by William Shakespeare
Presented by Paul W. Collins
© Copyright 2011 by Paul W. Collins
By William Shakespeare
Presented by Paul W. Collins
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this work may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, audio or video recording, or other, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Note: Spoken lines from Shakespeare’s drama are in the public domain, as is the Globe edition (1864) of his plays, which provided the basic text of the speeches in this new version of Pericles. But Pericles, by William Shakespeare: Presented by Paul W. Collins, is a copyrighted work, and is made available for your personal use only, in reading and study.
Student, beware: This is a presentation, not a scholarly work, so you should be sure your teacher, instructor or professor considers it acceptable as a reference before quoting characters’ comments or thoughts from it in your report or term paper.
A Riddle’s Reward
Out of the darkness, the spirit of a sprightly old Englishman comes into view. Eyes twinkling, he ambles up to the front of the platform. His ink-stained fingers and plain coat betoken the character of a humble man. Like his good friend Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower is a story writer—well beloved, and among the best.
The author rubs his knobby hands together, eager to share tall tales—recounted in his own colorful and vibrant way—derived from those told by predecessors, especially the Greeks poets of many centuries past.
“To sing a song that of old was sung, from ashes ancient Gower is come, assuming man’s infirmities, to glad your ear and please your eyes!
“It hath been sung at festivals, for embers’ eves and holy-days; and lords and ladies in their lives have read it for restoratives. The purpose is to show men glorious—et bonum quo antiquius, eo melius!”—and the older a good thing, the better, “if you, born in these latter times, when wit’s more ripe, accept my rhymes.
“So that hearing an old man sing may to Your Worships pleasure bring, I life would wish—and that I might exude it for you like taper-light!”
He steps to the right, sweeping his hand back toward the stage setting, dimly limned behind him—a royal palace. “This, Antioch, then; Antiochus the Great built up this city for his chiefest seat, the fairest in all Syria!
“I’ll tell you what mine authors say: this king unto him took a fere,”—a wife, “who died and left a female heir, buxom, blithe, and fair of face, as if heaven lent her all its grace!”
His clear-eyed gaze is stern. “For whom the father liking took—and her to incest did provoke! Bad child—worse father, to entice his own to evil should be done by none!”
The frown deepens. “But by custom,” he adds, “what they did begin, was, with long use, accounted no sin.”
The poet paces, hands clasped behind his back. “The beauty of this shameful dame drew many princes hither to frame her in marriage-pleasures mellow—or as bedmate and play fellow!
“Which to prevent he made a law, to hold her quiet and men in awe, that whoso asked her for his wife—a riddle not told, lost his life!
“So for her many a wight did try, as yon grim looks do justify,” he says, nodding toward a row of men’s severed heads—seven, each impaled on a tall, gore-stained pike.
“What now ensues: ’fore the judgment of your eye I bring my cause—and those who best can testify….”
King Antiochus walks slowly across the dark, stone-paved courtyard, passing the grisly array. Flickering torchlight seems to animate the sagging faces: purpled eyelids hood black sockets’ undying stare; each mouth forms a hollow moan of endless dread.
The king addresses the tall, handsome visitor: “Young prince of Tyre, you have at large receivèd the danger of the task you undertake?”
“I have, Antiochus,” says Pericles. “And, with a soul emboldened by the glory of her praise, think death no hazard in this enterprise!”
The king calls to an attendant at the back. “Bring in our daughter!—clothèd like a bride for the embracements of even Jove himself!
“—at whose conception tall Lucina”—goddess of childbirth; an aspect of the virgin deity Diana—“reigned!
“—and Nature this dowry gave to glad her presence: the senate-house of planets all did sit, to knit in her their best perfections!”
Court musicians play a sweet refrain as the beautiful princess glides to her father’s side.
Pericles smiles, watching her. See where she comes, apparelled like the spring, to grace her subjects! And her thoughts, the kind of every virtue, give renown to men!—her face the book of praises, where is read nothing but special pleasures!—as if from thence sorrow were ever razed, and testy wrath could never be her wild companion!
You gods that made me man, and hold sway in love—who have inflamèd desire in my breast to taste the fruit of yon celestial tree, or die in the adventure—as I am son and servant to your will, be my help to compass such a boundless happiness!
The king begins. “Prince Pericles,—”
“—who would be son-in-law to great Antiochus!”
“—before thee stands this fair Hesperides, with golden fruit!—but dangerous to be touched, for deadly dragons are here to affright thee hard!
“Her face, like heaven, enticeth thee to view her boundless glory,” he says, watching the visiting young king coldly, “which deserving must gain.
