Pericles – Sources: Gower influences Gower

As with many of the plays in this Project, it looks as if Shakespeare used more than a single source for the story and style in Pericles.

Most prominent is the story of Apollonius of Tyre. His story had been translated first from its original Greek into Latin then into Old English and finally into “modern” English in late 1300s. This last translation was by a writer named John Gower. And if that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the name of Chorus in Shakespeare’s play. Gower’s version, De Confessione Amantis, contains a basic skeleton for the Shakespeare play. It also includes a chorus character, only in this case, the name of the character is Genius (Gower wasn’t meta enough to name the narrator after himself, I guess).

If the source contained the rough outline for the play, then why change the name of the main character? We don’t know for certain, but it appears that Shakespeare stole that name from a Greek hero in Sir Philip Sidney’s book, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

There was a translation of the Gower work by Lawrence Twine, The Patterne of Paineful Aduentures, which was printed originally in 1576, but reprinted in 1607. It’s possible that this was a source as well; it seems to be related to some of the Cleon and Dionyza subplot from Act Four.

Critical consensus is that the Gower choruses were influenced by Barnabe Barnes’ The Diuils Charter (from 1607) as well as The Trauailes of the Three English Brothers (from the same year), by John Day, William Rowley, and George Wilkins.

But more on that last guy later…