These plays mark a decided change of tack from the series of tragedies which ends with Coriolanus. The first of them, Pericles, written in collaboration with George Wilkins, survives only in a poor and pirated copy. Omitted from the First Folio, it was dismissed by Ben Jonson as ‘a mouldy tale’. It would not appeal to Jonson’s classical taste, for it is a popular story of an old-fashioned kind, a romance derived from Apollonius of Tyre, of the third century, late in the Hellenistic period of Greek literature, one often recycled in the Middle Ages. Shakespeare relies on a version by Chaucer’s contemporary, John Gower, and the play has a Prologue spoken by Gower in a medieval kind of English verse, a signal to the audience to expect an old-fashioned romance. He changes the name of the King of Tyre from Apollonius to Pericles, a name he found in a modern ‘Greek’ pastoral romance, Sidney’s Arcadia (the source also of the Gloucester subplot to King Lear).
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- Late Romances
Prof. Michael Alexander
- Macmillan Education UK
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