Elmore, Lauren Tinsley
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This paper analyzes the thematic motivations of the Earth’s “sex change,” from female to male, in Act IV of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound. In the first three acts of Prometheus Unbound, Shelley presents the Earth as a specifically female character, a motherly influence for the suffering Prometheus. However, in the fourth act, the Earth is suddenly gendered male; the Moon refers to him as “Brother mine,” and the celestial pair call to each other in an erotically charged, symbolic masque. Few critics make mention of this sudden change, and those who do dismiss it as either the poet’s error or as another unintelligible facet of his branching, associative imagery. However, this choice to re-gender the character does not appear to be an oversight—especially since Shelley devoted many lines and drafts to the fourth act, including one version in which the Earth was still “Sister mine”—and this paper investigates the reasoning behind and the implications of the switch. In particular, this paper claims that Shelley must swap a masculine voice for the Earth’s previously feminine voice in order to symbolize and validate Prometheus’s social revolution, because the narrative has established revolutionary speech as a male prerogative.