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:
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.
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 Way Of Wisdom & Folly
Gower informs us of King Antiochus’ incestuous relationship with his most beautiful daughter, who is constantly besieged with suitors. To prevent them from winning his daughter the King has devised a riddle, which if answered incorrectly means they will forfeit their lives. Then Pericles, the Prince of Tyre arrives and realises that the answer to the riddle will reveal the nature of the King’s unusual relationship with his daughter. As the King too realises that Pericles is now aware of the King’s incestuous relationship with his daughter he instructs an official, Thailard to kill him. However, sensing he is in great danger, Pericles delays his suit and returns immediately to Tyre where he also discovers that his Lord Helicanus urges him to travel by ship to distant lands. He therefore departs to Tarsus taking with him a cargo of corn for the governor Cleon and his wife Dionyza. Pericles hears that the hired assassin, Thailard is still pursuing him and he then sets sail again but is caught in a storm and shipwrecked on Pentapolis. He is found by three shepherds who recover his rusty armour in their nets and soon hears that the local King, Simonides is organising a tournament in honour of his daughter Thaisa. Among six other willing men Pericles takes part, wearing his rusty armour and despite his demeaning appearance succeeds. In Tyre Helicanus reports the death by lightning of King Antiochus and his daughter and awaits the return of Pericles so that he can be officially reinstated and crowned as King. In Pentapolis King Simonides accuses Pericles of bewitching his daughter but then finally approves of the match.
In the second act we hear that Helicanus has sent messengers requesting the return of Pericles to Tyre, and hearing of his royal connections, King Simonides is especially pleased. We also discover that Princess Thaisa is now with child and Pericles arranges for her and a nurse, Lychorida to travel with him back to Tyre. However, they are again caught up in a storm in which Thaisa dies giving birth to her child. After the customary burial at sea they travel on to Tarsus. The casket containing the body of his wife is then washed ashore and brought to a physician at Ephesus named Cerimon who with great skill manages to bring her back to life. The child, Marina has been left by Pericles with the governor Cleon and his wife. Meanwhile, Thaisa now fully recovered believes her husband and child have perished, takes holy orders and joins a convent at the temple of Diana. Time passes with Pericles now living in Tyre, Marina now fully grown up in Tarsus and Thasia as a vestal virgin. Now Dionyza having become jealous of Marina’s beauty, outshining that of her own daughter and plots to kill her. She instructs a servant Leonine to take her to the shoreline and just as he is about to kill her, they are interrupted by pirates who then seize Marina and take her to Mytilene for sale as a prostitute. To protect her conspiracy Dionyza has Leonine poisoned and Cleon then discovers his wife’s cruel plot and is appalled especially when he learns that Pericles is on his way to visit his daughter. In Mytilene Marina remains a virgin and has miraculously persuaded others there of the benefits of a virtuous life. The governor, Lysimachus is so moved and inspired by her words and beauty that he arranges for her to enter a family where she can develop the arts of singing and dancing.
Still mourning for his wife, Pericles, together with Helicanus lands at Mytilene to take in supplies. While anchored at this port Lysimachus hears of Pericles grief and by way of some therapy arranges for Marina and her maidens to visit the ship and perform for him. She arrives and sings then tells of her own sad plight and then Pericles suddenly realises who the beautiful girl is, his very own long-lost daughter. That night while sleeping he encounters in a dream, surrounded by celestial music, Diana appears and tells him to visit her temple. The next day Pericles arranges for his retinue, together with Marina and Lysimachus to visit the temple shrine dedicated to Diana. Here he meets with Thasia who faints when she realises who has called upon her and Pericles is informed of the physician’s miraculous act 15 years earlier. Marina and Lysimachus are then wed and take up residence in Tyre while Pericles and his wife are reunited and live in Pentapolis.
|The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Parthenogenesis” are as follows:|