Pericles, Prince of Tyre PDF/EPUB æ Pericles, Prince

Pericles, Prince of Tyre PDF/EPUB æ Pericles, Prince

Pericles, Prince of Tyre ❴KINDLE❵ ❆ Pericles, Prince of Tyre Author William Shakespeare – Pericles tells of a prince who risks his life to win a princess, but discovers that she is in an incestuous relationship with her father and flees to safety He marries another princess, but she dies g Pericles tells of a prince who risks his life to win a princess, but discovers that she is in an incestuous relationship with her father and flees to safety He marries another princess, but she dies giving birth to their daughter The adventures continue from one disaster to Pericles, Prince PDF/EPUB ² another until the grownup daughter pulls her father out of despair and the play moves toward a gloriously happy ending.

10 thoughts on “Pericles, Prince of Tyre

  1. Bill Kerwin Bill Kerwin says:

    The first half (maybe three-fifths) of Pericles contains the worst writing found in any Shakespeare play. Fortunately for Shakespeare's reputation, he didn't write it: some hack--probably the ephemeral George Wilkins--is responsible instead. Much of the verse of the first three acts is difficult, but not in the way late Shakespeare is often difficult (an extraordinary concentration and richness of language), but because it is poorly constructed (or reported) and makes little or no sense, particularly when it is straining after a rhyme. Add to these shoddy verses an episodic plot barely held together by the wearying doggerel monologues by the poet Gower (even worse than the poetry of the real Gower, which takes some doing), and you are confronted with an extremely boring and occasionally infuriating play.

    And then . . . Shakespeare takes over, somewhere slightly before the brothel scene I think, and he produces some passages of great charm, including two scenes of restoration and reconciliation that can stand with their counterparts in the tragi-comedies--which is high praise indeed. Any fan of The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline and The Tempest will greatly enjoy these scenes. But as far as I'm concerned, it wouldn't hurt you to skip the rest.

  2. Ted Ted says:

    To sing a song that old was sung,
    From ashes ancient Gower is come,
    Assuming man’s infirmities
    To glad your ear and please your eyes.

    By any measure available here on goodreads, this is one on Will’s worst plays. In terms of the average rating from my friends (3.0) it’s only beaten (on the downside) by the 2.75 of Cymbeline. Probably has something to do with the fact that it isn’t one of Will’s plays. Wasn’t included in the First Folio of 1623 (even though it had been printed during his life with his name on it); then was included (with six others) in the third Folio (1664). Of those seven, Pericles is the only one to survive in my edition of his works - the other six have been tossed away.

    BUT … it’s known that he had no hand in writing most of the play. Nothing of the first two acts, then “some” of what follows. In particular, it’s known that he wrote the two brothel scenes in Act IV (IV.ii and Of course my Shakespeare is over sixty years old. In that time it’s certain that the vast bulk of Shakespeare research and scholarship has been concerned with nothing but trying to establish exactly which words of this play were written by Will! One current theory is that Shakespeare is responsible for only the indefinite articles in the play. The rather shocking evidence for this claim is a scrap of paper unearthed a few years ago, which seems to be in Shakespeare’s handwriting, reading, “I.ii A a an a”. Compare this to

    SCENE II. Tyre. A room in the palace.

    [Enter PERICLES]
    PER. [To LORDS without] Let none disturb us. –
    Why should this change of thoughts,
    The sad companion, dull-eyed melancholy,
    Be my so used a guest as not an hour …

    [then, 37 lines later, the next indefinite article appears]

    … but a spark …
    So apparently, Shakespeare had supplied a complete list of the indefinite articles, and the order in which they were to be used in the play. (Something of the reverse of the great Italian Renaissance painters who would leave minor parts of paintings for underlings to do. Here the master did the small work.)

    Which Pericles?

    Some readers may know of the great Athenian orator and statesman who went by this name

    Not the guy. This play is based on a Roman tale from the fifth or sixth century about a different Pericles, this one a prince of Tyre.

    As you can see, not so impressive a specimen.

