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SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
ACT I, INTRODUCTION
The narrator John Gower introduces the play and acts as a chorus of one to comment on the action. Telling the audience that he has come back "from ashes", Gower reveals the history of Antiochus the great. This powerful king of Antioch has an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Unfortunately for him, her great beauty attracts many suitors. Antiochus devises a plan to keep her with him and yet hide his secret. He proclaims that her suitors must solve a particular riddle. If they fail, they will be killed. Gower adds that many innocent men have lost their lost their lives already, and leaves the reader to observe what will happen to the next suitor, Pericles, the Prince of Tyre.
It is possible Shakespeare uses a narrator to summarize and introduce each act in the play because of the time spanned. In all, a period of about twenty years is covered in the action of Pericles. Such a lengthy period of time might become cumbersome or impossible to sustain onstage without the placement of an all- knowing commentator who can strategically bridge the gaps between years. Shakespeare's choice of the poet John Gower as his all-knowing narrator is equally strategic. In the fourteenth century, John Gower wrote the Confesio Amantis, a literary work about the prince of Tyre. In Pericles, Shakespeare seizes on Gower's work and transforms it, fleshing it out fully with all the elements of a good epic drama/romance. The narrator John Gower is apparently the spirit or ghost of the long dead poet, compelled from the grave to introduce the dramatization of his early work and assist the viewer in witnessing the enactment.