Prometheus Unbound


Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Jupiter Character Analysis

Jupiter is the villain or antagonist of Prometheus Unbound, the ruler of the Heavens, the Earth, the natural elements, and humanity. In Roman mythology, Jupiter was the ruler of the Gods and equivalent of the Greek Zeus. In Shelley’s poem, Jupiter has reigned as the supreme authority since Prometheus’s capture. Readers learn about Jupiter through the other character’s reactions to him as well as through the Phantasm of Jupiter, which is called up to reveal Prometheus’s curse. The Earth and other natural elements live in fear of Jupiter, suggesting that he is a cruel tyrant. This is further demonstrated when the Earth tells Prometheus that Jupiter has attached her to a “wheel of pain,” forcing her to orbit round the sun. While Prometheus views fire as beneficial to humanity, Jupiter feels threatened that humanity’s knowledge may lead them to question his authority. This shows that Jupiter is a totalitarian leader who does not believe in freedom of thought or information and is afraid of losing his power. He is willing to be cruel and violent towards anyone who opposes him and to keep humanity in servitude, despite the suffering this causes. In this regard he is the opposite of Prometheus, who is willing to suffer so that others might be free. Although Jupiter is very powerful, he is portrayed as very cowardly, hiding behind the Furies he sends to punish Prometheus, and living in constant fear of having his authority stripped from him.

Jupiter Quotes in Prometheus Unbound

The Prometheus Unbound quotes below are all either spoken by Jupiter or refer to Jupiter. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the W.W. Norton edition of Prometheus Unbound published in 2002.
Act 1 Quotes

Monarch of Gods and Daemons, and all Spirits
But One, who throng those bright and rolling Worlds.
Which Thou and I alone of living things
Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth
Made multitudinous with thy slaves […]
Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours
And moments—aye divided thy keen pangs
Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,
Scorn and despair,—these are mine empire:—
More glorious far than that which thou surveyest
From thine unenvied throne […]

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Jupiter
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 1.1-5, 12-17
Explanation and Analysis:

And yet to me welcome is Day and Night,
Whether one breaks the hoar frost of the morn,
Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs
The leaden-coloured East; for then they lead
Their wingless, crawling Hours, one among whom
—As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim—
Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood
From these pale feet, which then might trample thee
If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.—
Disdain? Ah no! I pity thee.—What Ruin
Will hunt thee undefended through the wide Heaven!
How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror,
Gape like a Hell within! I speak in grief
Not exultation, for I hate no more
As then, ere misery made me wise.—The Curse
Once breathed on thee I would recall. […]

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Jupiter
Related Symbols: The Hours
Page Number: 1.44-59
Explanation and Analysis:

[…] Ye Mountains,
Whose many-voiced Echoes, through the mist
Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell!
Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost,
Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept
Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air,
Through which the Sun walks burning without beams!
And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poised wings
Hung mute and moveless o’er yon hushed abyss,
As thunder louder than your own made rock
The orbed world! If then my words had power
—Though I am changed so that aught evil wish
Is dead within, although no memory be
Of what is hate—let them not lose it now!
What was that curse? for ye all heard me speak.

Related Characters: Prometheus (speaker), Jupiter
Page Number: 1.59-73
Explanation and Analysis:

When thou didst from her bosom, like a cloud
Of glory, arise, a spirit of keen joy!
And at thy voice her pining sons uplifted
Their prostrate brows from the polluting dust
And our almighty Tyrant with fierce dread
Grew pale—until his thunder chained thee here.—
Then—see those million worlds which burn and roll
Around us: their inhabitants beheld
My sphered light wane in wide Heaven; the sea
Was lifted by strange tempest, and new fire
From earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow
Shook its portentous hair beneath Heaven’s frown;
Lightning and Inundation vexed the plains;
Blue thistles bloomed in cities; foodless toads
Within voluptuous chambers panting crawled;
When Plague had fallen on man and beast and worm,
And Famine,—and black blight on herb and tree,
And in the corn and vines and meadow-grass
Teemed ineradicable poisonous weeds
Draining their growth, for my wan breast was dry
With grief,—and the thin air, my breath, was stained
With the contagion of a mother’s hate
Breathed on her child’s destroyer […]

Related Characters: The Earth (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter
Page Number: 1.157-179
Explanation and Analysis:

Aye, do thy worst. Thou art Omnipotent.
O’er all things but thyself I gave thee power,
And my own will. Be thy swift mischiefs sent
To blast mankind, from yon etherial tower.
Let thy malignant spirit move
In darkness over those I love:
On me and mine I imprecate
The utmost torture of thy hate
And thus devote to sleepless agony
This undeclining head while thou must reign on high.