    Anyway, the Roman piece was retold in English by a cat named Gower, a contemporary of Chaucer, back around 1400. It’s an exceedingly long, complicated tale, taking place in several different locales: Antioch, Tyre, Tarsus, Pentapolis, Ephesus, Mytilene, plus scenes on more than one ship. (The Elizabethan production won a Tony award for set design.) (view spoiler)[One of the fascinating discoveries of recent scholarship is that these Mediterranean locations listed in the third Folio were not the locations used in the Elizabethan production. Instead, these locations were all cities in Florida - with of course the most exciting scenes of the play (including the brothel scenes) taking place not in Mytilene but in Miami. (hide spoiler)]

  3. Rachel Rachel says:

    This was fucking bananas and by no means Shakespeare’s most accomplished or most coherent work (which would make sense, given that he only coauthored it) and it felt like it was trying to be 12 different plays (of 12 different genres) crammed into one, but my god I enjoyed it SO MUCH? I think this is how most people feel about Shakespeare’s comedies (which I can’t warm up to)—it’s unapologetically ridiculous but thrilling and full of heart. Really pleasantly surprised by this.

  4. Darwin8u Darwin8u says:

    “Opinion's but a fool, that makes us scan the outward habit by the inward man.”
    ― William Shakespeare, Pericles


    Pericles, Prince of Tyre has a foot in the cannon and a foot outside it. It wasn't part of the First Folio, but I decided to still read it this year so I could basically still say I read everything. The play threw me a bit off my 3 x 12 schedule, but meh. Sometimes, you gotta do what ye gotta do. Fair warning GR friends, most likely, the first two acts are NOT composed by the Bard, but the last three make up a lot of the ground. Also, I'm pretty sure Shakespeare spiced a few of George Wilkins' lines in the first two.

    No doubt some mouldy tale,
    Like Pericles; and stale
    As the Shrieve's crusts, and nasty as his fish—
    Scraps out of every dish
    Throwne forth, and rak't into the common tub
    - Ben Jonson, Ode (to Himself)

    Anyway, it begins with an incest riddle and ends with the unwinding and winding back of Pericles' family. There is, packed into this play, a few moments of brilliance AND the story is interesting (just not brilliant). Some of the characters were boring, undercooked, and flat, but I tend to agree with T.S. Eliot about how amazing the reunion (recognition) scene is between Pericles and his daughter.

    Favorite quotes:

    ― “Few love to hear the sins they love to act.” Act 1, Scene 1

    ― “Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.” - Act 1, Scene 2

    ― “Who makes the fairest show means the most deceit.” - Act 1, Scene 4

  5. Manny Manny says:


    Although superficially similar in form, most scholars do not consider that the Abridged Pericles belongs to the Madelinian Canon; the most plausible theory holds that it was partly or wholly composed by an imitator, possibly a Manfred Reiner (the spelling is uncertain), who lived in Geneva around 2013.

    Pericles, Prince of Tyre (abridged version)

    ANTIOCHUS: Here's a riddle: if you can't guess, I'm going to kill you. What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening, and sleeps with his daughter?

    PERICLES: Humbert Humbert?

    ANTIOCHUS: Close enough. But I'm going to kill you anyway.

    PERICLES: Hey, no fair!

    [Dumb show. Pericles flees Antioch, is shipwrecked, falls in love with Thaisa, marries her, incorrectly believes she has died in childbirth, dumps her body in the sea, places his newborn daughter in the care of an idiot and his homicidal consort, etc. Distressed by this unfortunate series of events, he decides to stop visiting his hairdresser]

    PERICLES: [much longer hair] Her voice was ever soft and low
    An excellent thing in woman.

    ATTENDANT: His wits are wandering, he thinks he's Lear.

    PERICLES: And my poor fool is hanged.

    ATTENDANT: He means his wife.

    [Enter MARINA and THAISA]

    MARINA: Hello Daddy!

    PERICLES: Thou livest!

    THAISA: There was a mixup. They hanged a different fool.

    PERICLES: Yay! Group hug!

    CHORUS: Don't you wish you could write like William Shakespeare and his unknown collaborator?


