Prometheus Unbound

by

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Prometheus Unbound: Act 3, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Prometheus, Asia, Panthea, and Ione are gathered at their cave in the forest with the Spirit of the Earth. Panthea tells Ione how the Spirit of the Earth used to visit Asia often and that she calls the Spirit mother, although Panthea does not know why.
This passage suggests that the Spirit of the Earth is the offspring of Asia, who symbolizes love, and Prometheus, who symbolizes knowledge and freedom. This reflects Shelley’s belief that a combination of these elements will rejuvenate society.
Themes
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
 The Spirit of the Earth runs to Asia and expresses her love for her. The Spirit of the Earth then tells Asia about the change that has come over her that day. She tells her that all the insects, “venomous” plants, and “malicious beasts” have vanished and that men and women, who used to look evil and cruel to her, have suddenly grown “good and kind, free and sincere.” She says that, as she was traveling through a city, she heard a sweet sound ringing through the air, a sound which all the people in the city ran out of their houses to hear too. She hid in a fountain and, as she watched, saw the people transformed as though “some foul disguise had fallen” and “all things put off their evil nature.”
The Spirit of the Earth describes the transformation that has taken place in both nature and humanity as a result of Prometheus’s release and Jupiter’s fall. Nature, which under Jupiter’s tyranny became a hostile environment for mankind, complete with poisonous plants and insects, is now habitable and harmonious with the needs of men. The Spirit of the Earth’s descriptions continue the metaphor of veils falling and love, kindness, freedom, and sincerity being newly revealed to humanity.
Themes
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
Asia returns the Spirit of the Earth’s affection and tells her that they will not separate until the “frozen and inconstant moon” thaws and looks on the Earth with warm light.
The strength of Asia’s love promises to achieve an impossible feat: to turn the Moon from a dead to a living planet. This insinuation of new life springing from death continues the use of Christian allegory in the poem.
Themes
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
The Spirit of the Hour returns and tells them that, after he had blown the shell over the world, a change immediately occurred as if love “had folded itself round the sphered world.” The Spirit of the Hour tells them how he has wandered the Earth and seen that “thrones” are now “kingless,” and that men no longer lie or flatter each other or seek power. Instead they are “frank and kind” and free “from custom’s evil taint.” They speak “with wisdom” they once would not even have been able to think of. The images of worldly power stand “not overthrown, but unregarded” and the monuments of power mold and rot.
The Spirit of the Hour observes the same rejuvenation of love among humanity that the Spirit of the Earth has witnessed. The fact that a shell being sounded like a horn heralds this love connects love to the classical goddess Venus. Symbols of worldly power, such as the “thrones” from which kings rule, are now empty. This suggests that traditional hierarchies (like the Monarchy that Shelley detested) have broken down. Shelley also demonstrates his belief in non-violent resistance to power, as kings have not been violently overthrown but have simply been forgotten. For Shelley, this demonstrates real social progression as opposed to violent revolution, which breeds tyranny. Social custom has also broken down, which means that people can speak honestly and freely, rather than withholding their opinions for the sake of conformity or etiquette. Shelley disliked social conventions that restricted personal expression.
Themes
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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