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Pericles

William Shakespeare

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Suggested Essay Topics

Suggested Essay Topics

Suggested Essay Topics

Suggested Essay Topics

At the conclusion of the play, Pericles's virtue seems to have saved him and his family. How does this virtue manifest itself in his actions, and those of his wife and daughter? Is it a virtue based on word or deed or neither? Is Pericles really such a virtuous character, or is he merely a man who takes what comes to him without complaining?

How are Christian ethics played out within this play? Pericles is rewarded, but only after he has suffered. Is his suffering an important component to his reward? Is Pericles functioning in a system of Christian ethics while the other characters are still in a classical system? Does Pericles even recognize the world of ethics he lives within?

What is the role of Gower, his monologues, and the dumb plays he introduces? Does he really advance the plot? Do his speeches contain any message not otherwise elucidated in the plays? How is his language different from the rest of the play, and does that matter? Do you think he adds to the play or not?

Is misfortune or fate at the root of Pericles's suffering? Judging by the way that some characters are punished for their crimes while Pericles's family is rewarded for having been virtuous throughout much misery, does it seem like there is some reason Pericles must endure so much? Does it seem arbitrary? What does he think is going on, and is that different from or the same as Gower presents it?

This is a play filled with royal characters, and only rarely do they encounter characters of a lower class. Examine these scenes and consider how scenes with lower class characters are different than scenes of only royals. What do lower class characters add to the complex saga of these upper class characters? Is the question of fate or misfortune different for them than for a prince or a king's daughter?

Authorship of this play has been long debated--many think another author wrote the first 9 scenes and Shakespeare wrote the last 13. How are the first 9 scenes different from the latter part? Consider use of language particularly, but also tone and characterization. How do you deal with a text that is not necessarily authoritative? How does it change or not change your reading of it?

Does this play show any distant resemblances to classical literature, such as The Odyssey or Oedipus Rex? Do Pericles's stormy ocean wanderings and bad luck reuniting with family echo the travels and travails of Odysseus? Does the incestuous court of Antiochus and the scene of the riddle echo Sophocles's play? Do any other classical sources come to mind in reading this play?

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