Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

An Analysis of Shelley's Love

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

An Analysis of Shelley's Love

Article excerpt


Shelley was renowned for his romantically passionate poems, and his controversial personal life and characteristics remain a butt of argument. From the perspective of personality psychology, this essay examines some of the crucial critiques and works of Shelley, suggests that Shelley may be a candidate for histrionic personality disorder.

Key words: Shelley; Free love; Personality disorder; Histrionic personality

Li, G. (2014). An Analysis of Shelley's Love. Studies in Literature and Language, 9(1), 140-144. Available from: DOI:


Percy Bysshe Shelley, one the most notorious poets in Romantic Britain, remains an enigmatic figure in the literary history. What kind of man indeed is he like? Is Shelley a demonic dandy in the eyes of his contemporaries, or the legendary hero for the young revolutionaries? Or, as labeled by the eye-catching title of a website, Shelley was a "neurotic poet"? Along with his outrageously flaming lines and scandalous personal anecdotes, Shelley's life, full of sensuous pleasure, has become an eternal gossiping butt for poetry critics. Then what's the personality of Percy Bysshe Shelley? This essay is trying to examine the poet from the perspective of personality psychology.


About a century ago, when The Interpretation of Dreams was published, no one would imagine it was to sway the literary criticism so much. Literary studies extend arms towards all the illuminations from various findings of human civilization. As modern psychology has become full-fledged since Sigmund Freud's studies on consciousness, literary critics cannot hesitate to benefit from the inspirations of personality studies to pore over poets - the most mysterious while messy minds in the human history. A type of disordered personality is diagnosed as histrionics in abnormal psychology. Although the studies into histrionic personality have been taken from ancient Greeks, they have been treated as the symptom with a womb going astray. Researchers found that more women than men were prone to be caught down with the allegedly hysterical disorders. It was Freud who described the histrionic syndrome in the category of hysteria. Bernheim and Charcot ascribed the disordered personality to hysterically outbursting emotions suppressed by obstruction in feelings venting (Million, 2007, p.152).

Freud regarded hysteria a recompense of suppressed sexual desire, while Theodore Million considered it a disordered personality and elaborated this symptom with concrete illustrations. Simply speaking, modern psychology describes the histrionic personality as people try to catch public attention with desperate emotional demonstrations in pompous or provocative manners in order to seek admiration. Panting after the attention from a big audience, histrionics sway glamorous dramatics on the stage of their life. Besides, in the society, people with histrionic maneuvers are often regarded charming because of their outgoing, hilarious tempers.


Is Shelley a histrionic person? Let's approach him by a smattering of his personal living history. The chronology of this poet is a gossip of juicy tidbits. Born as the eldest son from a baronet family on August, 4th 1792, Shelley outperformed as an active and highly imaginative child, which caused a long lasting worship from his girl cousins. As a rebellious student, Shelley was not content at Eton nor at Oxford. During his college years, he "dressed and behaved with provoking eccentricity", wrote an illegally atheistic essay which incurred his expel from school and from his paternal family (Drabble, 1985, p.894).

Shelley also extolled the boundless love in his essay "On Love" and tried to share his wife with a boyhood friend Hogg, later kept a triangular relationship with Mary Shelley and Jane 'Claire' Clairmont for strikingly eight years (Drabble, 1985, p. …

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