Percy Shelley: Poems

write a note on the theme of the poem Adonais written by Shelley in about 800 words.

note on the theme of the poem Adonais written by Shelley

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The Power of Nature

Shelley discusses the power of both seen and unseen nature throughout his entire canon. This is primarily how critics have come to classify the bard as a "Romantic." Due to Shelley's fervid defense of a godless universe, he often turned to the sheer majestic power of the natural world. In the place of religious doctrine he wanted substantiated evidence of reality.


The theme of a godless universe cannot be separated from Shelley’s continuous reference to the inspiration he received from Nature. As with his Romantic contemporary poets (of both of the first two generations), Shelley maintained a philosophy that looked to the unfolding of our universe as a natural progress of time. Because of Shelley’s early convictions and his expulsion as a result of his inexorable atheistic views, he learned how unpopular atheism was in his society. As he matured, he became much better job at hiding his religious doubt and masking it in references to mythologies, biblical absurdity, and the comfort of self-admitted ignorance of the world’s greatest mysteries.


Although Shelley expresses it in many different ways, the idea of a majority being unjustly ruled by an oppressive few (with sometimes the few being unjustly persecuted by the many) is perhaps the most common theme in Shelley’s work. If there is one element of social theory to take from Shelley's poetry, it should be his determination to inspire the oppressed classes to engage in revolution against the tyranny of wicked institutions (the royal court, legal courts, other government systems, and churches). The upheaval in France during his lifetime, with the motions of the French Revolution fresh in the minds of many in Europe, was a strong influence on him (see, for example, his political pamphlet asserting a "Declaration of Rights").

Atheism is one example of this frequent theme. Yet, beyond his outcry against the oppressive elements of religion, Shelley saw himself as a radical voice for the people of his time in the broad fight against unjust governments and laws.

Social tyranny, however, involved personal injustices directed at Shelley. He was never able to come to terms with society's rejection of his unconventionality, especially in his romantic life. Although he was standing up against the wickedness of authority in the name of free people, he was outcast by the very people he sought to encourage, for they disapproved of his unconventional lifestyle in love and marriage in addition to his personal godlessness.


Shelley never stopped believing in the changes that could end all oppression in this world (in the Western world in particular). Wearing a bracelet inscribed with the verse of Milton, “il buon tempo verrà”—(“the good time will come”),, Shelley held firm to the conviction that the turn of the nineteenth century had been a pivotal point in the way human beings interacted with one another. Without doubt, there are examples of Shelley's times of pessimism and cynicism about the contemporary state of affairs. Yet, behind all of the skepticism and scorn lies a determined voice, full of hope, believing that people will eventually gather to overthrow various kinds of despotism.

Immortality vs. Mortality

Shelley did not really challenge the apparently scientific proof of mortality, but he did struggle with the notion of death in spirit. Death, represented often through water and reference to Greek mythology in his works, is a common occurrence in Shelley's canon. He is often found questioning both the future of the Romantic voice and the immortality of other voices (Plato, Milton, Dante, Greek and Roman myths, and so on).