Prometheus Unbound


Percy Bysshe Shelley

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The Furies are spirits from Hell who are sent by Jupiter to torment Prometheus while he is chained to the mountain. The Furies mock and torment Prometheus with visions of humanity’s demise under Jupiter’s reign. They are disdainful of all compassion, love, and of Prometheus’s care for humans and morality. Although the Furies can invade Prometheus’s body and mind to torture him, their power is depicted as illusory and reliant, in part, on a façade. When the Furies are taunting Prometheus about the punishments which they intend to enact on him, one mentions the horrors of Hell that await him. This Fury is quickly hushed by another, as they say that it is better for Prometheus to imagine the powers of Hell rather than know them. This suggests that Hell’s power is weak and relies on the anticipation of horror to frighten people into compliance, rather than wielding real power. In contrast, the Spirit of Love in the poem is depicted as a power which cannot be resisted and which “everything in the universe is subject to.” The Furies are also subject to Jupiter and easily held back by Mercury, which suggests that they are servants of power rather powerful beings themselves. Like all the evil beings in Shelley’s poem, the Furies cannot be truly happy because they are enslaved rather than free.

The Furies Quotes in Prometheus Unbound

The Prometheus Unbound quotes below are all either spoken by The Furies or refer to The Furies. 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

Dost thou boast the clear knowledge thou waken’dst for man?
Then was kindled within him a thirst which outran
Those perishing waters: a thirst of fierce fever,
Hope, love, doubt, desire—which consume him forever.
One came forth, of gentle worth,
Smiling on the sanguine earth;
His words outlived him, like swift poison
Withering up truth, peace and pity.

Related Characters: The Furies (speaker), Prometheus
Related Symbols: Fire
Page Number: 1.542-549
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:
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The Furies Character Timeline in Prometheus Unbound

The timeline below shows where the character The Furies appears in Prometheus Unbound. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
...spirit traveling towards them through the dawn. Panthea recognizes the “world-wandering herald,” Mercury, and that the Furies , “Jove’s tempest-walking hounds,” follow behind. (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... (full context)
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Defeated, Mercury retreats and the Furies swarm Prometheus, mocking and taunting him. Although Prometheus is horrified by the Furies, he pities... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
The Furies show Prometheus that one man “of gentle worth” did visit humanity, but that his message... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
The Furies tell Prometheus that worse things than violence lurk within men’s minds, and that humanity exists... (full context)
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
The Furies vanish, and Prometheus repeats his mantra of defiance. He states that the visions with which... (full context)