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Pericles

William Shakespeare

Act V, Scene ii

Act V, Chorus and Scene i

Analysis

Summary

Gower enters, and tells about the reception Pericles received in Mytilene, where Lysimachus was promised to wed Marina upon Marina's and Pericles's return from Ephesus. Gower explains that Pericles and his company have arrived in Ephesus, and stands aside.

Pericles goes to Diana's temple and makes a speech, saying that he married Thaisa at Pentapolis but she died at sea, giving birth to a child named Marina. He explains how Marina lived at Tarsus until Cleon ordered her killed. He told of his arrival in Mytilene, where Marina miraculously arrived on his ship and made herself known to him. Thaisa herself is in attendance as a priestess, and she faints. Cerimon tells Pericles that this is his wife, and tells how he found the chest and revived the woman inside.

When Thaisa recovers, she, Pericles, and Marina are reunited. Pericles says that he will offer daily oblations to Diana, and adds that when Marina is married, he can finally cut his hair. Thaisa tells Pericles that she has heard about the death of her father Simonides; Pericles decides that he and Thaisa should go to the wedding of his daughter and then spend the rest of their days in Pentapolis, leaving Marina and her husband to rule Tyre.

All exit but Gower, who speaks of Antiochus. Gower has told of the monstrous corruption of that nation, and how they received their just reward. And, he adds, we have seen Pericles, Thaisa, and Marina assailed with terrible misfortune, but they preserved their virtue intact, and thus are rewarded with joy at last. Helicanus, he notes, is a figure of truth, faith, and loyalty, and Cerimon of charity. As for Cleon and Dionyza, once the story of their evil deed had spread, their city revolted and burned them to death in their palace. Gower notes the gods for murder were content to punish a deed that was not completed but planned.

Commentary

At last Pericles's family is reunited, and his power is vastly increased. He is now King of Tarsus and Pentapolis, and through Marina's marriage has strong bonds with Myteline.

The main points of the play are finally pulled together in Gower's conclusion. We had been presented with a set of good, well-meaning minor characters like Helicanus and Cerimon, who come to be models of loyalty and virtue and charity. Pericles's whole family has been an example of endurance in the face of hardship, with the promise of reward at the end. Throughout, virtuous Pericles has contrasted with the corruption of the court of Antioch, and with the evil plots of the court of Tarsus (where, in the end, the clueless, easily manipulated Cleon took just as much blame as Dionyza).

We are left with a sense that the ordeals of Pericles all had a divine plan--that he was in some way being tested in order to prove that he would not curse the gods or turn to evil deeds, even when faced with the harshest sufferings. Instead he accepted things as fate, and tried to go on, in stark contrast to those who in the face of envy (in Tarsus) or lust (in Antioch) fell into corrupt actions and doomed themselves.

Pericles and his family and the other good people in this play are rewarded at the end for holding up against all odds, without a single good sign, and no indication that they operated under any divine plan. Job, at least, knew he was being tested, but Pericles seems not to have had such knowledge. He just kept on, resigned to the power of fate, and he lucked out in the end.

However this kind of punishment or reward for virtue seems to only touch the upper classes. What about, for example, the brothel keepers? Somehow because they are not royalty, their corruption is allowed to continue, whereas in the nobles it must be punished.

More Help

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Pericles: A Life of Love and Happiness . . . Delayed

by ReadingShakespeareby450th, November 20, 2013

A fun play, hopeful message, and the last Shakespeare comedy/romance on my way to reading all of Shakespeare by his 450th birthday.

In case you're interested, here's my blog on Pericles:

http://ow.ly/r1uXg

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