An English playwright
who was the first to attempt a critic
of the works of Shakespeare
. Rowe became poet laureate
in 1715 and was also the best known English tragic dramatist
of the 18th century, doing much to encourage domestic
writers of tragedy
Rowe became a barrister in 1696 and as an ardent Whig entered politics and held several minor government posts. His early plays, The Ambitious Step-Mother and Tamerlane, owe much to John Dryden's heroic drama in their pomp and bluster but they still contain elements which would develop inot the pathos of The Fair Penitent and his other later works.
The Fair Penitent is certainly significant in that its hero, Lothario, was apparently the inspiration of Lovelace, Samuel Richardson's romantic lead in his novel Clarissa - not to mention giving a new word for an attractive rake to the English language.
Rowe later paid homage to Shakespeare in The Tragedy of Jane Shore where he managed a creditable imitation of the Bard's style and once more in The Tragedy of the Lady Jane Grey.
Rowe's own poetic output included several odes and many translations of the Classics, mostly Roman and Greek poets' work. His version of the Roman poet Lucian's Pharsalia was written in heroic couplets and published posthumously in 1718. This work was greatly admired and further imitated throughout the remainder of the eighteenth century