Front Page Titles (by Subject) Prometheus, Love, and Liberty - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1
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Prometheus, Love, and Liberty - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Prometheus, Love, and Liberty
“Shelley’s Prometheus: Destroyer and Preserver.” Studies in English Literature 18 (Fall 1978):625–638.
Prometheus Unbound (1819), the romantic poet Shelley’s lyrical drama, treats the themes of human perfectibility and freedom from force and tyranny achieved through the principle of love. In the four acts of his drama, Shelley declares “that nothing less than an unwavering, creatively imaginative concept of suffering, forgiveness, defiance of power, love, endurance, and hope can make humanity ‘Good, great, and joyous, beautiful and free.’”
Prometheus, for Shelley, is not a god or power outside mankind or outside the individual; he symbolizes, rather, the creative soul and highest potential of the human intellect and imagination latent within each person and within society. Yet at the drama’s opening, this symbol of man’s potential and freedom finds himself, through his own fault, chained and tortured by the tyrant god Zeus, who represents violence, hate vengeance and the power principle. Prometheus’ unfree condition is the result of his unloving, vengeful, violent and cursing response to Jupiter’s despotism. “Before he can be prepared to reanimate and preserve his imaginative creativity implicit in his reunion with Asia, Prometheus must recognize the need to destroy within himself the calculation- violence-power complex that has for so long motivated him.” Shelley’s personal, social, and political revolutionary process seeks to attain a new order of human existence based on love by exposing the essential identity of repressive violence and self-interested calculation.
It is only by Prometheus’ lovingly casting off his own “power-and vengeance-oriented principles” that he and mankind can break out of the cycle of hate and revenge. The human potential is in chains of hate that are of its own forging. Love and the new justice have nothing to do with cursing, vengeance, and power. This requires renouncing rationalistic retributive justice. Likewise the vision of Prometheus’ ability to liberate his potential rejects the “Puritan-Calvinistic notion of fallen man” forever condemned to suffering and subjugation by his very nature. Regeneration, freedom, and creativity are realizable if man chooses the principle of life-sustaining love against the death- principle of hatred, power, and violence. “The radicalism in this new approach is its quite clearly allowing for no participation in wars, assassinations, and executions— and for the presence of no prisons, legal property rights, social and racial class systems, political power blocks, or any other personal or societal concepts that are based on the principle of calculation.”
The political and personal liberation of mankind requires a mental and moral revolution to usher in a society of love and an order of “universal benign anarchy.” Shelley’s ideal of this creative revolution remains an open option for each human Prometheus to choose by transforming himself through a dedication to love and forgiveness.