  6. David Sarkies David Sarkies says:

    Man on the Run
    4 November 2017

    Well, I believe that I've got seven plays, and the poems, and I would have read all of Shakespeare's extant works. While I do have a copy of his complete works sitting in my lounge room, a part of me doesn't want to read it, first of all because it is a huge volume and would be quite unwieldy while sitting on a crowded morning train, and it would also add an unbearable amount of weight to my already fraying backpack. Since I do prefer the Signet editions (namely because of the essays contained therein) I'm going to have to trawl through some more second hand bookshops to see if I can get my hands on the missing volumes.

    Time and time again I have been commenting on how it is much better to watch a play performed as opposed to reading them. I'm going to have to make a confession – I have also been trying to read them as fast as possible, which as it turns out, especially when we have language such as Shakespeare, and also a work written in dramatised form, doesn't quite work out. So, I tried something a little different – when I completed reading this particular work I decided to go back and read it again – this time somewhat slower. Guess what, I got a lot more out of it, and I was actually able to follow along much more easily. I guess that means that when I go back to Dante, it is going to take me a lot longer to get through that work than I originally anticipated.

    Pericles is a little different from Shakespeare's other plays. First of all it is technically a lost work. The reason I say that is because the version that I read suggested that only acts three, four, and five were actually Shakespeare's and the first two acts were written by somebody else – apparently some guy named George Wilkins. The suggestion is that Shakespeare may have found this work and decided to rewrite it so that it was more his style – though others seem to suggest that it is actually a collaborative work (and Ted even went as far to suggest that the only Shakespearian elements were the indefinite articles). One thing that stands out, that doesn't really appear in any of his other works, is that we have a narrator that introduces us to each of the scenes, and also tells us what has been happening between the scenes. Interestingly the narrator is John Gower, the writer of one of the sources that Shakespeare used.

    This is actually where Pericles stands out from his other plays – the scope is much broader. The action takes place in various locals including Tyre, Antioch, Tarsus, Ephesus, Mytiline, and Greece. The action also takes place over a huge amount of time, and at one point there is even a fourteen year gap – which is unusual for Shakespeare. The other thing is that a lot happens between the acts which necessitates the addition of a narrator, and also includes a dumb play, which is where the actors perform actions but don't actually speak – and these dumb plays don't tell us what is going to happen in the scenes, but rather what is happening between the scenes.

    So, the play begins in the city of Antioch where a number of suitors are trying to woo the king's daughter. However, there is a hidden secret and that is that the king and his daughter are amorously involved (you read that correctly). So, to deal with that the king proposes a riddle, and anybody who solves the riddle can marry his daughter, but anybody who guesses incorrectly will be killed. As it turns out …


    Pericles correctly guesses the answer to the riddle only to discover that the answer reveals their dark secret, and since Pericles has guessed what is going on then he must die – it's a situation of you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. So, Pericles returns to Tyre only to have the king send an assassin after him. Pericles then puts one of his trusted lords in charge and heads off to Tarsus (while bringing some grain to releave a famine) only to have the assassin track him down there. So Pericles jumps onto another ship and heads off to Greece. Here he comes across another contest where a group of suitors are vying for the King's daughter, and this time Pericles wins and marries the king's daughter.

    It doesn't end there though because they discover that the king of Antioch and his daughter have died so they decide to return to Tyre. On the journey his wife appears to die in childbirth and a huge storm sweeps up. The sailors convince him to put his wife in a casket and throw the body overboard, since having a corpse on the ship is a bad omen. The storm doesn't abate, so to keep his child safe he pulls into Tarsus and gives the daughter to the king to look after her and to return when things are much better. However, Pericles gets held up in Tyre for fourteen years and the king's wife becomes insanely jealous of Marina (Pericles' daughter), but before she can kill her she is kidnapped by pirates and sold into a brothel. To cut an insanely long story short, Pericles finds his daughter, and his wife, alive and as Shakespeare once said – All's Well that Ends Well.

