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Gower enters. Gower says that Thaisa is now pregnant, and introduces a dumb show. Gower relates how news of the death of Antiochus and Antiochus's daughter at last came to Pericles in Pentapolis. Pericles hears too of the plan of some in Tyre to crown Helicanus, and determines that he must go home to halt a mutiny. In Pentapolis, people rejoice that their heir apparent is already a king, and hurry him off to Tyre. Pericles boards a ship for Tyre with Thaisa, and Lychordia, a nurse. Out at sea, a tempest besets the ship, threatening to destroy it.
On deck, Pericles bemoans his fate in becoming caught by another tempest. Lychordia comes on deck with an infant baby and tells Pericles that Thaisa is dead. Pericles cries to the gods that they made him love their creations, yet snatch them away cruelly soon. Lychordia hands him his child, saying that her future life will surely be calm in contrast to a birth in the middle of such violence. The shipmaster declares that the body of Thaisa must be tossed overboard, following a sailor's superstition that the sea will not be calm until the dead are off the ship.
Pericles goes to Thaisa's room and speaks over her body and regrets that he cannot give her a proper burial. The shipmaster offers a chest to put the body in, with some of Pericles's jewels and spices and a note. The shipmaster says the boat is near Tarsus, and Pericles orders the ship to land there. He intends to give the child to Cleon, believing it won't survive until Tyre.
This section is critically considered to be the beginning of the part of Pericles authored by Shakespeare. Gower's speech quickly takes on some of the stylistic characteristics of Shakespeare's writing, such as the use of enjambment, in which a phrase or idea does not conclude at the end of the line, but carries over to the next line. Up to this point, Gower's speeches have been in iambic tetrameter and involve rhyming couplets, but quickly expand into pentameter. From here on, his scenes begin to make a greater contrast to the language of regular scenes.
Pericles's wife dies in childbirth, and while he comes close to cursing the gods, he doesn't. But for the baby, he says he might consider suicide, but he bears up well, and prepares Thaisa for a watery burial. The only time we have seen Pericles and Thaisa alone together is when he speaks over her body. And as glad as he is about the child, he seems ready to deposit it in Tarsus with Cleon, rather than caring for it himself.
Pericles seems to be in an endurance phase--he puts up with anything that comes his way, be it shipwreck, marriage, or tempest. He shows frustration but still continues to be a rather banal figure of a good man, bearing all that comes upon him.
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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Take a Study Break!