28 pages 56 minutes read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1813

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Literary Devices

Form and Meter

“Queen Mab” is an epic poem with its narrative divided into nine books. The poem is blank verse, which means that it has no rhyme pattern. Its lines are frequently written in iambic pentameter (which means that there are five groups of iambs per line; an iamb is a grouping of two syllables: one stressed and one unstressed). While the framing narrative of the poem consists of a narrator-speaker describing a sleeping Ianthe in the material world, the middle sections of the poem are largely composed of a dialogue between Queen Mab, the fairy who can see the past, present, and future, and Ianthe’s disembodied spirit. This structure creates a teacher-student relationship between the two characters, and allows Shelley to express his idealistic political and social views through Queen Mab.


Shelley draws on folklore, religious texts, poetry, and political philosophy.

The poem’s main character, Queen Mab, is a figure invented by Shakespeare. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio’s monologue about the ways dreams and fantasies can lead one astray refers to Queen Mab as the midwife of the fairies—the one who helps birth visions.