The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 695 pages of information about The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley — Volume 1.

After a few weeks spent in this retreat, which was interspersed by visits to Venice, we proceeded southward.





[Composed at Este, September, October, 1818 (Act 1); at Rome, March-April 6, 1819 (Acts 2, 3); at Florence, close of 1819 (Act 4).  Published by C. and J. Ollier, London, summer of 1820.  Sources of the text are (1) edition of 1820; (2) text in “Poetical Works”, 1839, prepared with the aid of a list of errata in (1) written out by Shelley; (3) a fair draft in Shelley’s autograph, now in the Bodleian.  This has been carefully collated by Mr. C.D.  Locock, who prints the result in his “Examination of the Shelley Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library”, Oxford (Clarendon Press), 1903.  Our text is that of 1820, modified by edition 1839, and by the Bodleian fair copy.  In the following notes B = the Bodleian manuscript; 1820 = the editio princeps, printed by Marchant for C. and J. Ollier, London; and 1839 = the text as edited by Mrs. Shelley in the “Poetical Works”, 1st and 2nd editions, 1839.  The reader should consult the notes on the Play at the end of the volume.]


The Greek tragic writers, in selecting as their subject any portion of their national history or mythology, employed in their treatment of it a certain arbitrary discretion.  They by no means conceived themselves bound to adhere to the common interpretation or to imitate in story as in title their rivals and predecessors.  Such a system would have amounted to a resignation of those claims to preference over their competitors which incited the composition.  The Agamemnonian story was exhibited on the Athenian theatre with as many variations as dramas.

I have presumed to employ a similar license.  The “Prometheus Unbound” of Aeschylus supposed the reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim as the price of the disclosure of the danger threatened to his empire by the consummation of his marriage with Thetis.  Thetis, according to this view of the subject, was given in marriage to Peleus, and Prometheus, by the permission of Jupiter, delivered from his captivity by Hercules.  Had I framed my story on this model, I should have done no more than have attempted to restore the lost drama of Aeschylus; an ambition which, if my preference to this mode of treating the subject had incited me to cherish, the recollection of the high comparison such an attempt would challenge might well abate.  But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble as that of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor of mankind.  The moral interest of the fable, which is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endurance of Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as unsaying his high language and quailing

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