28 pages 56 minutes read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1813

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Book VChapter Summaries & Analyses

Book V Summary

In the society that Queen Mab shows the spirit, commerce corrupts everything with its “poison-breathing shade” (Line 5.44) and wealth is idolized. The masses die young in poverty, and virtues such as love are devalued or even put up for sale. The only sacred thing in such a society is “all-enslaving power” (Line 5.54). People’s souls are deadened, and their passionate emotions are limited only to fear. Rulers boast of their increasing wealth, even though human happiness is the cost of their increased fame and power. A regular man who desires to live a quiet, simple life inevitably suffers: His wife and children are famished, his days are filled with meaningless effort, and his future is bleak. Queen Mab wonders how many Miltons, Catos, or Newtons lived under such conditions and never realized their abilities.

However, death comes to all, regardless of the power one has during life. The virtuous do not need to fear death, as their hearts will be weighed and judged according to their virtue. Conversely, the greedy are denied this peace: Just as they spent their time on earth filled with bitterness, envy, and hunger for power, so too when “they hope that quiet to enjoy” (Line 5.