Supernatural Tyrants In Percy Shelleys Works English Literature Essay

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By exposing the all-oppressive powers of these supernatural deities, Shelley challenges the tyrannical temperament of the Gods and of Mother Nature. Shelley portrays the gods, wind and other aspects of nature as oppressive and overpowering in order to present an antagonist to the human's free will. Despite believing that the human mind should be free of restraints, Shelly thought that nothing in this universe is truly free and that the darker side of these supernatural deities is crucial in keeping the cyclical process of the universe in balance. A major conflict in Shelley's work is the conflict between the gods' destined fate for humanity and humanity's ability to resist that fate.

In Prometheus Unbound, Jupiter is portrayed as the archetypal tyrant, reigning supreme over the archetypal victim, rebel, and savior, Prometheus. In its simplest form, the conflict is a standard one of oppressor-oppressed, on a much broader scale, it is a manifestation of the society's inability to break free of their own, supposedly inevitable, fate. Jupiter can essentially be considered the God of Judeo-Christianity "which posit a principle of being that has full and ultimate governance over the earth and indeed the entire Universe"(Weinberg The Limits of Super-Rationality: A New Look at the Conception of Jupiter in Prometheus Unbound 254). The term "Monarch", which literally means one ruler, and its counterparts "King" and "Lord" are often repeated through out Act One. To categorize Jupiter via categories of political authority of the highest "earthly" status strengthens Jupiter's authority on man, which highlights the dictatorship which religion exalts. As represented in the play, Jupiter essentially has a hold over humanity and religion is the basis for which many of these conceptions are born from.

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Prometheus gave the government of the world to Jupiter when he said, "Let man be free." Therefore mankind was able to have consciousness and decision. But the new ruler, Jupiter, was malicious; he brought famine, toil, pain, terror, madness, crime, remorse, and self-contempt into the world. Jupiter tortures Prometheus in the first act, hoping to win the Titan to his side but Prometheus wanted to help the world rather than see Jupiter condemn it. Prometheus explains that Jupiter has violated the bonds of friendship because he goes only by his own laws. This shows that Prometheus considers only Jupiter's ruling unjust and that his own provocation as trivial. Also cruel and malicious tyrant who lacked pity could laugh at Prometheus's grief.

Prometheus alone figures out the instrument that will bring upon Jupiter's downfall: a child will be born to Jupiter who will eventually dethrone his father, for evil brings upon its own destruction. This is the secret that Prometheus could use to acquire reconciliation with Jupiter and release from imprisonment. But Prometheus chooses to withstand this torture because to reveal this secret would be to hinder the downfall of Jupiter, which in turn would result in mankind's eternal slavery under Jupiter's wrath.

As long as Prometheus hated Jupiter, the god could torture him and humankind. There for when Prometheus declares, "I wish no living thing to suffer pain"(Shelley Prometheus Unbound 304), and when he starts to pity Jupiter's fate, "I speak in grief, Not exultation, for I hate no more, As then ere misery made me wise."(Shelly 59), Jupiter's inevitable downfall begins. "The moment he pitied Jupiter, thus making the sphere of his love absolutely all-inclusive, that moment the ruin of the tyrant was initiated."(Steichen A Study of Shelley's Prometheus Unbound 46).

In Mont Blanc, Shelley emphasizes the "amoral power of Necessity ruling eternally the mutable universe of matter and the human mind"(Kapstein The Meaning of Shelley's "Mont Blanc" 1046". Of this power the peak of Mont Blanc is the central symbol of the poem. Shelly also brings for the main issue about understanding the nature of the power of the "everlasting universe of things" by using the river as a metaphor

Like human understanding, the river, over time, has had the capability to cut through the mountain but unlike the vast and overpowering mountain, the river began as a thin stream. But Shelley acknowledges that nature, not the human mind, is the "everlasting universe of things" simply because the mind is unable to comprehend something so large. "Mont Blanc" takes in both the immediate object of nature perceived by the poet and the larger power of nature, turning to the issue of how the human mind can come to terms with something having such huge, silent power. (French Percy Shelley: Poems Summary and Analysis" Shelley essentially compares the majestic power of wild nature with the miniature size of man by comparing the river to the human mind in the sense that man is simply inferior.

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"Shelley brings forth the central problem about comprehending the nature of the "power" of the "everlasting universe of things" by employing the river as a metaphor."(Kapstein 1048) In the beginning of the second stanza, the speaker tells of the "Power (River)" as it travels down from its "ice-gulfs that gird his secret throne". (Shelley Mont Blanc 17) Shelley describes it as a destructive journey, "bursting through these dark mountains" with a force "like the flame of lighting through a tempest". This sheer choice of diction serves to show exactly how powerful this river is, a force that cannot be tamed or stopped by any mere mortal.

By the fourth stanza, the speaker describes the complex and delicate relationship and creation between all forms of nature, and how man is only a small part of it. As the river flows down the mountain, it has the power to demolish and bring along everything in its path; it has ability to destroy everything man has built in a matter of seconds and even man itself. This stanza, along with the entire poem itself, once again serves to distinguish the power of nature from the vulnerability of man.

In Ode to the West Wind, Shelley portrays the wind as a magical deity that takes the role as both "destroyer and preserver," and has a power of change that flows through history, civilization, religions and humanity as well as the power to help Shelley reach transcendence. The author initially addresses the "Wild West Wind" and introduces the theme of death by comparing the dead leaves to ghosts. "The winged seeds, where they lie … like a corpse within its grave, until Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow" Shelley starts the poem by paralleling the wind's powers to the powers of a god by essentially giving the wind control over death. The winged seeds symbolize freedom and flight, as well as death and rebirth; is the seed dead or asleep? The "winged" seeds also bring forth images of religions, angels, and/or souls that continue to create new life. The word "azure", which means an unclouded sky or heaven, coupled with the word "Spring", metaphorically symbolizing rebirth and literally meaning "to jump up out of the ground" helps show Shelley's view of rejuvenation.

Shelley then proceeds to address the wind as "Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere; Destroyer and Preserver". Destroyer and preserver allude to the Hindu gods Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. By comparing the wind to gods, Shelley once again broaches religion as a foundation for the concept of despotism.

The poem now sees a change of clouds, which preludes to an upcoming storm. This storm could potentially be the vicious control that "nature" holds. Shelley then writes "Of the dying year, to which this closing night Will be the dome of a vast sepulcher"(Shelley Ode to the West Wind 24) Shelley shows how he cannot reach transcendence even in an open sky because even the sky is a dome "of a vast sepulcher", which means that his imagination and everything in the natural world is locked inside of this tomb made out of rock. The "closing night" is also used to refer to the final night, or in Christian mythology, when the apocalypse approaches. It is said that on the final night, four horsemen would rise and when the 4th horseman, death, rises onto his pale horse, thunderstorms will cover the skies. This quote symbolizes Shelley's feeling of helplessness as he is subjected to the absolute power of nature.

In following lines Shelley writes how this "sepulcher" will burst. Shelley portrays this "dome" as being a volcano that is read to erupt. And when the "dome" does burst, it will act as a destroyer, preserver and creator. The eruption of a volcano brings forth destruction; lava destroys everything in its path but it also creates new land. Also it is said that volcanic ash preserves fertility.  The use of the words "Black rain and fire and hail..."(Shelley 28) also helps create the atmosphere for an apocalyptic climax.

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