Contents Index


Prometheus, in one strand of the myth, created human beings from clay, animating them with fire stolen from Zeus. In another strand he stole fire in order to free humanity from dependence upon the gods and was punished by Zeus by being chained to a peak in the Caucasus mountains; there as an emblem of human frustration an eagle daily tore at his liver, which was restored by night. Mary Shelley's father, William Godwin, to whom she dedicated her first novel, stressed the second of these strands in the section on Prometheus he wrote for his children's book, The Pantheon, or, Ancient History of the Gods of Greece and Rome, which he published under the pseudonymn Edward Baldwin in 1806. Mary Shelley's novel unifies all strands of the myth in a complex, multifaceted form. Its "modernity" for the second decade of the nineteenth century may apply broadly to revolutionary developments in political and scientific arenas over the previous generation that transformed the intellectual landscape of Europe. Although in the years intervening since the initial publication of Frankenstein, those terms may be thought to have changed radically, the novel's modernity seems to have remained curiously unaffected by such shifts in its local application.

Mary Shelley's husband Percy Bysshe Shelley began his own modernization of the Prometheus legend barely nine months after the publication of Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. His Prometheus Unbound was published in 1820.