    I find it interesting that Shakespeare can get away with stuff that many writers of today would be crucified if they even thought of doing something similar. For instance the famous stage direction 'exit, pursued by a bear'. The thing is that we see similar things in this play, such as pirates appearing from nowhere just as Marina is about to be murdered, and just due to blind luck Pericles coming across the daughter as he is wandering around the seas grief stricken. Oh, there is also the scene where the goddess Diana appears to him and tells him that his wife is also alive. Mind you, this isn't the only time such things happen in Shakespeare, as there are other plays where similar discoveries occur (and they are usually the comedies). Mind you, in spoof movies of today you can probably get away with it, but Shakespearian comedies are hardly spoof - they are more like romantic comedies. Imagine an 'exit pursued by a bear' occurring in Crazy Stupid Love. Yet for some reason because Shakespeare is Shakespeare he can get away with it. Oh, and we can't forget the suit of armour magically appearing in the fisherman's net when Pericles arrives in Greece.

    The sea and storms play a huge role in Pericles. Actually, we have storms happening in other plays, and they seem to be this dramatic device to set the scene – the storm in the Tempest strands the main characters on the island, and a similar thing happens in Twelfth Night. In the case of The Tempest, this isn't just any old storm, this is a storm conjured by Prosphero to bring his enemies under his control. This isn't the case in Pericles, or Twelfth Night. However, the storms that Pericles faces are of a different type – they work to test him and mould him. The storms are metaphorical as well, since we have his life facing a tempest when he discovers the King of Antioch's dirty little secret.

    Then there is the sea – much of the time we have Pericles travelling on the sea. Sure, he is the ruler of Tyre, but he has been forced to travel due to threats to his life. In a way the sea seems to be trying to put a distance between him and his enemies. It also works to bring about a different stage in his life. Everytime Pericles travels by sea he goes to a different land ruled by a different king. In this way it could be easily translated into a science-fiction setting. The lands are divided by the seas, and the seas are dangerous. When Pericles flees Tyre, the assassin, seeing that he has left by sea, believes that he is gone and that his duty has been fulfilled.

    Yet the sea also has some life giving quality in that Pericles' wife not only survived crossing the seas in a chest, but while at first she appeared to be dead, he in fact turned out to be alive. Pericles is washed up on the shores of Pentapolis, and in doing so found a new life with a wife and a child, The people who found him were the fisherman, people who farm the seas for food, who also found him a suit of armour so that he could compete in the tournament. Sure, the armour was rusty, but it was still useful and enabled to him defeat all of the other suitors (who simply shrugged their shoulders and wandered off stage, though that suggests that they were the type of people would would wander around the country participating in tournaments for the hand of a woman in marriage). Finally, we also have the pirates, who appear out of nowhere to save Marina from certain death. Pirates are generally connected with the sea, and as such we seen another example of the sea's life giving properties.

    The tournament is interesting, though I suspect this comes from the old medieval courtly romance. Twice we see kings put challenges before suitors for their daughter. Okay, one is a trap, but the other isn't. It gives us a good idea of the idea of marriage at the time, that it wasn't the girl's choice, but the father's. In one we have a challenge of strength, and another a challenge of wits. Mind you, this has come down to us today with the tradition of the girl bringing the boy home to meet her parents, and the boy needing to impress not just the father, but the mother as well. Numerous romantic comedies have been created around this tradition.

    Personally, this is a wonderful play. It is in part an adventure, a romance, and a comedy (and there are some rather amusing comic elements in it). The final thing I wish to touch about is probably one of the most hilarious sections of the play – the brothel scene. Marina is a virgin, and there seems to be a huge emphasis on the purity of the woman. No doubt Antioch's daughter wasn't pure, but that was kept hidden. However, here were have the opposite, with Marina using all her skill to maintain her virginity. The whole scene has the brothel owners attempting to break Marina, but she is always about to outwit them. The sources had other reasons why she remained pure, but here we see Shakespeare's genius in that Marina simply outwits everybody who is brought before her, and then manages to outwit the owners as well, to the point that she ends up making a name for herself.

    As I have indicated this is a fantastic play. I would say that it is a shame that it doesn't seem to be performed all that often, but then again since my only encounters with Shakespearian performances tend to be the big names such as The Globe and the RSC, I can't comment (the Globe last performed it in 2005 while I believe the RSC did it in 2012), and the various Australian companies. However, there are many, many other Shakespearian companies (and festivals) that I don't know about, and I'm sure this play makes an appearance among them every so often.

