Gower Bibliography

Recovering Medieval Memory in Shakespeare's 'Pericles'

Baldo, Jonathan. "Recovering Medieval Memory in Shakespeare's 'Pericles'." South Atlantic Review 79.3-4 (2015), pp. 171-88. ISSN 0277-335X


Baldo offers a broad and provocative consideration of the role of memory in "Pericles," including the ways in which the adventures of the eponymous king and his family might have suggested to Shakespeare's audience the memory of their national past at a time, following the Reformation, when historical memory was contested and when changes in religion practice altered the relationship to one's ancestors and thus to the past. Gower, in his appearances in the prologue and epilogue to the play, is resurrected from his nearby tomb in order to enact a kind of recovery of the past while also marking its difference, and he does so not just in his archaic language and verse form but also, as a teller of moral stories himself, in the lessons he offers on the use of the past, a practice that Shakespeare imitates in reviving him. "'Pericles' recalls a world where memory's value and sway were more stable than they were in post-Reformation England, and indeed in most of Shakespeare's own plays. Awash in restorations of various kinds, 'Pericles' stages a recovery of not only a particular voice of the late Middle Ages, but also its culture of memory" (172). In contrast to some of Shakespeare's other plays, "memory has the less equivocal function of promoting recovery, virtue, and eventually redemption, and in this respect Shakespeare appears to be following the lead of Gower himself, who in the "Confessio" casts memory as a virtue and forgetting as a source of manifold evils; memory as a source of psychological and political unity, and forgetting as a source of distraction and division" (178). Gower "bestrides the gulf between pre- and post-Reformation England, thereby helping audiences to recollect the very different status that recollection itself held in the period in which he lived and wrote. A bodied memory of late medieval England and a poet of memory who in his own time sought to shake a people out of their mnemonic slumber by teaching them how to recollect the past and thereby achieve psychological and political wholeness, Gower fittingly presides over a public, ceremonial restoration to life of the recently broken and buried culture of memory that not a few of Shakespeare's contemporaries apparently wished to exhume, if only for the two hours' traffic of the stage" (183). [PN. Copyright. The John Gower Society. eJGN 35.1.]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Influence and Later Allusion
Confessio Amantis

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