Prometheus Unbound

by

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Prometheus Unbound: Act 2, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Asia and Panthea enter the cave of the Demogorgon. A dark, shapeless form, the Demogorgon sits on the throne and asks them what they want to know. Asia responds, “who made the living world” and the suffering in it. The Demogorgon replies that God made the world, but when she asks who made suffering, he replies, “he reigns.”
Asia does not believe that God originally allowed suffering into the world. The Demogorgon implies that it is Jupiter who has caused suffering because he has seized power and severed the connection between humanity and God. This is reminiscent of the role of Satan in Christianity, as Satan was an angel who rebelled against God and was promptly cast down to hell.
Themes
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Asia asks who reigns. She tells the Demogorgon that Heaven, Earth, Light, and Love existed first and then, when gods were born, “time fell” from Saturn’s throne. Prometheus gave knowledge to Jupiter and told him to rule but to “let man be free.” Jupiter however, let “famine, and then toil, and then disease” fall on man, and he played havoc with nature’s seasons. Prometheus saw this and “tamed fire,” which gave man tools of “iron and gold”; “the slaves and signs of power.” From this power, man developed “speech, and speech created thought” and this created the arts, travel, trade, and science, which quelled “disease and death.” For giving this gift to man Prometheus hangs on the mountainside.
Asia explains the origins of the world, as far as she knows it, to the Demogorgon. God, who created the world, created Heaven, Earth, Light, and Love. The introduction of time is associated with the introduction of suffering to the world, as the progression of time introduces mortality and death to human experience. Prometheus tried to prevent this suffering by giving humanity knowledge, symbolized by fire, which allowed them to discover tools, medicine, and ways to prevent death and suffering, but Jupiter removed their access to this knowledge and kept the power for himself by having Prometheus restrained.
Themes
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Asia then asks who created the suffering which “rains down” on man since Prometheus’s imprisonment. She thinks that it cannot be Jupiter because Jupiter “trembles like a slave” at the thought of Prometheus being freed. She wants to know who Jupiter’s master is, and the Demogorgon replies that he does not know the secrets of the world but that everything in it is “subject to eternal Love.” Asia replies that she has always felt this to be true and that Prometheus is the “sun” who shall arise on the world.
Although Jupiter is the cause of suffering in the world, Asia suspects that Jupiter is not powerful enough to create suffering himself. She believes that Prometheus is more powerful than Jupiter, and that is why Jupiter is afraid of Prometheus. Although Jupiter is powerful, his power is tenuous, and he is subject to more powerful forces. The Demogorgon confirms Asia’s suspicious that Love is the most powerful thing in the universe. By comparing Prometheus to the “sun,” Asia connects Prometheus with Christ, who is associated with light triumphing over darkness.
Themes
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The Demogorgon opens the night sky and shows Asia and Panthea a series of chariots racing by, circling around the earth. The Demogorgon tells them that these are the Spirits of the Hours and that One, a spirit “with a dreadful countenance,” waits for them. This spirit introduces himself as the “shadow of a destiny,” which raises a “terrible shadow” from the Demogorgon’s throne. Panthea sees another chariot; this one contains the Spirit of Love. She and Asia ascend in the chariot with the spirit of destiny.
The Hours are personifications of time. Shelley depicts them as charioteers to suggest the speed they travel at and to continue the metaphor of Jupiter as a “fiend-drawn charioteer,” because the Hours are Jupiter’s slaves and extensions of his will. The Hours consequently enslave humanity because humans are constrained by time. The shadow of destiny represents a moment that is inevitable or has been preordained. The Spirit of Love is separate from the Hours because, unlike the Hours, he is not subject to Jupiter.
Themes
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