chapter  10
Carol Jacobs Unbinding Words: Prometheus Unbound
Pages 30

An interpretation of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound has very high stakes. One is reading a poem about revolution and the transformation of human society by a great poet whose radical political views meant that this was for him (as for many modern readers) a vital subject. It would be a mistake to deny that this is the situation. One wrongly tries to evade or minimize it in taking the text less seriously than it takes itself - say, elucidating it chiefly through reference to the received meanings of its chief themes or figures in Shelley's period, or (more subtly) making sense of it through implicit reference to the meanings of revolution or apocalypse within a known philosophical or historical tradition. What one has to do in the case of this text is to read it, in the sense of taking it seriously as statement and argument (and prophecy). That the poem is a lyrical drama precludes none of those functions, far from it (the poem at least in that respect is typical of 'Romantic literature').