  7. Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun) Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun) says:

    This is a triiiiip. It feels kind of beside the point to say that’s because the writing is 2/5 George Wilkins, 3/5 Shakespeare; clearly, the play was crafted 1/3 by man, 2/3 by drugs.

  8. Melora Melora says:

    Okay. For starters, thanks to Marjorie Garber and her interesting piece on the play in her Shakespeare After All, I enjoyed this more than I otherwise would have. She talks about how the play, a “dramatic romance,” needs to be seen not as a failed effort at the sort of play where the protagonist develops and shows psychological depth through monologues and all, but as a play where the character development and other “deep” aspects are illustrated through mythic and fairy tale motifs. …...

    ”Some modern audiences – like some early modern ones – have found these plays deficient in realism, but, as we will see, what they actually do is shift the “real” to a different plane, one more aligned to dream, fantasy, and psychology, while retaining, at the same time, a topical relationship to historical event in Shakespeare's day.”

    This really did help. When events in the play got particularly... goofy or illogical, I had something to think about other than, “Well, this is pretty dumb.” (Instead, I could think, “Well, this is dumb in a mythically symbolic” sort of way.”).

    Anyway. So, her essay was great, and starting with her appreciation and a nice overview, I was prepared to be pleased by what the play has to offer. And I did find stuff to like. Some lovely lines and scenes, especially towards the end, and the situation with the brothel, where Marina converts all the guys who come in to virtue and the brothel owners are increasingly outraged, was funny. Until Lysimachus. The local governor comes in to the brothel looking for a virgin to deflower. So, ick. But... he sees the error of his ways, and I imagined I'd seen the last of that scumbucket. But NO. Rather than retreating to his palace or wherever he lives, he continues along with Marina, and is welcomed by Pericles as a wonderful future son-in-law. So, the fall out from being identified as a particularly loathsome sort of sexual predator is that he is welcomed into a royal family??? Not that this made me think of today's news or anything, but this Completely made me think of current events, with Roy Moore running in Alabama for the U.S. Senate, with a solidly documented record of having, in his 30's, dated young teenaged girls, and with the defense of supportive Evangelical pastors being that “only by dating young teenagers could he find girls who were really pure” (a paraphrase of the argument of Pastor Flip Benham). It's a truly twisted logic that argues that grown men chasing after young girls is a sign of high moral values. Gah. This illustration of the play's timelessness did Not increase my enjoyment.

    Still, this isn't one I expect to ever return to, but I'm glad to have read it once. I listened to the ensemble recording from Librivox while reading, and, despite some truly jarring mispronunciations and silly accents, their recording features some excellent performances and did help me enjoy the play. Three stars.

  9. leynes leynes says:

    What a fun play! Reading Pericles is one of the last plays on my Shakespeare TBR (now there are only four left and then I will have read Willy's entire canon!), so it's good to see that I have no longer any comprehension issues with Shakespeare whatsoever. When I started reading him in August 2015, I was so overwhelmed and confused, and had a hard time navigating through the story ... now, almost five years later, I'm so comfortable with reading his plays. It's crazy.

    Pericles is one of the most engaging and gripping plays in Shakespeare's canon. Due to the fact that the narration is almost episodic and we are treated to a huge time span and many different locations, the play itself feels like an epic heroes' journey. In many ways Pericles is a kind of classical hero figure—always ready to enter a contest or competition to prove himself.

    Pericles starts out in Antioch, where he desires to marry Antiochus's daughter. After he discovers their secret (aka that the both of them are in an incestuous relationship...), he flees to Tyre. First off, I thought that Antiochus was one of the dumbest characters in this play. If he didn't want other people to find out about the incest, why did he make the riddle (that all the suitors of his daughter have to solve) so easy??? like??? He explicitly mentions the incest in there? I am confusion. Secondly, I don't appreciate how the topic of incest was handled in general, since Antiochus' daughter is condemned as a sinful dame and Pericles loses all interest in and respect for her ... even though we learn that her father forced her to this sinful act.

