Discussion questions for Prometheus Unbound Act II

After reading Act II, I asked myself, "God, where do I begin?" and I realized that this question may lend itself not only to rhetorical thinking, but more importantly to the contextual scope of this act!

[1] Fire imagery is prevalent throughout Scene I, for example: "white star"(17), "orange light"(18), "burn"(30), "plumes"(34), "Steam'd forth like vaporous fire"(75), etc. Obviously, one should link these incendiary images to the crime of Prometheus, and in doing so might interpret them as connection between Act I and Act II. However, could you see these images as "clues" or bits of evidence which correspond to the role of Asia and "sister" Panthea in Act II? In what way do these two women (Asia in particular) proceed through a similar "criminal behavior" in the eyes of Demogorgon and perhaps the Spirit of the Hour? Think: transgression of the human condition...

[2] The main action of scene I is Panthea's retelling of her dream to Asia (I.57-108). This remembrance serves to qualify the human mind and to realize its potentiality. What is troubling is the way in which the psyche "acts" (or in this case responds). Panthea's dream represents cerebral passivity and absorption - why is this included here? Furthermore, what is the significance of the "all-dissolving power"(76), and how does your answer correspond to Question #1? *whew!*

[3]*easier* Again we see the amorphous shapes and dark shadows, the "identity" of which Shelley still conceals from us. What is your interpretation of these obscurities and "shadow[s] of some unforeseen power" now that we have been introduced to Asia, Panthea, and their scene in the lovely Vale? That is to say, do these characters face that same closed circle that ensnare Shelley's other works? "--what canst thou see / But thine own fairest shadow imaged there?" (I.112,113)

[4] Form and content collide as the sister Asia progresses. She follows the shade (arguably reaching higher cognitive processes) to arrive at The Truth, but the language Shelley uses demonstrates a descent (a la Dante's Inferno). Also noteworthy is that the shade operates as guide and impetus - she is not arriving at this place of knowledge on her own. Physical light and the heavens dim as we travel into the recesses, the "caverns" of the human mind.

[5] Discuss the Faun "Interlude" of scene II. What scientific theory are they discussing, but more importantly why are these characters here? Why include them in this setting - refer back to the atmosphere of this act, the tree images of II.1-13), and also the description of the descent (II.18-42).

[6] The avalanche analogy reminds me of Mont Blanc (for obvious reasons) but in what way are Asia and Panthea's progression and journey a confirmation of "the great truth [loosened]"(II.40-41)? Derrida's theory might help (not that I believe it :) )

[7] Doppelganger "Unbound"! Trace the many instances of the double in this act - Asia and Panthea? The double-endentres of Demogorgon's curt responses? The Fauns? (gave that question away!), others?

[8] In addition to the journey, Asia also follows a progression in the questions that she asks Demogorgon, arriving at a longer, comprehensive, almost accusatory inquiry into human suffering (IV.19-28). Why does Asia answer her own question? Her "understanding" of causality is central to the entire play, again this circle of fire. Does Shelley provide an out (escape)? "Who is the master of the slave" (IV.113) she asks, but I wonder how does the slave become enslaved? There are two "agents" here, but they are both part of the same chain.

[9] Discuss the meeting with the Spirit of the Hour and the "Ben Hurr" chariot racing at the end. In what way is this relevant to the human...*cough cough*...race? Also explain Asia's new demeanor after she "ascends" (reemerges). Does it matter or make any difference in the human condition of things?

[10] On a more general note, is obscurity clarity in most of Shelley's work? We humans can never return to the origin of The Truth, so is it sufficient that we know that the chaos exists? Or is it our human duty and responsibility to comprehend Shelley's shapes and shadows?

[1] Right off the bat, the most bothersome point of Act III is that "nothing good happens in it!" Why did Shelley deliberately keep the action-packed rescue of Prometheus and the intriguing overthrow of Zeus completely off stage?

*noteworthy exchange between Demogorgon and Zeus: "I am thy child, as thou wert Saturn's child" / "Detested prodigy!" (I.54 and 62). Uh, dad can I take over the family business? We see that the cycle of fate (replacement and revolution) even plows through the designs of the mightiest of gods.

[2] Furthermore, should we show pathos towards Zeus? In most of his lines, ironic dialogue underscores every statement he makes. He is wary of his fate, yet chooses to ignore and then ultimately combat it (I.70-83). Can you contrast Zeus's reaction to Demogorgon's will with Panthea's dream or Asia's "blind faith" from act II?

[3] Prometheus's freedom and the emergence of Panthea and Asia from the celestial cart marks the idealistic close of Act III. Symbolism of rebirth, renewal, and retrail abound here. What symbiotics can you pick out from the last few pages (cave? Spirit transforms to child-form? artwork (III.54-56) and the reversals in nature (IV.79-85))

[4] The descriptions of a new, ideal mankind as "Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed [and] / ... Equal, unclassed, tribeless and nationless, / Exempt from awe, worship, degree [of a King]" (IV.194-196) reemphasizes rejuvenation, but if you take it one step further to a socio-political level, what is Shelley promoting here? The overthrow of a tyrant has already occurred, he does not concern himself with this, instead he is offering a modern governance, I think...

--Andrew Frankel