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Pericles


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George Wilkins (fl. 1603—1608)

Laurence Twine (fl. 1564—1576)

quarto

John Gower (c. 1330—1408) poet

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A: William Shakespeare (with George Wilkins?) Pf:c.1608, London Pb: 1609 G: Romance in 5 acts; blank verse and prose S: Antioch, Tyre, Tarsus, Pentapolis, on board ship, Ephesus, and Mitylene, indeterminate period in the ancient world C: 15m, 7f, extrasPericles, Prince of Tyre, wishing to marry the daughter of the King of Antioch, must first solve a riddle. In succeeding, Pericles learns that the King has had incest with his daughter. Knowledge of this secret may cause Antioch to go to war against Tyre, so Pericles leaves his homeland. He is shipwrecked and lands at Pentapolis, where he wins the hand of Thaisa. Heading back to Tyre, he is once again caught in a storm. Thaisa, who has just given birth to a daughter, dies, and is buried at sea. Pericles leaves his daughter Marina with the Governor of Tarsus and returns to Tyre. The Governor's wife, growing jealous of Marina's beauty, orders her murder, but Marina is captured by pirates and sold to a brothel on the island of Mitylene. She is so virtuous that the clients of the brothel refuse to take her virginity. One day Pericles lands on Mitylene and is reunited with his daughter. Prompted by a dream, Pericles goes to the temple of Diana in Ephesus, where he discovers his lost wife Thaisa, who has after all survived.

A: William Shakespeare (with George Wilkins?) Pf:c.1608, London Pb: 1609 G: Romance in 5 acts; blank verse and prose S: Antioch, Tyre, Tarsus, Pentapolis, on board ship, Ephesus, and Mitylene, indeterminate period in the ancient world C: 15m, 7f, extras

Based on a poem by the 14th-century John Gower, who appears as a narrator in Shakespeare's play, Pericles is the earliest of Shakespeare's four romances, and is of contentious authenticity. The play did not appear in the 1623 Folio, and the writing in the first two acts is markedly weaker than the rest, either the result of a poorly reconstructed script or because they were written by a less able collaborator, possibly George Wilkins. The action describes a less than ideal hero, a man prepared to quit his kingdom and to abandon his daughter, who is ultimately redeemed by that same daughter and his faithful wife.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.


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Authors

William Shakespeare (1564—1616) playwright and poet


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