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Pericles
Act 1, scene 1

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

The nautical tale of a wandering prince, Pericles is narrated by John Gower, a poet from the English past. Gower explains that…

Act 1, 1 chorus

Gower sets the stage for Pericles’ entrance at Antioch by telling of the incest between Antiochus and his daughter, whom…

Act 1, scene 1

Pericles risks his life to win the hand of Antiochus’s daughter, but, in meeting the challenge, he learns of the…

Act 1, scene 2

Back in his kingdom of Tyre, Pericles, fearing the power of Antiochus, sets sail once again.

Act 1, scene 3

Thaliard arrives in Tyre to find Pericles gone.

Act 1, scene 4

In Tarsus, King Cleon, Queen Dionyza, and the citizens of the country, dying of hunger, are saved by Pericles and…

Act 2, 2 chorus

Gower tells of Pericles’ departure from Tarsus and of the storm that destroys his ships and men and tosses him…

Act 2, scene 1

Fishermen in Pentapolis provide the shipwrecked Pericles with clothing and then pull his armor from the sea. They agree to…

Act 2, scene 2

At the court, Pericles and other knights present their shields to Princess Thaisa, and Pericles wins the tournament.

Act 2, scene 3

Simonides and Thaisa separately express their admiration for “the stranger knight.”

Act 2, scene 4

In Tyre, Helicanus recounts the awful deaths of Antiochus and his daughter. He then agrees to accept the crown twelve…

Act 2, scene 5

King Simonides, learning that Thaisa loves Pericles, pretends to be angry, but then reveals his pleasure at their mutual love.

Act 3, 3 chorus

Gower picks up the story on the night after Pericles and Thaisa’s wedding and carries it forward through Thaisa’s becoming…

Act 3, scene 1

In the storm, Thaisa dies in giving birth and her body is cast into the sea. To save the baby,…

Act 3, scene 2

The body of Thaisa washes ashore in Ephesus, where she is revived by a physician named Lord Cerimon.

Act 3, scene 3

Pericles leaves the infant, Marina, in the care of Cleon and Dionyza and sails for Tyre.

Act 3, scene 4

In Ephesus, Thaisa decides to become a votaress at the temple of Diana.

Act 4, 4 chorus

Gower carries the story forward fourteen years, focusing on the young Marina. Her beauty and talents arouse murderous hatred in…

Act 4, scene 1

Dionyza’s hired murderer, Leonine, is prevented from murdering Marina by pirates, who carry her away to their ship.

Act 4, scene 2

Marina is sold by the pirates to a brothel in Mytilene.

Act 4, scene 3

Dionyza, after Leonine has (falsely) reported Marina’s death, now justifies her actions to a horrified Cleon.

Act 4, scene 4

Gower tells of Pericles’ arrival in Tarsus, his learning of Marina’s death, and his vow of perpetual mourning.

Act 4, scene 5

In Mytilene, Marina preserves her virginity through eloquent pleas to her potential customers. We see the effect on two such…

Act 4, scene 6

Lysimachus, the governor of Mytilene, arrives at the brothel and is so moved (or shamed) by Marina’s eloquence that he…

Act 5, 5 chorus

Gower describes Marina’s success in Mytilene and tells of Pericles’ ship landing on Mytilene’s shores.

Act 5, scene 1

Lysimachus visits Pericles’ ship and sends for Marina, whose music he thinks will revive the grief-stricken king. When Marina tells…

Act 5, scene 2

Gower tells of the celebrations for Pericles in Mytilene and of the betrothal of Marina and Lysimachus.

Act 5, scene 3

At Diana’s temple in Ephesus, Thaisa recognizes Pericles as her husband and is reunited with him and with her daughter.

Act 5, epilogue

Gower reflects on the now-completed story and tells the fate of Cleon and Dionyza.

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Scene 1
Enter Antiochus, Prince Pericles, and followers.

ANTIOCHUS 
 Young Prince of Tyre, you have at large received
 The danger of the task you undertake.
PERICLES 
 I have, Antiochus, and with a soul
 Emboldened with the glory of her praise
5 Think death no hazard in this enterprise.

