Pericles, Prince of Tyre:

One of the plays that was not included in the 1623 Shakespeare Folio Pericles, Prince of Tyre was dubiously published under Shakespeare’s name but later analysis suggests there was collaboration with other playwrights. Its’ uneven writing suggests that the first two acts are by another less proficient playwright. In 1868, Nicolaus Delius proposed George Wilkins as Shakespeare’s unknown collaborator; a century later, F. D. Hoeneger proposed the poet John Day. In general, critics have accepted that the last three-fifths are mostly Shakespeare’s, following Gary Taylor‘s claim that by the middle of the Jacobean decade, “Shakespeare’s poetic style had become so remarkably idiosyncratic that it stands out even in a corrupt text from that of his contemporaries”. The substitution of the name Pericles for Apollonius may be derived from Plutarch’s Lives or in reference to Sir Phillip Sidney’s Arcadia (1590) to a Greek adventurer called Pyrocles. The arrival of this play coincides with the altercation between Sir Phillip Sidney and the Earl of Oxford at a tennis court. The two adversaries continuing their objections with pen and paper in poetry as J.T. Looney observed:

Vere’s Assertion:
Were I a king I might command content;
Were I obscure unknown would be my cares,
And were I dead no thoughts should me torment,
Nor words, nor wrongs, nor love, nor hate, nor fears.
A doubtful choice of these things which to crave,
A kingdom or a cottage or a grave.

Sidney’s Answer:
Wert thou a King yet not command content,
Since empire none thy mind could yet suffice,
Wert thou obscure still cares would thee torment;
But wert thou dead, all care and sorrow dies;
An easy choice of these things which to crave,
No kingdom nor a cottage but a grave.

No reasonable authoritative or original text appears of Pericles, it has been assembled from what remnants were discovered into its now best possible state. Like Pericles himself the text is riddled with anomalies and academic controversies. The first nine scenes are attributed to Wilkins, the remainder to Shakespeare although several anomalies remain such as scene 18 and Gower’s epilogue at the end of scene 22. A bad quarto of the text exists, perhaps the result of an actor apprenticed to John Gower attempting to sell a version drawn entirely from memory. The good quarto (Q1) was assembled by two print shops and bears the printed attribution to the author W. Shakespeare, an attempt perhaps to assert or confirm the author’s original copyright. In fact its exclusion from the First Folio of 1623 may have resulted from the fact of his joint collaboration with Wilkins or the availability of the original copyright. In any case the fact remains that Shakespeare’s contribution to the assembly of this play was in comparison with others quite minimal. It was not until 1608 that the play was entered in the Stationer’s Office by Edward Blount on the 20th May, 1608 with later editions released in 1609 (Q1), 1609 (Q2), 1611 (Q3), 1619 (Q4), 1630 (Q5), 1635 (Q6), and finally in 1664 (F3), but it was not actually published then. This was followed by its first known performance by the King’s Men at the Globe ‘diverse and sundrie times’. It was actually published a year later by Henry Gosson and again with revisions the same year. Two years later another revised version was published by Simon Stafford, followed by another by Thomas Pavier (1619). The general view is that they were licensed by the players to do this to prevent anyone else from appropriating copyright before the final publication of the 1623 Folio. Despite this precaution, a rather corrupt version was printed in 1609 with an ascription to William Shakespeare to incentivise sales of the play.

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Pathenogenesis” are as follows:


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