That Guy Gower

OK, throughout the course of the play Pericles, we get a number of choric interruptions by Gower.

So who is this guy?

John Gower was an English writer who lived from around 1330 to 1408. He was a contemporary and friend of Chaucer’s. He wrote major works in French, Latin, and English. So he was kind of a big deal (though since Shakespeare’s day, Gower’s stock has taken a tumble).

Well, as I mentioned before, he was the author of one of the major sources of the play, the late fourteenth century work, Confessio Amantis, a 33,000-line English-language poem, which contains a story of Apollonius of Tyre, which matches our play in plot. A couple of things of note here:

  • Confessio Amantis is an anthology piece (like Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or Boccaccio’s Decameron), with characters within the piece telling stories. And within the Apollonius section, the choric figure is named Genius. And of course, Gower is our choric figure.
  • At the time of the work’s composition, the major writers of the day (Chaucer included) began to move from octosyllabic lines to pentameter. However, Gower kept with the old(er)-school eight syllable rhyming couplets. And within our play, Gower mostly speaks in iambic tetrameter rhyming couplets (though with a couple very interesting exceptions…that I’ll talk about later).

So that’s who Gower is.

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