Places: Prometheus Unbound

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1820

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Allegory

Time of work: Antiquity

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Caucasus

*Caucasus. Prometheus UnboundMountain range between the Black and Caspian Seas. The mountain to which Prometheus is chained may be seen as an image of permanence, similar to Mont Blanc in Shelley’s poem of the same name, externally symbolizing the Titan Prometheus’s unalterable refusal to give in to tyranny while he is being punished for having befriended humankind. Even as the mountains endure the extremes of wind and cold, so too does Prometheus endure extremes in torment that include Zeus’s eagle, the icy weather, thoughts of unending pain, and the Furies. Paradoxically, however, the mountains alter in appearance over the passage of time.

Prometheus also changes his attitude toward Jove. Suffering over a long period of time leads him from curses and hatred of Jove to wisdom and feelings of pity for the tyrant god. From this pity, hope and love are renewed, echoed in the landscape’s alteration from winter to spring and in his wife, Asia’s, alteration from passive sleep to active journey through a forest and up to a mountain pinnacle where she enters Demogorgon’s cave, the seat of the spirit of revolution. Asia’s passionate dialogue with the supreme god Demogorgon ends with the latter’s trip to Heaven, where he dethrones his father, Jove. Thus the play comes to the conclusion that Shelley came to after experimenting with other forms of revolution: changing the world through love.

BibliographyBaker, Carlos. Shelley’s Major Poetry: The Fabric of a Vision. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1948. An introductory survey of Shelley’s most important writings in verse, this standard work includes a chapter and an appendix on the poem.Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Shelley: The Golden Years. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974. In part a biography, this survey of Shelley’s work from 1814 to 1822 analyzes all of his important poetry and culminates with a two-chapter discussion of the poem.King-Hele, Desmond. Shelley: The Man and the Poet. New York: Yoseloff, 1960. Shelley’s evident interest in science is explored.Shelley, Percy Bysshe. Prometheus Unbound: A Variorum Edition. Edited by John Lawrence Zillman. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1959. Offers a full text of the poem and line-by-line commentary on it. There are also eight appendices, including “The Prometheus Story Before Shelley.”Wasserman, Earl R. Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound”: A Critical Reading. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965. An example of close reading and profound thought, Wasserman’s philosophical interpretation of Prometheus Unbound defends the poem’s fundamental unity.
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