Response Paper #5: Prometheus Unbound
In his work Prometheus, Percy Bysshe Shelley seeks to show how the sufferings of Prometheus are like those of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, and how the tyranny of Jupiter is like what he sees as the tyranny of Milton’s God. In doing this, Shelly ends up making a Christ of Satan and a Satan of God.
The intriguing character of Prometheus performs a change throughout the play. At the beginning of the play, Prometheus described as in great suffering and pain forever. Shelly seeks to make Prometheus a character like unto Milton’s Satan, but with more nobility. Prometheus is torched in a terrible hell for daring to defy the tyranny of Heaven. He is willing to bear the furies and torments of hell rather than to bend his knee to the ruler in heaven. Both Satan and Prometheus hate the God of heaven.
The hatred of Prometheus against Jupiter had made Prometheus curse Jupiter for and wish him pain and suffering for inflicting pain upon him. However, Shelly’s description of Prometheus soon changes as he begins to have pity on and repent his hatred of Jupiter. “It doth repent me: words are quick and vain; Grief for awhile is blind, and so was mine. I wish no living thing to suffer pain.” This repentance continues even as the furies of Jupiter’s wrath torment Prometheus. He has resigned himself to suffering, “Pain is my element as hate is thine” (pg.810)
In describing Prometheus like suffering Satan with more virtues, Shelly creates a Prometheus, into a character who is more like that of Milton’s Christ, than Milton’s Satan is. Like the Son of God in Book 4 of Paradise Lost, Prometheus is willing to suffer to free man from the cruelties of hatred and the bondage of Jupiter. Prometheus knows that the reign of Jupiter will not last forever because he has a secret of the fall of Jupiter. With this knowledge and his belief of what is right Prometheus is willing to suffer and endure the hatred of Jupiter. For his willingness to suffer Prometheus sits down with Demogorgon in celebration of their victory over Jupiter. We are reminded of Hebrews 12:2 where we read that Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Like Christ, Prometheus frees man from the bondage of Jupiter (Satan) and delivers him into glorious liberty with freedom from guilt and pain. Like Christ, Prometheus is able to resist the temptations of Mercury, and the furies. He refuses to submit to Jupiter, and choses pain to uphold what he believes is right. He defied the furies and submitted to their wrath, like Christ who submitted to the temptations of Satan, and the Jews, knowing that it was the will of the father. We read in Hebrews that Christ was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.
In this way we begin to see a difference in Prometheus and Christ. Christ was perfectly sinless, yet Shelly is unable to make Prometheus without...