28 pages 56 minutes read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1813

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The Spiritual versus the Material

According to Queen Mab, the spiritual and the material are in tension with each other. Queen Mab exists wholly in the spiritual realm, and she shows Ianthe’s spirit what the earth looks like from a spiritual perspective, rather than from an earthly perspective. This large-scale view of all of history shows how damaging the emphasis on the material aspects of life, specifically wealth and power, has been for humanity.

Materialism distorts the human sense of value, causing monarchs to dismiss the suffering, starvation, poverty, and death of their subjects, and leading them to impose a permanent condition of despair and fear on their people. In turn, physical misery prevents people from acknowledging the spiritual aspects of life or recognizing that the most valuable quality in life is virtue. As a result, humans have lacked the proper reverence for nature, which is directly connected to spirituality and virtue, leading to greater and greater catastrophes.

Queen Mab tells Ianthe, whom she has chosen because her soul is still uncorrupted by materialist greed, that since the spirit survives after death and the body is unimportant, people should be more focused on preserving the quality of their souls than on accumulating riches or fulfilling earthly desires.