28 pages 56 minutes read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1813

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Book VIIChapter Summaries & Analyses

Book VII Summary

Ianthe’s spirit remembers seeing an atheist burned alive when she was a child. When she wept, her mother told her not to cry because the man deserved to die because didn’t believe in God. Queen Mab replies that the name of God has been abused by humans for much of history—hypocritical priests speak of peace while “making the earth a slaughterhouse!” (Line 7.48).

Queen Mab calls forth another spirit, Ahasuerus. When Ianthe’s spirit asks him if there is a God, Ahasuerus tells her about an angry deity who doomed humanity to suffering to enact malicious “revenge / (Which you, to men, call justice)” (Line 7.126), and then made enslaved people build temples. Even after God decided to bring his son Jesus to earth to redeem humanity, millions remained cursed to burn in Hell for not believing in Jesus. Jesus spoke of virtue, but inspired “the quenchless flames of zeal” (Line 7.170) for violence and destruction. As punishment for mocking Jesus, Ahasuerus is cursed to wander earth forever—another example of the way God’s worshippers “unsheathe the sword of his revenge” (Line 7.226). Christians frequently go against their natural impulses, murdering brothers and friends. They then avoid their pangs of guilt through appeals to God’s justice.