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King Simonides and Simonides's daughter, Thaisa, sit in a reviewing stand at a tournament ground with several lords. In turn, each of the knights passes the reviewing stand to show off their coat of arms, each with a motto in Latin or Italian. The king reads each one aloud, translates it, and comments on it. Five knights pass the reviewing stand; Pericles is the sixth, in rusty armor, without the gaudy trappings of the others. His shield says, "I live in this hope," which the king reads while the other lords mock his rusty outfit. The king scolds the lords for judging the interior of a man by his outer look.
Later, in the palace at Pentapolis, a banquet is prepared. King Simonides and Thaisa enter, along with Pericles and other knights. Simonides and Thaisa congratulate Pericles on winning the tournament, and Thaisa gives him the wreath of victory. While dining, both Simonides and Thaisa find they are so taken with Pericles that they lose their appetite. Pericles sees similarity between Simonides and his own father's glorious reign, and notes that his condition is now much changed from his life in Tyre--unrecognized as a prince, now he must take things as they come.
A melancholy Pericles sits at the table, so Simonides sends Thaisa with a glass of wine to him, telling her to ask him about his parentage. He says he is Pericles of Tyre, recently shipwrecked; Thaisa relates that to her father, who pities his misfortune and offers himself as a friend to Pericles. Dancing follows the banquet, and then the knights go to bed to prepare to woo Thaisa the next day.
This is the second contest for the hand of a king's daughter in this play, though this second is far different from the first. Death is not the punishment for defeat, nor is incest a hidden secret of the court. Rather, Simonides is clearly a good man, as he explains to his lords that he is not the kind of man to judge a contestant by his rusty inadequate armor, and is willing to give all an equal chance.
Thaisa, the king's daughter, first appears in this scene, though she has little to say about her feelings about being offered to the best man at a tournament. She dutifully reads inscriptions on armor out to her father, presumably content with his will in the matter. Unlike the sinful court of Antioch, this is a court where all is as it should be; a daughter knows her place, the royal family is in proper order, and the king is generous with his people.
King Simonides and Thaisa seem much more taken with Pericles than he is with either of them. Where once Pericles could discuss lingeringly every aspect of Antiochus's daughter, he seems to barely see Thaisa. Yet Simonides intrigues him, for his similarity to his dead father, who was as honorable and upright as Simonides himself.
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:
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This is the Bard's truest fairy tale. Long-lost daughters, wicked step parents, spouses reunited, and even fire from heaven. If it weren't for the incest and brothels - Disney would have a field day with this story. An even better fairy tale than "The Tempest," or "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and most likely a precursor to "The Winters' Tale."
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