I curse thee! let a sufferer’s curse
Clasp thee, his torturer, like remorse,
Till thine Infinity shall be
A robe of envenomed agony;
And thine Omnipotence a crown of pain
To cling like burning gold round thy dissolving brain.

Related Characters: The Phantasm of Jupiter (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter, The Earth
Page Number: 1.272-281, 286-291
Explanation and Analysis:

Awful Sufferer! To thee unwilling, most unwillingly
I come, by the great Father's will driven down
To execute a doom of new revenge.
Alas! I pity thee, and hate myself
That I can do no more.—Aye from thy sight
Returning, for a season. Heaven seems Hell,
So thy worn form pursues me night and day,
Smiling reproach. Wise art thou, firm and good,
But vainly wouldst stand forth alone in strife
Against the Omnipotent […]

Related Characters: Mercury (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter
Page Number: 1.353-362
Explanation and Analysis:

Though Ruin now Love’s shadow be,
Following him destroyingly
On Death's white and winged steed,
Which the fleetest cannot flee—
Trampling down both flower and weed,
Man and beast and foul and fair,
Like a tempest through the air;
Thou shalt quell this Horseman grim,
Woundless though in heart or limb.—

Related Characters: Good Spirits (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter, The Earth, The Furies
Related Symbols: The Spirit of Love
Page Number: 1.780-788
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

[…] Hark! the rushing snow!
The sun-awakened avalanche! whose mass,
Thrice sifted by the storm, had gathered there
Flake after flake, in Heaven-defying minds
As thought by thought is piled, till some great truth
Is loosened, and the nations echo round
Shaken to their roots: as do the mountains now.

Related Characters: Asia (speaker), Jupiter, Panthea
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 2.3.36-42
Explanation and Analysis:

Resist not the weakness—
Such strength is in meekness—
That the Eternal, the Immortal,
Must unloose through life’s portal
The snake-like Doom coiled underneath his throne
By that alone!

Related Characters: Jupiter, Asia, Panthea, Demogorgon
Page Number: 2.3.93-98
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 4 Quotes

Who reigns? There was the Heaven and Earth at first
And Light and Love;—then Saturn, from whose throne
Time fell, an envious shadow; such the state
Of the earth’s primal spirits beneath his sway
As the calm joy of flowers and living leaves
Before the wind or sun has withered them
And semivital worms; but he refused
The birthright of their being, knowledge, power,
The skill which wields the elements, the thought
Which pierces this dim Universe like light,
Self-empire and the majesty of love,
For thirst of which they fainted. Then Prometheus
Gave wisdom, which is strength, to Jupiter
And with this Law alone: “Let man be free,”
Clothed him with the dominion of wide Heaven.

Related Characters: Asia (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter, Demogorgon
Related Symbols: Fire, The Hours
Page Number: 2.4.32-46
Explanation and Analysis:

First famine and then toil and then disease,
Strife, wounds, and ghastly death unseen before,
Fell; and the unseasonable seasons drove,
With alternating shafts of frost and fire,
Their shelterless, pale tribes to mountain caves;
And in their desert hearts fierce wants he sent
And mad disquietudes, and shadows idle
Of unreal good, which levied mutual war,
So ruining the lair w herein they raged.
Prometheus saw, and waked the legioned hopes
Which sleep within folded Elysian flowers,
Nepenthe, Moly, Amaranth, fadeless bloom
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
Which bears the wine of life, the hum an heart;
And he tamed fire, which like some beast of prey
Most terrible, but lovely, played beneath
The frown of man […]

Related Characters: Asia (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter
Related Symbols: Fire, The Spirit of Love
Page Number: 2.4.50-69
Explanation and Analysis:

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 others, gazing, drank the love men see
Reflected in their race—behold, and perish.—
He told the hidden power of herbs and springs,
And Disease drank and slept—Death grew like sleep.—

Related Characters: Asia (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter
Page Number: 2.4.72-86
Explanation and Analysis:

Such the alleviations of his state
Prometheus gave to man—for which he hangs
Withering in destined pain—but who rains down
Evil, the immedicable plague, which while
Man looks on his creation like a God
And sees that it is glorious, drives him on,
The wreck of his own will, the scorn of Earth,
The outcast, the abandoned, the alone?—
Not Jove: while yet his frown shook Heaven, aye when
His adversary' from adamantine' chains
Cursed him, he trembled like a slave. Declare
Who is his master? Is he too a slave?

