Prometheus Unbound


Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Themes and Colors
Knowledge and Freedom Theme Icon
Authority and Resistance Theme Icon
Christianity and Forgiveness  Theme Icon
Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Prometheus Unbound, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Knowledge and Freedom

In the classical story of Prometheus, the Titan is punished by the ruler of the Greek Gods, Zeus, for giving humanity the gift of fire. By giving humans fire Prometheus gives mankind the ability to survive in the wilderness and to make use of the tools of his environment. Fire in the story thus symbolizes knowledge and civilization, while the fact that Prometheus is punished for his gift to mankind has traditionally suggested…

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Authority and Resistance

Shelley’s Prometheus symbolizes resistance against authoritarian forces, even if that resistance leads to punishment or isolation. Shelley himself was a non-conformist and a radical thinker who was disgusted by the rigid social conventions and class systems of the nineteenth century, which he felt kept the poor enslaved and placed restrictions on the human mind, body, and spirit. Shelley despised conventions such as marriage and institutions like the Christian Church and the Monarchy. He believed that…

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Christianity and Forgiveness

Despite his rejection of conventional religion, Shelley fuses the classical story of Prometheus with Christian allegory, referring particularly to the teachings of Christ and his message that love and forgiveness—rather than worldly powers—are the true strengths of humanity. Although Shelley felt that Christ’s teachings had been distorted by the Church, he does reference Jesus and use Christian imagery to support his central thesis in Prometheus Unbound: that love is stronger than—and will ultimately triumph…

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Nature, Imagination, and the Sublime

Shelley viewed nature as a source of poetic and spiritual inspiration, a fact reflected in his extensive use of nature imagery in Prometheus Unbound. The Romantics felt that there was a natural sympathy between emotions, imagination, and the natural world and that natural images were the most intuitive metaphors for describing emotional and psychological states. In his Preface to Prometheus Unbound, Shelley notes that he has composed his poem “upon the mountain ruins…

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