With great power comes great responsibility

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Screenshot of Wikimedia using the phrase for its guidelines for how to edit Wikipedia.

"With great power there must also come great responsibility", or simply "With great power comes great responsibility", alternatively known as the Peter Parker principle, is a proverb popularized by the Spider-Man comic books written by Stan Lee, though clearly conceptually dating from (at the latest) 1793, during the French Revolution. That formulation is used by journalists and book authors, in politics, monarchic rhetoric, law enforcement, public safety, and in various media.[1][2][3][4]


The origins of the phrase pre-date its use in Spider-Man, though its exact origins are unknown. In a Plan de travail, de surveillance et de correspondance, proposé par le Comité de Salut Public aux Représentants du Peuple, députés prés des Armées de la République of the French National Convention in 1793,[5] there is this sentence: Ils doivent envisager qu'une grande responsabilité est la suite inséparable d'un grand pouvoir ("They [the Representatives] must contemplate that a great responsibility is the inseparable result of a great power"). In 1817, British Member of Parliament William Lamb is recorded saying, "the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility."[6] In 1906, Under-Secretary of the Colonial Office Winston Churchill said, "Where there is great power there is great responsibility," even indicating that it was already a cultural maxim invoked toward government at the time.[7][8][9]

In Spider-Man stories[edit]

The thematic and often-quoted (including by the Supreme Court of the United States[10]) Spider-Man phrase with great power comes great responsibility is widely attributed to Uncle Ben. However, in Amazing Fantasy #15, where it first appears, it is not spoken by any character. In fact, Ben has only two lines in the entire comic. The original version of the phrase appears in a narrative caption of the comic's last panel, rather than as spoken dialogue. It reads, "...with great power there must also come -- great responsibility!".[11][12][13]

However, later stories and flashbacks that took place when Ben was still alive retroactively made the phrase one of Ben's many homilies he would lecture Peter with.[13] Latter-day reinterpretations of Spider-Man, such as the Spider-Man film and the Ultimate Spider-Man comic, depict Ben as saying this phrase to Peter in their last conversation.


Comic book writer Greg Pak opined that the motto was "one of the greatest single moral injunctions in all of American pop culture".[14][15]

See also[edit]

  • Damocles
  • Noblesse oblige
  • The Bible, Luke 12:48: "To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked."


  1. ^ "'With great power, comes great responsibility' - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Is CRISPR really a gene-ius discovery?". The Daily Campus. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  3. ^ Editor, Parker Otto. "Marvel Cinematic Universe evolves film itself". Northern Star Online. Retrieved 28 April 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Steve Ditko's Gift To All: 'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility'". The Federalist. 9 July 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. ^ Nationale (Paris), Convention (2 April 1793). "Collection générale des décrets rendus par la Convention Nationale". chez Baudouin – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Parliamentary Debates: Official Report : ... Session of the ... Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". 2 April 2019 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ South African native races. Mr. Winston Churchill, accessed July 31, 2015.
  8. ^ "With great power comes great responsibility". www.qualitymag.com. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Arrow & Flash Both Just Referenced Spider-Man". ScreenRant. 21 March 2019. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  10. ^ Masnick, Mike. "Supreme Court Quotes Spiderman's 'Great Power, Great Responsibility' Line In Rejecting Royalties On Expired Patent". Techdirt. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
  11. ^ The Evolution of the Pithy Proverb: "With great power comes great responsibility." at Quote/Counterquote. Accessed April 11, 2013
  12. ^ "What Constitutional Lawyers can Learn from Spiderman". Reason.com. 16 November 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  13. ^ a b "When We First Met - When Did Uncle Ben First Say "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility?"". CBR. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Opinion | Thank you, Stan Lee, for She-Hulk, a superhero who is beautiful when she's angry". Washington Post. Retrieved 29 April 2019.
  15. ^ George, Robert A. "The woke world of Stan Lee: From the start, Marvel broke ground for inclusion and diversity". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 29 April 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]