Pericles minimized

This adult fairy tale, set in the eastern Mediterranean around 170 B.C., was written only in part by Shakespeare, perhaps.  The stark contrasts between bad and good are classic Shakespeare; knowing as he must have how these contrasts played on patrons’ emotions.  His princess here is fabulous. But then most of his princesses are fabulous. The play opens in Antioch, the capital of ancient Syria. Antiochus is king and his daughter is purported to be a knock-out.

1. Pericles is in Antioch to win the hand of the king’s daughter.  But he quickly realizes that the king and his daughter have an incestuous relationship. Justly fearing for his life, he quickly returns to Tyre.  Knowing Pericles knows too much, Antiochus wants him dead and has the forces to “make his will his act.”  Fearing Antiochus, Pericles secretly leaves for Tarsus with ships of grain, its citizens starving. 

2. Knowing Antiochus’ men are in Tyre looking for him, Pericles leaves Tarsus with his ships, all of which are lost at sea, Pericles the only survivor. He’s thrown up on the shore of Pentapolis.  He is well cared for and is led to the king’s court where he meets the princess. They soon marry.  Months later, he and his very pregnant wife, Thaisa, leave for Tyre.

3.  They encounter a violent storm; she gives birth to a daughter; “dies” in the doing, is put in a casket and dropped overboard.  Pericles sails for Tarsus, where he plans to ask Cleon and Dionyza, the governor and his wife, to raise hours-old Marina. The casket “is tossed upon the shore” at Ephesus.  Cerimon, a physician, out for an early morning walk, sees the casket, finds Thaisa “entranced,” revives her and leads her to Diana’s temple to be cared for by his niece.  Cleon and his wife accept Pericles’ request. Pericles returns to Tyre. 

4.  Fourteen years later, in Tarsus, “Marina gets all the praises.”  Dionyza plans to have her killed, jealous for her own daughter “who will stand peerless by this slaughter.”  As Marina is about to be killed by Dionyza’s servant, she is captured by pirates who sell her to a brothel owner in Mytilene, near Ephesus.  Clever Marina talks her way out of encounters. Lysimachus, Mytilene’s governor, a brothel customer, is so impressed with her that he gives her money and gold enough to buy her freedom. 

5. Lysimachus boards Pericles’ ship to talk with him. Despondent Pericles isn’t talking with anyone. Marina follows Lysimachus, asking Pericles “My lord, lend ear.”  Pericles knocks her away.  She tells him everything, later saying “but, good sir, why do you weep?”  He shouts “thou’rt my child.”  Pieces fall into place. The goddess Diana visits Pericles in his dreams, suggesting they visit her temple in Ephesus.  They do and are greeted by Thaisa and Cerimon.  Thaisa and Pericles will retire to Pentapolis. Marina and Lysimachus will reign in Tyre.