Study Guide

Adonais Art and Culture

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Art and Culture

Though ostensibly about the death of a character from Greek mythology, Adonais is actually an elegy for a young poet who died at the height of his career. The reason for his death? According to Shelley, he was killed by unfair criticism and a lack of appreciation for literary talents. Throughout the poem, Shelley begs us to appreciate those that use "higher" thought to create masterpieces of literature and poetry, and admonishes those that dismiss these artists and their work. To Shelley, there is no honor higher than to be a great poet, full of lofty thoughts and artistic talent. (What a coincidence he was one, right?)

Questions About Art and Culture

  1. How does Shelley characterize poets? What roles are they given, both on earth and in the afterlife? What does this say about his opinions on their importance?
  2. What does the choice of Adonais as a symbol for Keats say about Shelley's opinion of the poet? What did Keats do to earn this opinion and portrayal?
  3. Does the speaker think that most people appreciate art and culture?
  4. How are those that negatively criticize good art portrayed? What did Shelley think of these critics?

Chew on This

It seems to be the great poets that are given the highest honors in the afterlife, rather than any other profession. That's a pretty convenient way for a poet to think about the universe, isn't it?

Haters to the left: Shelley is not a fan of critics, and for good reason.

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