Shelley’s The Triumph of Life has its roots in the English masque tradition, an organic whole combining the distortions and chaos of the often grotesque antimasque with the metamorphosis in the masque proper, unwritten in this fragment but a requisite element because of the very nature of the genre. The “masked” narrator exists in a dream-like state traversing the past and present in déjà vu sequences, simulating the mind in dialogue with itself to “pierce the sphere / Of all that is, has been, or will be done.” Using the genre itself, passages from A Defence of Poetry, and the complex images and themes in the work itself, the image of the Moon emblematic in combining the ghost of its “dead mother,” the antimasque, with the new phase--the transformation in the unwritten masque proper, I argue that the answer to the final question, “Then, what is Life?” would have been revealed in the unwritten masque proper in which the narrator would have defeated the Proteus villain, the Shape, the source of delusion and loss of imagination.


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pp. 1193-1224
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