“And without which, because thine eye presumes to reach, all thy whole heap must die. Yon sometimes-famous princes, like thyself, drawn by report, adventurous by desire, tell thee that, with speechless tongues and semblance pale, without covering save yon field of stars!” They remain unburied.
As the sovereign strides to the row of dead suitors’ heads, his glare implies that he speaks as much to prophesy as to warn. “Here they stand—martyrs slain in Cupid’s wars—and with dead cheeks advise thee to desist from going into the net of Death—whom none resists!”
But the courtiers avoid looking at the pallid faces, once bright and hopeful, and the horrid wounds that will never bruise or heal.
Pericles, though, is undaunted. “Antiochus, I thank thee, who hath, by those fearful objects, taught my frail mortality to know itself, and to prepare this body, like to them, for what I must come to. Death brought to mind should belike do as a mirror: tell us life’s but breath—to trust it, error.
“I’ll make my will, then, not as sick men do—who know the world, but find woe in seeking heaven—and grasp not at earthly toys, as erst they did. Thus I’ll bequeath as every prince should do: a happy peace to you and all good men, my riches to the earth from whence they came.
“And my fire of unspotted love to you!” he tells the princess. “Ready for the way of life or death, I await the sharpest blows, Antiochus!”
The king’s thin smile is smug. Scorning advice, read the conclusion then—which, ruled but not expounded, is decreed: as did these before thee, thou thyself shalt bleed!
His daughter is offering Pericles a seducing smile. “Having thus said, yet mayst thou prove prosperous! Of all assayèd yet, I wish thee happiness!” she says coyly.
Pericles steps forward. “Like a bold champion, I assume the lists,”—enter the place for a trial in chivalry, “asking no advice, nor any other thought but faithfulness and courage!”
The lady comes to hand him a scroll. He unfurls it, and silently reads the riddle:
I am no viper; yet I feed
On Mother’s flesh, which did me breed.
I sought a husband, in which labour
I found that kindness in a father.
He’s father, son, and husband mild;
I, another wife, and yet his child.
How this may be, even yet, for two—
If you will live, resolve it you!
“Sharp physic is the last!” says Pericles; death cures all.
But then, looking at the haughty young woman and the decadent old man, he suddenly understands the riddle’s implication. O you Powers that give heaven countless eyes, viewing men’s acts why cloud you not their sights perpetually, if this be true which makes me pale to read it?
He speaks so softly that only the daughter can hear. “Fair glass of Delight,”—her mirror, “I lovèd you,” he tells her, “and could still, were not thy glorious casket stored with ill!
“But I must tell you how my thoughts revolt!—for he’s no man for whom perfection waits that, knowing sin within, will touch so much as the gates.
“You are a fair viol—your senses the strings that, fingered to make Man’s lawful music, would draw Heaven down, and all the gods to hearken! But being played upon before your time, Hell alone danceth to so harsh a chime!
“In good sooth, I care not for you.”
Antiochus can see that she is frowning. “Prince Pericles, touch not, upon thy life!” he cries, although the young king has not moved, “for that’s an article within our law as dangerous as the rest!
“Your time’s expired! Either expound now,” he demands, “or receive your sentence!”
The courtiers watch, wide-eyed, as Pericles steps fearlessly toward him—but again the youth speaks very quietly. “Great king, few love to hear the sins they love to act. ’Twould abraid yourself too near for me to tell it!
“For Vice, like the wandering wind, blows dust in others’ eyes to spare itself. But reported, the end withal is bought thus dear: the breath is gone!—and sore eyes see clear to stop the air that would hurt them!
“The blind mole casts copèd hills toward heaven, to tell that earth is wronged by man’s oppression—and the poor vermin doth die for’t! He who has a book of all that monarchs do is more secure to keep it shut than shown.”
Pericles moves even closer: “Kings are earthen gods, voicing as law their will—if Jove do stray, who dare say that he doth ill?
“It is enough you know.” And this is fit, he thinks. Bad, being known, fosters worse to smother it!
“All love the womb that their first being bred—so give my tongue like leave to love my head!”
By Heaven, I would that I had thy head! thinks Antiochus, well understanding the threat of exposure: courtiers’ furtive whispers could quickly turn to angry shouts. He has found the meaning! But I will gloze with him. He smiles. “Young Prince of Tyre,” he says, loudly enough for all to hear, “though by the tenor of our strict edict, in your exposition’s misinterpreting we might proceed to cancel your days—but hope, proceeding from such an one as your fair self, doth turn us otherwise!
“Forty days longer we do respite you—if by which time our secret be undone, this mercy shows: we’ll joy in such a son!
“And until then your entertaining shall be as doth befit our honour and your worth!”
The court of Antioch buzzes with surprise at the cruel king’s new magnanimity.
But Pericles perceives the king’s cynical irony: Antiochus will act dishonorably against a royal threat: his hospitality will soon become lethal. As the courtiers drift away, the visitor muses. How courtesy would seem to cover sin, when what is done is like an hypocrite, which is good in nothing but in sight!
If thou wert true whom I interpret false, then it were certain you were not so bad as with foul incest to abuse your soul! He watches as Antiochus and his daughter embrace. There now!—in your unseemly claspings with your child, you’re both father and son-in-law—with pleasure fit for husband, not father!—and she’s an eater of her mother’s flesh, by the defiling of her parents’ bed!
And both like serpents are, who though they feed on sweetest flowers, yet poison breed!
He looks around, and signals for his attendants to come to him.
Antioch, farewell! For wisdom sees: those men not blushing in actions blacker than night will shun no course to keep them from the light! One sin, I know, another doth provoke—murder’s as near lust as flame to smoke! Poison and treachery are the hands of shame—aye, and its shields, to put off the blame!
He will not sleep here tonight. Then, lest my crest be croppèd to keep you clear, by flight I’ll shun the danger which now I fear!
He and his men hurry to claim their horses, and soon they are galloping down the road south—away from Antiochus’ hard tower, thrusting up in the dark.
The king sits alone, and seethes.
He hath found the meaning!—for which we mean to have his head! He must not live to trumpet forth my infamy, nor tell the world Antiochus doth sin in such a loathèd manner!—and therefore instantly this prince must die! For by his fall must my honour be kept high.
He hears footsteps in the hall. “Who attends us there?”
The trusted lieutenant he has summoned enters the room. “Doth Your Highness call?”
“Thaliard, you are of our chamber, and our mind takes private actions in part by your secrecy—and for your faithfulness we will advance you.” He rises and goes to a table. “Thaliard, behold: here’s poison, and here’s gold; we hate the Prince of Tyre, and thou must kill him!
“It fits thee not to ask the reason why—because we bid it! Say: is it done?”
“My lord, ’tis done.”
“Enough.” Antiochus wants no delay. “Let your breath cool yourself in telling of your haste!”
Just then a young messenger comes to the king from the front gates’ guards. “My lord, Pericles is fled!” Seeing the king’s face redden, the boy bows quickly and runs.
“As thou wilt live, fly after!” growls Antiochus. “And like an arrow shot by a well experienced archer, that hits the mark his eye doth level at, ne’er return unless to say, ‘Prince Pericles is dead!’”
Thaliard bows. “My lord, if I can get him within my purposed length, I’ll make him sure enough!”—safely silent in death. “So, farewell to Your Highness,” he says, hurrying away.
“Thaliard, adieu,” mutters Antiochus.
He looks down, clenching both fists. Till Pericles be dead, my heart can lend no succor to my head!
Tyre, another, smaller city-based state in the vast Seleucid Empire, stands seventy-five leagues to the south of Antioch on the eastern shore of the blue Aegean, where it has thrived for well over a thousand years.
In the throne room of his opulent palace, Pericles wants to be alone—to think. “Let none disturb us,” he tells the lords of his court as they file out.
Why should this change of thoughts—their sad companion, dull-eyed melancholy—be my so-usèd guest as not an hour in the day’s glorious walk—nor peaceful night, the tomb where grief should sleep—can breed me any quiet?
Here pleasures court mine eye, but my eyes shun them!
The danger which I fear is at Antioch, whose aim seems far too short to hit me here. Yet no pleasure’s art joys my spirit; neither doth the archer’s distance comfort me!
Then it is thus: the passions of the mind that have their first conception of a missèd dread have, after, nourishment and life as care!—and what was first but fear of what might be done grows older now, in caring that it not be done!
And so with me: the great Antiochus, ’gainst whom I am too little to contend, since he’s so great as can make his will his act, will think me speaking though I’m sworn to silence! Nor boots it me to say I honour him, if he suspect I may dishonour him!
As for what would make him blush in being shown, he’ll stop the course by which it might be known! With hostile forces he’ll o’erspread this land, and with the dint of war will look so huge that amazement shall drive courage from this state!—our men will be vanquished ere they do resist, and subjects punished that ne’er thought offence!
