Proserpine and Midas (1820) is a collection of plays by Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Combining Mary’s blank verse and Percy’s lyric poems, the Shelleys offer two groundbreaking retellings of classical myth. Together, the plays illuminate the working relationship of a husband and wife who helped define Romanticism, highlighting their individual talents in the process. While Proserpine was published in 1832 in The Winter’s Wreath, a London periodical, Mary Shelley was unable to find a publisher for Midas, which remained unprinted until the twentieth century.
Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, leaves her daughter Proserpine in the care of two trusted nymphs. While the women are out picking flowers, Proserpine is kidnapped by Pluto, the dreaded lord of the underworld. Distraught, Ceres laments the loss of her beloved girl and appeals to Jove for assistance. Proserpine is a retelling of an ancient myth which remains mostly faithful to its source while emphasizing the feminist qualities of its tragic content.
In Midas, the wild god Pan is defeated in a musical competition by Apollo, god of the sun. Determined to claim victory, he arranges a new contest with King Midas as judge. Although his power on earth is unmatched by any human, Midas soon learns that to play at divinity one risks reaping the greatest of sorrows. Proserpine and Midas is a masterful take on two of ancient Greece’s central myths.
Using their talents for narrative and song, the Shelleys adapt these well-known stories for the nineteenth century and beyond, showcasing their sociopolitical significance in a world defined by the democratic ideals of the Greeks. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Proserpine and Midas is a classic of English literature reimagined for modern readers.