Pericles

Type: 
Comedy
First Performed: 
1608-09
First Printed: 
1609
"

Opinion's but a fool that makes us scan
The outward habit by the inward man.

"

King Antioch has an incestuous relationship with his daughter, and he wards off suitors by having them answer a riddle on pain of death. Pericles, Prince of Tyre, engages in the game, successfully answering Antiochus’ riddle. The answer indicates the truth of the relationship between the king and his daughter, so Pericles keeps the knowledge to himself. Antiochus sends an assassin to follow him to Tyre.

Pericles seeks the advice of his counselor Helicanus, who urges him to travel until Antiochus stops his pursuit. Pericles sets off for Tarsus, which is in the midst of famine. Tarsus’ King Cleon and his wife Dionyza are grateful when Pericles provides corn to their nation.

Pericles’ ship is wrecked near Pentapolis, and he washes onto the shore where he hears of a jousting contest the next day. The winner of the contest will wed King Simonides’ daughter, Thaisa. Pericles wins the contest and marries.

Pericles decides to go back to Tyre but is again shipwrecked on the way, killing Thaisa in childbirth. Her body is put in a chest and thrown overboard, later washing up in Ephesus where a doctor miraculously revives her. Meanwhile, Pericles lands in Tarsus and puts his child, Marina, in the care of Cleon and Dionyza. When Marina grows up she is seized by pirates and brought to Myteline to be sold as a prostitute. There she talks men into seeking virtue in their own lives.

Pericles embarks on a journey to reunite with Marina, but in Tarsus he is told she has died. He goes silent for three months, until he arrives in Myteline, where Governor Lysimachus brings Marina to get him to speak. As they talk it becomes clear that their stories match, reuniting father and daughter. In a dream, Pericles is told by Diana to go to her temple in Ephesus. After promising Marina to Lysimachus, he embarks for Ephesus.

At the temple, Pericles speaks to a priestess and tells her his story. The priestess is Thaisa, and when she recognizes his story she faints with joy. The family is reunited.