Pericles

by: William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scenes i-ii

Commentary

Like Thaliart's failed effort to kill Pericles, Leonine also fails in his task and lies about it, to save face. While we don't know what happened with Thaliart--whether he returned to Antioch with news of Pericles's death--in this case we will find out what happens to the murderer.

While the attempt on Marina's life duplicates the assassin's attempts to kill Pericles, Marina's apparent death also doubles the alleged death of her mother Thaisa. Yet again the sea bears her away, in the form of seagoing pirates. Pericles's misfortunes multiply, though he doesn't yet know it.

Dionyza's jealousy toward Marina was apparently stronger than her desire to pay back Pericles for his good deeds. In a play that rather simply breaks down between characters that are good and bad, Cleon and Dionyza clearly fall on the side of bad: they not only attempt to murder an innocent, but to murder the innocent daughter of a man who had saved his country from starvation. In Gower's comments about Antiochus and his daughter the play also has set up a rather predictable structure of punishment for the bad and reward for the good. In becoming doubles of Antiochus and his daughter, Cleon and Dionyza now fit, perhaps too snugly for comfort, into this paradigm.

Like the fisherman, the common people in the brothel at Myteline also speak in prose rather than verse. Their language is bawdy and filled with sexual innuendoes. These occasional scenes with common people probably provided some comic relief for the audience, and also gave the common people a chance to see themselves represented on stage. The scenes with the common people are often the most purposefully comedic.

Marina, being the offspring of good people but now sold into prostitution, faces a fate similar to her father's. Her resolute promise to protect her virginity mirrors Pericles own rigid, simple goodness, but at this point, there remains a question about whether she will be able to maintain that purity in the face of the new world she has had thrust upon her.


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