The day before yesterday, I took a look at the opening Gower chorus for Pericles. And I pretty much found it to be a mess.
Today, let’s take a look at the three Act Five choruses…
Act Five Chorus
After five choruses (one opening each act, plus Act Four, Scene Four), we as an audience have gotten into some kind of expectation: iambic tetrameter (for the most part), usually in rhyming couplets, and–oh, yeah–be ready for a dumb-show (maybe).
So what does the Act Five Chorus give us?
Not iambic tetrameter, but our usual “Shakespearean” iambic pentameter. And no dumb-show. But in place (?) of the dumb-show, we don’t get your basic couplets; no, we get six quatrains, each with an A-B-A-B rhyme scheme.
In other words, a completely different species. The first half of the speech concerns itself with Marina, and her successful transition from put-upon hymen-hugging non-sex worker to teacher of honest women. And the second half is about her pops, Pericles. Only it’s different. Whereas the first half discusses Marina with almost no reference to the concept of chorus or audience, the Pericles section seems specifically aimed at the audience:
- “turn our thoughts again” (V.Cho.12)
- “where we left him” (V.Cho.13)
- “we there him lost” (V.Cho.13)
- “here” (V.Cho.15)
- “our Tyrian ship” (V.Cho.18)
- “in your supposing once more put your sight” (V.Cho.21)
- “Please you sit and hark” (V.Cho.24)
Huh? Why the changes?
Act Five, Scene Two
Another mid-act chorus, and if you expected this to follow stylistically from the Act Five Chorus, you’d be sorely mistaken: 20 lines, all in iambic tetrameter couplets. Metrically, it’s most like the Act Three Chorus, only that one has a dumb-show. But not here.
Again why the changes?
Eighteen lines. The shortest of the play. All rhymed couplets, but all in iambic pentameter.
Like I said a couple of days back: this is a mess, with lots of rhyme but no reason.