Pericles, Prince of Tyre



  • A romance by Shakespeare, first performed in about 1608by the King's Men at the Globe Theatre. Although publishedin 1609 as "the late and much admired Play", it is usuallyconsidered one of the least successful of Shakespeare's works. Somescenes may have come from another pen, most likely that of George Wilkins,who in 1608 published The Painful Adventures of Pericles Princeof Tyre as "a poor infant of my brain". The unevenquality of the first two acts suggests that the printed version mayhave been written down by actors from memory.

    The story derives from an episode in John Gower's ConfessioAmantis (1390), and Shakespeare includes "Gower, as chorus"in the cast. When Pericles, Prince of Tyre, discovers the incestuoussecret of Antiochus, the Greek emperor, he takes to the sea to savehis own life. Pericles survives a shipwreck to wed Thaisa, daughterof the King of Pentapolis. When Antiochus is killed by a bolt of lightning,Pericles sets sail for home but is again caught in a storm, duringwhich Thaisa gives birth to a baby girl, Marina, and appears to die.She is buried at sea but gets washed ashore and is revived. Believingher husband dead, she enters the service of the goddess Diana. Marina,now grown up, is captured by pirates and forced into a brothel inMitylene, where her uncompromising virtue preserves her from would-beseducers. In the last act she is reunited with her father in an intenselymoving scene; a vision of Diana finally leads Pericles to Thaisa andthe entire family is reunited.

    The play, a peculiar mixture of styles and genres, is seldomrevived. One memorable production was that presented in 1973 at HerMajesty's Theatre, London, starring Derek Jacobi; this version wasalso an off-Broadway hit in 1980.