Related Characters: Asia (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter, Demogorgon
Page Number: 2.4.98-109
Explanation and Analysis:

Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance and Change?—To these
All things are subject but eternal Love.

So much I asked before, and my heart gave
The response thou hast given; and of such truths
Each to itself must be the oracle.—
One more demand . . . and do thou answer me
As my own soul would answer, did it know
That which I ask.—Prometheus shall arise
Henceforth the Sun of this rejoicing world:
When shall the destined hour arrive?

Related Characters: Asia (speaker), Demogorgon (speaker), Prometheus, Jupiter, Panthea
Related Symbols: The Spirit of Love
Page Number: 2.4.119-128
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

Rejoice! henceforth I am omnipotent.
All else has been subdued to me—alone
The soul of man, like unextinguished fire,
Yet burns towards Heaven with fierce reproach and doubt
And lamentation and reluctant prayer,
Hurling up insurrection, which might make
Our antique empire insecure, though built
On eldest faith, and Hell's coeval, fear.
And though my curses through the pendulous air
Like snow on herbless peaks, fall flake by flake
And cling to it—though under my wrath’s night
It climb the crags of life, step after step,
Which wound it, as ice wounds unsandalled feet,
It yet remains supreme o'er misery,
Aspiring . . . unrepressed; yet soon to fall:

Related Characters: Jupiter (speaker), Prometheus, Asia, Demogorgon
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 3.1.3-17
Explanation and Analysis:
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Jupiter Character Timeline in Prometheus Unbound

The timeline below shows where the character Jupiter appears in Prometheus Unbound. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
...story which he has adapted, by the classical author Aeschylus, Prometheus reaches a compromise with Jupiter, the tyrant ruler of the world. In his own version of Prometheus Unbound however, Shelley... (full context)
Act 1
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
...sea nymphs, are seated at his feet. It is dark but near dawn. Prometheus addresses Jupiter as the “Monarch of Gods and Daemons, and all Spirits but One” and calls for... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Despite Jupiter’s power, Prometheus claims his own “empire” is more beautiful than the view that Jupiter has... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...pass, as he knows that one of these hours will contain the moment in which Jupiter will “kiss the blood” from Prometheus’s feet before he is pursued “undefended through wide Heaven”... (full context)
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
...air, the mountains, the springs, and the whirlwinds—if they remember the curse he spoke against Jupiter, which terrified them and made them fall silent when Prometheus spoke. (full context)
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
...prostrate brows” when they heard him speak and how the “almighty Tyrant” “grew pale.” When Jupiter bound Prometheus to the mountain, the Earth was racked with grief and unleashed “strange tempests.”... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Prometheus begs to hear the curse. The Earth calls up the Phantasm of Jupiter from the shadow world to repeat it so that Jupiter himself cannot punish anything on... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
The Phantasm of Jupiter is forced to speak the curse. The curse invites Jupiter to unleash all his torments... (full context)
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
When he hears the curse, Prometheus laments that he once wished pain upon Jupiter, as he no longer wishes any “living thing to suffer.” The Earth cries out that... (full context)
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Mercury holds back the Furies while he begs Prometheus to accept a compromise with Jupiter in order to win his freedom. Prometheus refuses and claims that “evil minds change good... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Jupiter, “on his throne in Heaven,” addresses a congregation of fellow deities to celebrate the fact... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
When the chariot of the Hour arrives, the Demogorgon steps out and approaches Jupiter, who is horrified by its appearance. The Demogorgon demands that Jupiter follow “him down into... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon the mouth of a river on the island of Atlantis discussing the fall of Jupiter. They have witnessed Jupiter tumbling through the air, entangled with an eagle. Ocean rejoices that... (full context)