Prior to the post proper (I do love me some alliteration), an apology fair reader. There has been far too long a gap in posts (slightly over two months!) and I have little excuse. But I do promise a true blitz in posts over the weeks that are left in this year. Now with that over…
The Play’s the Thing: Pericles has come to pursue the dangerous business of courting Antiochus’ daughter which requires solving a riddle (otherwise he’s executed), but while Pericles figures out the riddle he doesn’t give his response as it will reveal that Antiochus is having an incestuous affair with said daughter and instead goes into hiding. Pericles is shipwrecked in his flight and ends up meeting Thaisa whom he marries. Pericles then receives word he needs to return to Tyre and sails with his pregnant wife but there is a storm, Thaisa “dies” while giving birth to Marina, their daughter, whom Pericles leaves with Cleon as he continues on to Tyre, and Thaisa is rescued from her coffin and joins a convent. Cleon’s wife is jealous of Marina’s beauty which outshines her daughter’s and sells her to a brothel (telling Pericles she’s dead) where Marina repeatedly manages to avoid doing the deed. Pericles, Thaisa, and Marina eventually reunite despite some truly ridiculous odds.
Heroes and Villains: There’s no real standout characters in this play due to its episodic nature, but I guess the prize goes to Marina for the strangest means of keeping her virginity.
Speech to Know: Pericles gives a highly romantic speech at the beginning of the play when he courts Antiochus’ daughter. Prior to finding out about the incest, of course.
“See where she comes, apparell’d like the spring,
Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king
Of every virtue gives renown to men!
Her face the book of praises, where is read
Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence
Sorrow were raz’d, and testy wrath
Could never be her mild companion,
Ye gods, that made me man, and sway in love,
That have inflam’d desire in my breast
To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree,
Or dies in the adventure, be my helps,
As I am son and servant to your will,
To compass such a boundless happiness!” (I.i)
View from the Pit: Pericles, Prince of Tyre is highly episodic and a little reminiscent of Henry V (although not nearly as cool). Reading the play for the first time I was in honest suspense as to whether it would have a tragic or comic ending and have to admit that after reading many, many, many tragic endings, it was nice to have everything turn out right in the end. But due to the episodic nature of the play, the action feels extremely over the top. Each plot development feels even more insane than the last until we get to Marina in the brothel who avoids losing her virtue by shaming her potential clients for wanting to take away her virtue. Not super realistic that (I would guess). The play definitely has a heavy dose of Greek drama around it with each act opening with the equivalent of a chorus delineating the action but it never reaches the empathetic emotional heights that Shakespeare is capable of.