    As heaven had lent her all his grace;
    With whom the father liking took,
    And her to incest did provoke:
    Bad child; worse father! to entice his own
    To evil should be done by none:
    Prone to melancholy, Pericles worries about Antiochus trying to have him killed, and sets off on more adventures that lead him to Tarsus, where king Cleon and his wife Dionyza bemoan the famine that has beset their nation. But when he is called back to Tyre, Pericles is shipwrecked in a storm in Pentapolis.
    By Juno, that is queen of marriage,
    All viands that I eat do seem unsavoury.
    Wishing him my meat. Sure, he's a gallant gentleman.
    Some fishermen tell him about king Simonides's daughter, a lovely girl who will be married to whoever wins a jousting contest the following day. Pericles determines to enter the contest. He ends up winning the tournament and the heart of Thaisa (home girl is really out here lusting for Pericles' body, see quote above). After their marriage and the death of Antiochus, they set off for Tyre ... but, who would have thought, they get shipwrecked again. Thaisa dies during the storm giving birth to her daughter, whom Pericles then names Marina. The shipmaster insists that Thaisa's body must be thrown overboard, or the storm won't stop, and Pericles complies. (Later, it turns out that Thaisa wasn't even dead ... so, welp.)

    Pericles lands in Tarsus and hands over his child, Marina, to Cleon and Dionyza, since he thinks it won't survive the journey to Tyre. Then times passes; Pericles is king of Tyre, Thaisa becomes a priestess for Diana, and Marina grows up. But Dionyza plots to have Leonine murder Marina, because she takes all the attention away from her own daughter.
    I will do't; but yet she is a goodly creature.

    The fitter, then, the gods should have her. Here
    she comes weeping for her only mistress' death.
    Thou art resolved?
    Her plan fails but pirates seize Marina and sell her to a brother in Myteline. There Marina refuses to give up her honor, despite the many men who come wanting to buy her virginity. Personally, I found that plot point was handled in a weird way, because Shakespeare, on the one hand, showed the horrors of prostitution (Boult, take her away; use her at thy pleasure: / crack the glass of her virginity, and make the rest malleable., I must have your maidenhead taken off, or the common / hangman shall execute it.), but then, on the other hand, didn't really go there ... because Marina is able to convince the men who come to the brothel that her honor is sacred, and so the men leave seeking virtue in their own lives. AS IF! That's the most unrealistic bullshit ever. Marina even manages to convince her pimp that she'll work as a tutor instead, education girls in respectable households.

    Meanwhile, Pericles goes on a trip to Tarsus to reunite with his daughter, but Cleon and Dionyza tell him that she has died, and show him the monument they have ordered built in order to erase their complicity in the matter. Pericles is distraught, and sets to the seas again. However, in a fantastic turn of events the whole family gets reunited at the end. I really liked the spiritual nature of Thaisa's resurrection and her posing as the priestess Diana.

    Gower returns to offer a conclusion, noting that we have seen evil punished (Antiochus and his daughter have died, and when the people of Tarsus discovered Cleon's evil, they revolted and killed him and his wife in a palace fire), but that we have met a variety of good people along the way, such as loyal Helicanus and charitable Cerimon. Pericles and his family have endured the vagaries of fortune, and through it all remained virtuous, so in the end they were rewarded with the joy of being reunited.
    And what ensues in this fell storm
    Shall for itself itself perform.
    I nill relate, action may
    Conveniently the rest convey;
    Which might not what by me is told.
    In your imagination hold
    This stage the ship, upon whose deck
    The sea-tost Pericles appears to speak.
    I really enjoyed Gower in his function as the chorus. Gower plays a narrator for this play, coming on before and between scenes to retell the action of previous scenes, and to instigate dumb shows, where some action of the play is pantomimed to advance the action of the play. He also gives the epilogue at the end of the play, pulling together the threads. (John Gower is also the name of a fourteenth-century English poet, whose story of Apollonius of Tyre in the eighth book of his Confessio Amantis served as an important source for this play.)

    Overall, Pericles is a well-executed and complex play that I enjoyed following along. There are great musings about power and the abuse of power. I liked the strong morale at the end, and even though some parts of the story didn't make much sense, it is a round tale that's highly engaging.

