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Pericles

William Shakespeare

Act IV, Scenes iii-iv

Act IV, Scenes i-ii

Act IV, Scene v

Summary

In Tarsus, Cleon and Dionyza discuss the apparent death of Marina. Cleon wishes he could undo Marina's murder, which he did not have a hand in planning. Dionyza has poisoned Leonine in order to keep her plot secret. Cleon asks what they'll say to Pericles when he comes looking for his daughter; Dionyza says they should tell him Marina died by foul play. Dionyza says no one knows what happened, and reiterates that Marina threatened her own child by drawing all the attention. And as for Pericles, she insists that he will see they have done right by Marina, by mourning her and building a monument to her. Cleon calls Dionyza a harpy, smiling while she digs her talons in deeper, and Dionyza scorns him for being so afraid of the gods.

Gower enters, tells that Pericles is again on the sea, coming, with Helicanus, to Tarsus to see his daughter. Gower narrates another dumb show, wherein Pericles arrives in Tarsus and Cleon and Dionyza show him Marina's tomb. Pericles puts on sackcloth and swears never to wash his face or cut his hair again, and: "he bears / A tempest which his moral vessel tears" (IV.iv.27-8).

Gower reads Marina's epitaph, which declares that she was a good, virtuous person. Pericles, believing his daughter is dead, determines to bear this new bereavement and whatever else fortune throws in his path.

Commentary

Dionyza shows her worst colors, claiming she killed Marina in order to let her daughter get ahead, and urging Cleon to see it as a beneficial action for his daughter. She makes fun of his religious belief, and seems to believe that mourning and memorializing someone she has killed is enough to erase the crime, at least in a world where gods are not to be feared.

Pericles has now lived through so many tempests that, at the discovery of the death of his daughter, the tempest he must endure is described as an interior one. His entire life is a tempest of psychological sadness and bereavement, of legitimate, justified melancholy. Pericles mourns accordingly, but maintains an almost implacably virtuous determination to bear whatever happens, to accept the world for what it imposes upon him.

His declaration that he will now no longer wash his face or cut his hair (which he was already growing until the marriage of Marina) marks Pericles as a kind of religious devotee rather than a jewel-laden king. Increasingly he resembles the figure of Job, who endures misfortunes beyond his control, comprehending it as his assigned lot. However, whereas Job conceives of himself as fitting into some larger religious order, as existing under the aegis of a single, all-knowing God, Pericles never voices such a sentiment. He simply endures.

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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2 out of 2 people found this helpful

A True Fairy Tale

by BardForKidsdotcom, July 12, 2014

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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