms,
Hidden beneath the mountains and the waves. ” “Which bears the wine of life, the human heart; And he tamed fire which, like some beast of prey, Most terrible, but lovely, played beneath The frown of man, and tortured to his will Iron and gold, the slaves and signs of power, And gems and poisons, and all subtlest forms, Hidden beneath the mountains and the waves. ” beauty, or intellectual and emotional/loving elements in the human soul” (32). The first line alludes to the greatest gift in life and predominant theme in Prometheus Unbound; love. Love aids the strength and power in Prometheus’ defeat of Jupiter.
Evidently, ‘The frown of man’ refers to Jupiter, the chief of Gods who initiated the binding of Prometheus (Magill). After the annulment of Jupiter’s curse upon Prometheus, the play suggests if human kind decides to embrace love, freedom and reject all evil, then the reforming of humanity should occur (Padgett). Thus, the poem is contradictory to Shelley’s statement in the preface stating that "Didactic poetry is my abhorrence" (Greenblatt 797) as it essentially teaches morality. Once more, the play provides a parallel to Christianity, in the sense that the characters ‘Prometheus’ can be compared to Christ and ‘Jupiter’ to Satan (Padgett).
As pointed out, Shelley’s philosophical roots are strongly embedded throughout the play. With this is mind, it is clear that Shelley utilised Aristotle’s theory of the four basic constituents of matter; earth, water, air and fire as a thematic element within the play (Fowler). Thus, words such as ‘fire’ and ‘forms’, refer to Shelley’s cosmic approach to symbols represented throughout the play (Padgett). This distinctive style of imagery enabled Shelley to thoroughly capture the readers’ imagination, as his writing suggests imagery “He gave man speech, and speech created thought, Which is the measure of the Universe;
And Science struck the thrones of Earth and Heaven Which shook, but fell not; and the harmonious mind Poured itself forth in all-prophetic song, And music lifted up the listening spirit Until it walked, exempt from mortal care, Godlike, o’er the clear billows of sweet sound; And human hands first mimicked and then mocked With moulded limbs more lovely than its own The human form, till marble grew divine, And mothers, gazing, drank the love men see Reflected in their race, behold, and perish. ” “He gave man speech, and speech created thought, Which is the measure of the Universe; And Science struck the thrones of Earth and Heaven
Which shook, but fell not; and the harmonious mind Poured itself forth in all-prophetic song, And music lifted up the listening spirit Until it walked, exempt from mortal care, Godlike, o’er the clear billows of sweet sound; And human hands first mimicked and then mocked With moulded limbs more lovely than its own The human form, till marble grew divine, And mothers, gazing, drank the love men see Reflected in their race, behold, and perish. ” that can be conceived various ways simultaneously (Padgett). The final section of Asia’s speech further glorifies Prometheus and the birth of liberation for human kind.
It also typifies the premise of the entire drama; Prometheus is acknowledged as “the culture bringer” (Greenblatt 821). Meaning, he has given human kind the power of intellectual ability, made up of the creative arts and sciences, thus, liberating human kind. This is evident as “He gave man speech, and speech created thought, which is the measure of the universe”. This line highlights what Prometheus has achieved for the human race. Proving his suffering was not in vain, Rossetti states it has provided intellectual freedom for the rest of society (31).
Furthermore, the line; “music lifted up the listening spirit” reiterates Prometheus’ liberation of human kind. From this, it is clear that Shelley adopts musical themes in his poetry when language no longer proves to be an effective mode of aestheticism (Quillin). Overall, Shelley produces a dramatic piece addressing his revolutionary ideals by combining music and dialogue, which ironically performs itself in the mind of the reader (Quillin). In Conclusion, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Prometheus Unbound’ was conceptually inspired by a plethora of key factors.
Throughout ‘Prometheus Unbound’, it is evident that Shelley’s approach to imagery stems profoundly from his interest in Philosophy, Romanticism, Mythology, Music, Religion and most importantly, the appropriation of and sequel to Aeschylus’s play, “Prometheus Bound” (McDonald). These key elements have enabled a multifaceted approach to Shelley’s’ writing, formulating the dramatic shape of the play as a whole. Works Cited "Elysium". Encyclop? dia Britannica. Encyclop? dia Britannica Online. Encyclop? dia Britannica Inc. , 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. ;http://www. britannica. om/EBchecked/topic/185418/Elysium; Fowler, Micahel. "Aristotle. " Beginnings of Science and Philosophy in Athens. N. p. , 9 Feb. 2008. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. ;http://galileoandeinstein. physics. virginia. edu/lectures/aristot2. html;. Greenblatt, Stephen, Ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th Ed. New York, United States: W. W Norton ; Company, Inc. , 2012. Print. Magill, Frank. "Prometheus Unbound. " Magill Book Reviews, 2011. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. ;http://www. enotes. com/prometheus-unbound-salem/prometheus-unbound-0089900364;. McDonald, Marianne. "Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound.  Osher Lifelong Learning Institute - UC San Diego Extension. N. p. , 2008. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. . Padgett, John B. "The Imaginary Ideal: Prometheus Unbound. " Shelley, Dante, and Romantic Irony. N. p. , 1995. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. . Quillin, Jessica K. "An assiduous frequenter of the Italian opera: Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound and the opera buffa. " Romantic Circles. University of Maryland, 15 Mar. 2005. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. .

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