  10. Bram Bram says:

    Pericles achieves a sense of scene-hopping adventure unequaled in Shakespeare’s repertoire, and as a perhaps inevitable corollary, it is also the play that most strains credulity, The Winter’s Tale notwithstanding. The dei ex machina arrive in the form of dream instructions, magical healings, and a pirate kidnapping. And yet, like Pericles with his Neptune-defying navigations, we can weather the plot. What is less easy to settle into is the variation in writing quality. While Shakespeare probably outlined the entire play, it seems as if one George Wilkins—“a lowlife hack, possibly a Shakespearean hanger-on…a whoremonger” in the unminceable words of Harold Bloom—wrote out the first two acts, which may explain the adventuresome shallowness that begins the story. In spite of Wilkins’ supposed qualities, I find the beginning not so off-putting, and even Bloom concedes that these two acts are “quite playable”, coming off much better in performance than on the page.

    Although the writing inconsistency is undeniable, it feels more acute within the Shakespeare material than between that of Wilkins and the Bard. After writing some of the most internally-active and personality-driven characters of all time (Hamlet, Iago, Rosalind, et al.), Shakespeare somewhat bizarrely chooses to leave the major players in Pericles as impenetrable blanks, knowable only by their type. For our title character, that means being courageous, honorable, and in all things mannishly commendable, only just human and unfortunate enough to earn our sympathy. For Marina, it is the same story except with a certain feminine ideal, which first and foremost includes intact virginity, the quality that ultimately leads us into contact with the only palpably human elements in the play—the employees of the Mitylene whorehouse.

    Given the plot-heavy adventure through the first three acts, it is easy to avoid recognizing the main characters’ lack of depth; once we meet Boult, Pandar, and the Bawd, however, the discrepancy between characterizations is too great to ignore. These three strive in vain to rid Marina of her maidenhead and enrich themselves in the process—well beyond what they have achieved lately in the market:

    We were never so much out of creatures. We have but
    poor three, and they can do no more than they can
    do; and they with continual action are even as good as rotten.

    Pandar :
    Therefore let's have fresh ones, whate'er we pay for
    them. If there be not a conscience to be used in
    every trade, we shall never prosper.

    Thou sayest true: 'tis not our bringing up of poor
    bastards,--as, I think, I have brought up some eleven—

    Ay, to eleven; and brought them down again. But
    shall I search the market?

    What else, man? The stuff we have, a strong wind
    will blow it to pieces, they are so pitifully sodden.

    Thou sayest true; they're too unwholesome, o'
    conscience. The poor Transylvanian is dead, that
    lay with the little baggage.

    Ay, she quickly pooped him; she made him roast-meat
    for worms. But I'll go search the market.

    Their scheming seems at first horrible, particularly given Marina’s youth, innocence, and recent near-death experience. But once we learn that she has the upper hand and can thwart their every attempt at selling her, even converting her clients to chivalry in the process, we realize the joke is on us as well as her pimps; unlike in Measure for Measure, we may sit back and enjoy these well-written scenes, safe in the knowledge that designed depravity cannot win the day. Perhaps Shakespeare was too bored by the traditional story to put in the difficult human-infusing effort for the leads, or maybe he just loved composing these common, comically tawdry characters above all others (see also Falstaff of the Henry IV plays and the seedy Viennese personalities of Measure for Measure). In any case, Act IV through the reunion scene of Act V is high-grade Shakespeare interposed in a middling affair.

    In mulling over the reunion scene, it seems difficult at first to justify such a positive response to melodrama. And yet Shakespearean language can transform what ought to be overripe, rotting sentimentalism into something truly poignant. As in the finale of The Winter’s Tale, Pericles’ reunion with his daughter Marina achieves that Bard-specific alchemy of aesthetic brilliance combined with human ardor and wonderment, leaving me well beyond any critical detachment. Pericles’ realization is slow; when at the penultimate moment of belief in the presence of his living daughter he cries out to his loyal friend…

    O Helicanus! strike me, honour'd sir;
    Give me a gash, put me to present pain;
    Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me
    O'erbear the shores of my mortality,
    And drown me with their sweetness.

    …it is evidence of the Bard’s preternatural abilities that I want to rush in and present him, Pericles, that flattest of Shakespearean leads, with the final confirmation that yes! his daughter lives and stands before him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *