Proserpine is based on Ovid's tale of the abduction of Proserpine by Pluto, which itself was based on the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone. Mary Shelley's version focuses on the female characters. In a largely feminist retelling from Ceres's point of view, Shelley emphasises the separation of mother and daughter and the strength offered by a community of women. Midas is largely concerned with gender issues. It comments on the definitions of femininity and masculinity in the early nineteenth century and the developing ideology of separate spheres which encouraged women to restrict themselves to domestic affairs and men to political affairs.
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Mary Shelley (30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). She also and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft died of puerperal fever ten days after Mary was born, and so she was brought up by her father. Though she received little formal education, her father tutored her in a broad range of subjects. Her last years were blighted by illness. From 1839, she suffered from headaches and bouts of paralysis in parts of her body, which sometimes prevented her from reading and writing. On 1 February 1851, at Chester Square, she died at the age of fifty-three from what her physician suspected was a brain tumour.
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