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Eng 0202 - Asia's Transformation in Shelley's Prometheus Unbound

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Shreeya Malhotra

Exam Roll No.- 1700113

Professor Haris Qadeer

ENG 0202 Romantic Poetry

M.A. ENG (P)

Daulat Ram College,University Of Delhi

26 April 2018

Asia as a “transforming presence” in Prometheus Unbound

The attempt of this paper is to acknowledge the change made by Shelley in Asia’s character to highlight the marginalised position of women who shall be considered equal with the male counterpart as without her he will be rendered helpless and incomplete as projected in figure of Prometheus who remains incomplete until Asia undergoes mental and physical transformation to liberate him and mankind from tyrannical power of Jupiter and establish a world of happiness and equality whose bonding force is power of love.

The  revolutionary ideas had a major impact in shaping up the literature  of the time when Shelley wrote ‘Prometheus Unbound’ in Jean Jacques  Rousseau’s words “Man is born free;and everywhere he is in chains” is somewhat relevant to the discourse of the text Prometheus Unbound and revolutionary spirit of the era and its aftermath.Shelley is not merely revisiting the greek myth  of Aeschylus but adds new elements to it especially by focussing on Prometheus counterpart Asia who is named sometimes named  in  various myths like “Hesiod, in his ‘Catalogue of Women,’refers to Pronoia as the  mother of Deucalion by Prometheus (155), while Aeschylus in Prometheus Bound, Percy’s Shelley’s primary source text for his own mythological drama, mentions Hesione only once, in reference to her marriage to Prometheus: ‘I raised to grace thy marriage, / what time thou didst woo with gifts and win my sister Hesione / to be thy wedded wife’ (lines 558-560)”  and in some myths she is not mentioned at all vis-a-vis in context with Titan . Shelley  envisioned the women’s role as someone who is egalitarian to the male counterpart and someone whose  union  completes the two entities as one.Shelley improvised the role of Asia by making her as a Catalyst  figure as she is someone without whom Prometheus will not be able to free either  himself  or the world from shackles of tyrannical rule. Asia is given her voice, space and agency which is not given to women either in work of literature or in the society.Shelley makes Prometheus and Asia dependable on one another equally  and the force connecting the two is power of love which is the only force needed in the world to liberate the mankind from all forms of tyranny and oppression. In Act 1 “ Prometheus tells the Spirit of the Earth  that prior …..valleys with Asia,.... ‘drinking life from her loved eyes” ( PU  1.123). This very act of visualizing ‘ Prometheus drinking life from Asia’s eyes’ is “a recollection of what seems to be the ‘original fall’ in its pre-Christian, Platonic version—the splitting of the ‘one’ hermaphrodite being into two” ( Kabitoglou 420). And it is symbolic of the union of these two entities as one which will take place only after Asia has undergone a journey physically as well as mentally.Prometheus cries out to recall the curse although he has experienced numerous torture for 3000 years and furies again torture him as he even refuses the freedom in exchange of the information time of prophecy when  insisted by Mercury.This physical pain made him undergone significant change as he no longer seeks revenge from Jupiter but feels  sympathetic towards his pitiable state as he realises the more he hates the tyrant the more powerful he becomes by further enslaving other Gods  under his control.The remembrance of Asia in Act 1 by Prometheus and drinking love from her eyes  and her meeting with sister Panthea is important for the realisation of the moment a new world would be envisioned eventually   and the vision which Asia sees through her eyes  as she  the  relives the dream of Titan seen by Panthea  by gazing symbolically into her eyes. “Thine eyes are like the deep, blue, boundless heaven… There is a change: beyond ...light of his own smiles,.... radiance from the cloud-surrounded moon. Prometheus, it is thine!’ (PU 2.1.114-123) ’’.The moment when “follow ,follow’’ is resounded Asia is made to take the journey and become active catalyst as she undertakes journey to Demogorgon's Cave.Prometheus is suffering for taking the ‘fire of knowledge’ from the God which  made human capable to use their rational intellect to read,speak ,write and understand various spheres of  science,art,music ,medicine etc eventually. The suffering of Prometheus at the hands of tyrant Jupiter is also symbolic of the oppression faced by humans in the world they live in .Oceanids in Shelley’s work symbolises the irrational side as Asia,Panthea communicate with each other via senses and perception  which cannot be explained by logic and rationality and Asia is irrational,imaginative opposite equivalent of  rational Prometheus who are connected by the force of Love an emotion which is brought by Asia and she eventually symbolizes this very feeling.Asia’s image is  related to Goddess of love ‘Aphrodite’ as Shelley uses “ image of love bursting forth from Asia as she glides across the sea”.When Prometheus is enchained he is not the only one who suffers the torment as Asia also suffers from pangs of separation and misery and Panthea notices this as without one another they will fade into oblivion.Asia compels Demogorgon to be a rebel to usurp the throne of tyrant Jupiter by seeking truth about the creator of the universe and the way out to end misery of humankind from the tyrannical oppressor. Prometheus’s ability to resist and Asia’s ability to compel Demogorgon to take an initiative is the most crucial thing to assimilate the potential energy required to liberate Prometheus and eventually the mankind. “the action by which he [Demogorgon] brings about the downfall of Jupiter can be equated with a volcanic eruption which has been energised by Asia and Prometheus” (Kabitoglou 423). When Jupiter is defeated and act of not replacing him by Demogorgon liberates mankind from repetitive order of tyrannical rule  and spreads again the happiness by using a power more mightier than the Jupiter which has existed time memorial i.e. ‘Freedom in man’s natural state’ by removing superficial bonds of authority.The Spirits of  the Hour reveal the changes taken place to Asia and Prometheus about men  in following lines“As the free heaven which rains fresh light and dew ... From custom’s evil ... Looking emotions ...once they dared not be. (PU 3.4.153-159) ”.The revelation in changes of the condition of women by The Spirits in  lines “And women, too, frank, ... On the wide earth, ...From custom’s evil taint exempt and pure... changed to all which once they dared not be. (PU 3.4.153-159)” .After the transformation of the world  only possible by self discovery and transformation of Asia and Prometheus unites in the ‘cave of immutability’ by doing so “Asia is Prometheus and Prometheus becomes Asia’’ inseparable entities pertaining both the masculine and feminine self  united by power  Love in an equal androgynous bond. “The power of Love when combines with a wise heart, according to Demogorgon, has the ability to do the impossible. Loving Asia and wise Prometheus, once distinct, have become one being, both loving and wise, and as such, have suffered, forgiven, defied, loved, and hoped” . Shelley uses Asia as Catalyst who rebels , and breaks down the Jupiter’s patriarchal order and envisions Shelley representation of “ideal view of women—as men’s intellectual and moral equals”.Thus, using Asia as a catalyst to transform the role of women into someone who is active  and who shares  equality with the male counterpart by undoing the superficial constructs of hierarchy in a patriarchal world Percy Shelley tries to highlight and change “the history of gender inequality by eliminating it altogether. ”

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