Prometheus Unbound

by

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Prometheus Unbound: Act 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Panthea and Ione are sleeping outside Prometheus’s cave. They wake to hear a chorus of spirits passing by. These are the dead Spirits of the Hours holding a funeral for the King of the Hours. The spirits of the elements unite with them in a chorus, which is also joined by the “Spirits of the human mind.” They rejoice that love is no longer “veiled” and that they now live in “splendor and harmony.” A new age has dawned on earth—“a Heaven where yet Heaven never could be”—which is free from “death, chaos, and night.” This age is “called Promethean.”
The fall of Jupiter has led to the death of time. Humanity is now no longer bound to the conventional passage of time, and death has been triumphed over and is no longer a source of grief. Unity between nature and humanity is symbolized by the “spirits of the human mind” and the elements dancing together. “A Heaven where Heaven never could be” suggests the Christian idea of the Kingdom of God being made on Earth after the final judgement, when evil and death will be ultimately defeated.
Themes
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The spirits disappear but their song continues to spread through the world in “Aeolian modulations.” Panthea and Ione see a small, floating islet, around which a sleeping infant, the Spirit of the Earth, is being borne in a basket. They see a vision of all the emblems of power and tyranny in the world abandoned, sunk to the bottom of the sea and forgotten, as if they had never existed.
“Aeolian modulations” refers to a musical instrument, known as the aeolian harp, which was commonly used as a symbol of artistic creation by the Romantic poets. It relates to classical mythology because Aeolus was the god of the winds, and the aeolian harp produces sound when the wind blows through it. The Romantics frequently use this as a metaphor for the influence of nature on poets. Ione and Panthea see a vision of the forgotten symbols of worldly power, which are now considered worthless.
Themes
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
The Earth is frenzied with joy over the change that has come over her. The Moon, conversing with the Earth, confesses that she feels the change too and that it “penetrates her frozen frame.” The Moon feels her frozen surface turned to “living fountains” as a spirit of the Earth bursts out from her and sets plants and flowers growing on the Moon. The Moon exclaims that it is “love, all love!” The Earth and the Moon are joined by this spirit and the Earth rejoices that man is transformed into a “chain of linked thought” which can no longer “be divided,” and that all “familiar acts are beautiful through love.”
The Earth’s transformation is so powerful that it extends to the Moon, bringing the infertile, dead planet, back to life so that water begins to flow on her surface and plants begin to grow. The Moon recognizes that this change has taken place through love. This change has also produced total harmony among mankind so that they no longer think as divided individuals but as one, harmonious collective that acts with wisdom and love.
Themes
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
Panthea and Ione rise when they hear the voice of the Demogorgon addressing the world. The Earth and the Moon, voices from nature, humanity, and the spirits of the living and the dead all reply that their “great Republic hears.” The Demogorgon announces that the spirit of “Love, from its awful throne of power” now rules the world and “bars Destruction’s strength.” The Demogorgon informs the world that if “the serpent” of destruction should ever be unleashed on the world again, compassion, forgiveness, and defiance of power are “the spells by which to reassume an Empire over the disentangled doom” and to lead man back to “Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory!”
The use of the word “Republic” reflects Shelley’s hopes that republics based around individuals who rule themselves will replace absolute monarchies. The passage gestures to the way that Shelley was influenced by the formation of the Republic of France during the French Revolution. Love’s throne is described as “awful” because it is so powerful that it is all consuming and nothing can withstand its power. This is different from tyranny, because love allows knowledge and freedom prosper. The serpent symbolizes destruction, hatred, and violence, and once again refers to the character of Satan, who appears as a serpent in the biblical Book of Genesis. Although it is not certain that the world will maintain its state of harmony, the Demogorgon makes it clear that love will triumph over hatred, and that love is the path back from these negative emotions if they ever enter the world again.
Themes
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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