Metaphor and Allegory in Prometheus Unbound

  • Ross G. Woodman
Part of the Studies in Romanticism book series (SR)


Though A Defence of Poetry offers a penetrating analysis of ‘the mind in creation’ (Shelley, 1977, pp. 503–4), of which Prometheus Unbound is but one enactment among an infinite number, Shelley makes it clear that mind ‘cannot create, it can only perceive’ (Shelley, 1977, p. 478). Bound to an everlasting flow of sensations that has no known or knowable source (no creator), the mind endlessly arranges and rearranges these sensations in perpetual risk of arresting them into patterns or systems alien to the flow itself. But for the intervention of arbitrary signs, which is the mind’s ‘tribute’ to the ceaseless flow (Mont Blanc, 5), that flow would have no existence. Existence resides in signs, the naming of what cannot be named. All names, all signs, are an arbitrary imposition of meaning, which some, like Shelley’s Jupiter, would finally call ‘God’, and which others, like Shelley’s Demogorgon, would finally call oblivion. Between the tyranny of Jupiter arresting the flow by declaring himself the Creator or God of the frozen world to which Prometheus is initially bound and the nothingness of Demogorgon who would release the flow from the potential tyranny of assigning it any name at all, Shelley’s lyrical drama takes up its illusory abode.


Instructive Explanation Paradise Lost Divine Nature Creation Myth Happy Moment 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

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  • Ross G. Woodman

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