Revising Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”: Dramatizing the Mythical in Mary Shelley’s “Proserpine”
This contribution intends to assess the web of intertextual references in Mary Shelley’s drama Proserpine (1820), an early example of Romantic interest in revisionist mythology. The few critical efforts on the text focus on its transposition of the Ovidian narrative and its proto-feminist instances of mythical revisionism. Shelley’s adaptation primarily concerns characterization, structure and intended audience. In light of Ostriker’s (1980) suggestion that revisionist myth-making in women’s literary production constitutes a significant reshaping of shared culture and personal identity, Proserpine generally reads as a tale of defiance against patriarchal violence. The thoroughness of the existing scholarship on its portrayal of gender performance calls for an evidence-based study of the text as a literary adaptation. With reference specifically to Ovid’s episode of Proserpine’s rape in the Metamorphoses 5.346 ff, I intend to assess Shelley’s analogue in light of its performative component.