◦ “Lewis Campbell.”. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
This essay is by Lewis Campbell (1830-1908), who later became a
well-respected Greek scholar, publishing, among other works, a translation
and study of Aeschylus (Dictionary of National Biography).
In this essay, Campbell compares two interpretations of the myth of Prometheus,
Aeschylus's and Shelley's. He sees Aeschylus's version as a triumph of
Athenian freedom over the despotism of Zeus. The triumph takes the form not
of a decisive victory, but of a reconcilement of “the interminable struggle
of human will and reason against a divinely imposed necessity” (261).
Shelley, on the other hand, centers his poem on human reason, and for him
Promethean emancipation is “the result, not of the independent ordinance of
a higher power, but of the self-working of an inherent energy” (264).
Campbell moves from his discussion of Aeschylus and Shelley to Bacon's essay
on “The Fable of Prometheus”, and from Bacon to a discussion of the conflict
between religion and science. He concludes with the notion that “the true
unbinding of Prometheus is not the triumph of reason, but the reconcilement
of science and philosophy with religion” (265).
First printed in
The Oxford and Cambridge Magazine
, May, 1856.