11
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
ACT 1. SC. 1

ANTIOCHUS 
 Music!Music sounds offstage.
 Bring in our daughter, clothèd like a bride
 For embracements even of Jove himself,
 At whose conception, till Lucina reigned,
10 Nature this dowry gave: to glad her presence,
 The senate house of planets all did sit
 To knit in her their best perfections.

Enter Antiochus’ daughter.

PERICLES 
 See where she comes, appareled like the spring,
 Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king
15 Of every virtue gives renown to men!
 Her face the book of praises, where is read
 Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence
 Sorrow were ever razed, and testy wrath
 Could never be her mild companion.
20 You gods that made me man, and sway in love,
 That have inflamed desire in my breast
 To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree
 Or die in th’ adventure, be my helps,
 As I am son and servant to your will,
25 To compass such a boundless happiness.
ANTIOCHUS 
 Prince Pericles—
PERICLES 
 That would be son to great Antiochus.
ANTIOCHUS 
 Before thee stands this fair Hesperides,
 With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touched;
30 For deathlike dragons here affright thee hard.
 Her face, like heaven, enticeth thee to view
 Her countless glory, which desert must gain;
 And which without desert, because thine eye
 Presumes to reach, all the whole heap must die.

13
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
ACT 1. SC. 1

He points to the heads.
35 Yon sometimes famous princes, like thyself,
 Drawn by report, advent’rous by desire,
 Tell thee with speechless tongues and semblance pale
 That, without covering save yon field of stars,
 Here they stand martyrs slain in Cupid’s wars,
40 And with dead cheeks advise thee to desist
 For going on death’s net, whom none resist.
PERICLES 
 Antiochus, I thank thee, who hath taught
 My frail mortality to know itself,
 And by those fearful objects to prepare
45 This body, like to them, to what I must.
 For death remembered should be like a mirror
 Who tells us life’s but breath, to trust it error.
 I’ll make my will, then, and as sick men do
 Who know the world, see heaven but, feeling woe,
50 Gripe not at earthly joys as erst they did;
 So I bequeath a happy peace to you
 And all good men, as every prince should do;
 My riches to the earth from whence they came,
 To the Daughter. But my unspotted fire of love to
55 you.—
 Thus ready for the way of life or death,
 I wait the sharpest blow.
ANTIOCHUS 
 Scorning advice, read the conclusion, then:
 Which read and not expounded, ’tis decreed,
60 As these before thee, thou thyself shalt bleed.
DAUGHTER 
 Of all ’sayed yet, mayst thou prove prosperous;
 Of all ’sayed yet, I wish thee happiness.
PERICLES 
 Like a bold champion I assume the lists,
 Nor ask advice of any other thought
65 But faithfulness and courage.

15
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
ACT 1. SC. 1

He reads the Riddle:
 I am no viper, yet I feed
 On mother’s flesh which did me breed.
 I sought a husband, in which labor
 I found that kindness in a father.
70 He’s father, son, and husband mild;
 I mother, wife, and yet his child.
 How they may be, and yet in two,
 As you will live resolve it you.

 Aside. Sharp physic is the last! But, O you powers
75 That gives heaven countless eyes to view men’s acts,
 Why cloud they not their sights perpetually
 If this be true which makes me pale to read it?
 Fair glass of light, I loved you, and could still
 Were not this glorious casket stored with ill.
80 But I must tell you now my thoughts revolt;
 For he’s no man on whom perfections wait
 That, knowing sin within, will touch the gate.
 You are a fair viol, and your sense the strings
 Who, fingered to make man his lawful music,
85 Would draw heaven down and all the gods to
 hearken;
 But, being played upon before your time,
 Hell only danceth at so harsh a chime.
 Good sooth, I care not for you.
ANTIOCHUS 
90 Prince Pericles, touch not, upon thy life,
 For that’s an article within our law
 As dangerous as the rest. Your time’s expired.
 Either expound now or receive your sentence.
PERICLES Great king,
95 Few love to hear the sins they love to act.
 ’Twould braid yourself too near for me to tell it.
 Who has a book of all that monarchs do,
 He’s more secure to keep it shut than shown.
 For vice repeated is like the wand’ring wind,
100 Blows dust in others’ eyes to spread itself;

