Dream Shapes as Quest or Question in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound
Keywords:Prometheus Unbound, Shelley, Oceanides, Dream, Metaphor, Unconscious, Lyricism
In Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, the Oceanides – Asia, Panthea, and Ione – direct the evolution of poetic consciousness through their lyricism which expresses human intuition and what Shelley calls in his ‘Defence of Poetry’ (1820) ‘the before unapprehended relations of things’. Their presence in Shelley’s lyrical drama leads from both abstract transcendental and literalist perspectives on reality in Act I to a more flexible and creative inner perspective in Act 2. The internal spaces evoked by the language of the Oceanides, spaces of reverie and dream, are the locus of metaphor – the endowment of absence with meaning and the identification of disparate objects with one another. As in dream, the dissolution of metaphor is integral to its dynamic processes. Asia, her dreams, and the unconscious liberate Prometheus as consciousness from the fixed rigidity which kills both metaphor and purpose; dream unfurls a ‘nobler’ myth to replace the stagnant one. Although Prometheus Unbound cannot narrate its own apotheosis, it weaves the process or spell of metaphor-making: ‘These are the spells by which to reassume / An empire o’er the disentangled Doom’ (IV, 568–69). After the words have been spoken, meaning must be continually sought in the non-verbal reverberating echoes of the unconscious.
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