PERICLES

By William Shakespeare
Published in 1609

General Note: In January 2009 I decided that Iíd like to go back and read all the plays of William Shakespeare, perhaps one a month if that works out. I hadnít read a Shakespeare play since 1959, 50 years ago! But I had read nearly all of them in college. I wanted to go back, start with something not too serious or challenging, and work my way through the whole corpus. Thus I began with The Two Gentlemen of Verona. At this time I have no idea how the project will go, nor if it will actually lead me through the entire corpus of Shakespeareís plays. However, I will keep a separate page listing each play Iíve read with links to any comments I would make of that particular play. See: List of Shakespeareís playís Iíve read and commented on

COMMENTS ON
PERICLES

Comments by Bob Corbett
November 2011

Were I to use the standard literary dichotomy between a comedy and tragedy (happy ending vs a tragic ending), then this is an A1 comedy. If I use more modern language, the play is a happily-ever-aftering, a play of main characters just too good to be true. Whatever it should be called I simply loved Pericles.

There are quite a number of characters who are almost too good to be believed. The seemingly necessary evil characters are truly heartless, and in the main sufficiently punished to satisfy our disgust with them. The gap between the nearly sainly good and the devilishly wicked is drawn with very broad strokes.

There was an interesting set of brothel owners who didnít know what to do with the young, sweet and innocent Marina who fell into their hands, yet they actually behaved better than most of the wicked nobility of the darker side.

The melodrama is severe. Pericles falls in love with Thaisa and they have a daughter, Marina. Thaisa seemingly dies at sea after childbirth, and is, again seemingly, buried at sea. Tiny Marina is left with the rulers of Tarus, who decide to murder her, but she is almost miraculously saved and sold into sexual slavery.

Of course all ends as it must. Pericles, Thaisa and Marina are all united and all the bad fellows die!

Despite the melodramatic extremes I enjoyed the play immensely. It was somewhat refreshing to see Shakespeare playing at such a high level of melodrama. There werenít many really memorable lines in this play, but one set did fully crack me up.

When Thaisa and Pericles are attracted to each other, her father, himself a king, asks them if they are in love and would marry. They agree and he says:

King:
What are you both pleased?

Thaisa:
Yes, if you love me, sir.

Pericles:
Even as my life blood that fosters it.

Both:
Yes, if it please your majesty.

King:
It pleaseth me so well
That I will see you wed;
And then, with what haste
You can get you to bed.

Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu

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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu