The Sources of Romance, the Generation of Story, and the Patterns of the Pericles Tales

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Abstract

That romance elements pervade both Shakespeare’s oeuvre and his larger literary culture has long troubled claims for Shakespeare’s exceptionalism. The late plays must be admitted to employ romance tropes, to reflect the period’s enchantment with romance in all its forms, and even, in several cases, to depend heavily on a single nondramatic romance source-all features that undermine the singularity of Shakespearean genius. Even the labeling of the late plays as “Shakespearean romance” has worked precisely to set this single-author subgenre apart from its era’s taste for nondramatic romance.1 In 1877, Edward Dowden dubbed the plays of Shakespeare’s final phase “romances,” but he never used the term romance for their prose sources, which he called “stories” or “tales.”2 In the century since, Dowden’s label has persisted, his nonce category for part of Shakespeare’s “art-life” becoming the name of a genre, a set of “family resemblances . . . key to the generic teleology of the late plays.”3 And, crucial for this volume, over the same period, another branch of Shakespeare criticism, source study, widened the distance between the plays and their known sources in, among other genres, prose romance.4 However, in the case of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, keeping romance distinctly Shakespearean has proven almost impossible, for the play is so inextricably tied to its nondramatic romance intertexts that it has baffled not just source study but even authorial attribution.5 To turn the case around, this essay draws on the Pericles tales-meaning the play and its most immediate verse and prose intertexts-to consider why source study has denied certain kinds of knowledge about the romance lineage of Shakespearean drama and to bring that knowledge more appreciatively to light.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStaging Early Modern Romance
Subtitle of host publicationProse Fiction, Dramatic Romance, and Shakespeare
EditorsMary Ellen Lamb, Valerie Wayne
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages21-46
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781135895259
ISBN (Print)9780203882078
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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  • Cite this

    Newcomb, L. H. (2009). The Sources of Romance, the Generation of Story, and the Patterns of the Pericles Tales. In M. E. Lamb, & V. Wayne (Eds.), Staging Early Modern Romance: Prose Fiction, Dramatic Romance, and Shakespeare (pp. 21-46). Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203882078-7