17
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
ACT 1. SC. 1

 And yet the end of all is bought thus dear:
 The breath is gone, and the sore eyes see clear
 To stop the air would hurt them. The blind mole casts
 Copped hills towards heaven, to tell the Earth is
105 thronged
 By man’s oppression, and the poor worm doth die
 for ’t.
 Kings are Earth’s gods; in vice their law’s their will;
 And if Jove stray, who dares say Jove doth ill?
110 It is enough you know; and it is fit,
 What being more known grows worse, to smother it.
 All love the womb that their first being bred;
 Then give my tongue like leave to love my head.
ANTIOCHUS, aside 
 Heaven, that I had thy head! He has found the
115 meaning.
 But I will gloze with him.—Young Prince of Tyre,
 Though by the tenor of our strict edict,
 Your exposition misinterpreting,
 We might proceed to cancel of your days,
120 Yet hope, succeeding from so fair a tree
 As your fair self, doth tune us otherwise.
 Forty days longer we do respite you,
 If by which time our secret be undone,
 This mercy shows we’ll joy in such a son.
125 And until then, your entertain shall be
 As doth befit our honor and your worth.
All except Pericles exit.
PERICLES 
 How courtesy would seem to cover sin
 When what is done is like an hypocrite,
 The which is good in nothing but in sight.
130 If it be true that I interpret false,
 Then were it certain you were not so bad
 As with foul incest to abuse your soul;
 Where now you’re both a father and a son

19
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
ACT 1. SC. 1

 By your untimely claspings with your child,
135 Which pleasures fits a husband, not a father,
 And she an eater of her mother’s flesh
 By the defiling of her parents’ bed;
 And both like serpents are, who, though they feed
 On sweetest flowers, yet they poison breed.
140 Antioch, farewell, for wisdom sees those men
 Blush not in actions blacker than the night
 Will ’schew no course to keep them from the light.
 One sin, I know, another doth provoke;
 Murder’s as near to lust as flame to smoke.
145 Poison and treason are the hands of sin,
 Ay, and the targets to put off the shame.
 Then, lest my life be cropped to keep you clear,
 By flight I’ll shun the danger which I fear.He exits.

Enter Antiochus.

ANTIOCHUS He hath found the meaning,
150 For which we mean to have his head.
 He must not live to trumpet forth my infamy,
 Nor tell the world Antiochus doth sin
 In such a loathèd manner.
 And therefore instantly this prince must die,
155 For by his fall my honor must keep high.—
 Who attends us there?

Enter Thaliard.

THALIARD Doth your Highness call?
ANTIOCHUS 
 Thaliard, you are of our chamber, Thaliard,
 And our mind partakes her private actions
160 To your secrecy; and for your faithfulness
 We will advance you, Thaliard. Behold,
 Here’s poison, and here’s gold. He gives poison and
 money. 
We hate the Prince
 Of Tyre, and thou must kill him. It fits thee not

21
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
ACT 1. SC. 2

165 To ask the reason why: because we bid it.
 Say, is it done?
THALIARD  My lord, ’tis done.
ANTIOCHUS  Enough.

Enter a Messenger.

 Let your breath cool yourself, telling your haste.
MESSENGER 170My lord, Prince Pericles is fled.He exits.
ANTIOCHUS, to Thaliard As thou wilt live, fly after,
 and like an arrow shot from a well-experienced
 archer hits the mark his eye doth level at, so thou
 never return unless thou say Prince Pericles is
175 dead.
THALIARD My lord, if I can get him within my pistol’s
 length, I’ll make him sure enough. So, farewell to
 your Highness.
ANTIOCHUS 
 Thaliard, adieu. Till Pericles be dead,
180 My heart can lend no succor to my head.
They exit.