Which care for them, not pity of my self—who want no more than do the tops of trees which shadow the roots they grow by, to protect them—makes my body to pine, and soul to languish—and banishes both before him who would punish!
He sees Lord Helicanus, his chief advisor, ease open one of the tall double doors to slip in; but several other courtiers push through after him.
Cries an obsequious nobleman, “Joy and all comfort in your sacred breast!”
“And keep your mind, till you return to us, peaceful and comfortable!” adds another warmly.
Pericles has expressed his intention to depart—to travel from his home land on a long voyage.
“Peace, peace!” says Helicanus, annoyed by the others, “and give experience tongue!
“They do abuse the king who flatter him; for flattery is a bellows that blows upon the thing which is flattered—the spark to which the blast gives heat in stronger glowing, whereas reproof—obedient and in order—benefits kings; for as they are men, they may err.”
He tells the sovereign, “When Signior Soothe, here, does proclaim the peace, he flatters you—makes war upon your life!” The loyal statesman, forty-five, is very troubled by Pericles’ decision. “Prince, pardon me or strike me, as you please,” he says, kneeling. “I cannot be much lower than on my knees.”
Pericles waves away the others. “All leave us else. But let your cares find out what shipping and what lading’s in our haven, and then return to us.” The courtiers bow and go. They will send men to inquire at the wharves.
Pericles looks down at the kneeling nobleman. “Helicanus, thou hast movèd us; what seest thou in our looks?”
“An archer’s bow, dread lord!”
“If there be such darts in princes’ frowns, how durst thy tongue move anger to our face?”
Helicanus shrugs. “How dare the plants look up to heaven, from whence they have their nourishment?”
“Thou know’st I have the power to take thy life from thee….”
“I have ground the axe myself; do you but strike the blow.”
Pericles smiles and offers him a hand. “Rise, prithee, rise!” He goes to a heavy table of dark, carved pine, on which lie maps. “Set it down thou art no flatterer! I thank thee for it!—and heaven forbid that kings should let their ears hear their own faults hid!
“Fit counsellor and savant for a prince, who by thy wisdom makest a prince thy servant, what wouldst thou have me do?”
“To bear with patience such griefs as you yourself do lay upon yourself!”
Pericles laughs. “Thou speak’st, Helicanus, like a physician that minister’st a potion unto me that thou wouldst tremble to receive thyself!
“Attend me, then,” he says, having decided to reveal his reasoning. “I went to Antioch, where, as thou know’st, against the face of Death I sought the purchase of a glorious beauty, from whence my issue I might propagate—square arms to foreign princes, and bring joy to our subjects.
“Her face was to mine eye beyond all wonder; the rest—hark in thine ear—as foul as incest!
“Which once my knowledge found, the sinful father seemed not to strike, only soothe! But thou know’st this: ’tis time to fear, when tyrants seem to kiss! Such fear so grew in me that I hither fled, under the covering of a care-filled night that served as my good protector!
“And being here, I bethought me what was past—what might be following.”
He paces, picturing Antiochus. “How many worthy princes’ bloods were shed to keep his bed in darkness, unlaid ope?
“I know him tyrannous—and tyrants’ fears decrease not, but grow faster by the year! And should he suspect, as no doubt he doth, that I would open it to the listening air….
“To lop that doubt, he’ll fill this land with arms, and make pretence of wrong that I have done him! Then all—for mine, if I may so call it, ‘offence’—must feel war’s blow, that spares not innocence!
“Love for which all—of whom thyself art one, who now reprovest me for it—“
“Alas, sir!” cries Helicanus, apologetically.
“—drew sleep out of mine eyes, blood from my cheeks, musings into my mind, with a thousand doubts how I might stop this tempest ere it came! But finding little comfort, and not to aggrieve them, I thought it princely charity thus to relieve them!”
“Well, my lord,” says Helicanus, “since you have given me leave to speak, freely I will speak!
“Antiochus you fear—and justly too, I think, you fear the tyrant who, either by public war or private treason, would take away your life. Therefore, my lord, go, travel for a while, till that his rage and anger be forgot, or till the Destinies do cut his thread of life.
“Your rule direct unto another; if to me, light serves not day more faithful than I’ll be!”
“I do not doubt thy faith,” says Pericles. “But should he wrong my liberties in my absence…?”
If Antiochus were to wage war, “We’ll mingle our bloods together in the earth from whence we had our being and our birth!”
Pericles nods, satisfied. “Then, Tyre, now I look from thee—and to Tarsus tend my travel, where I’ll hear from thee, and by those letters I’ll dispose myself.
“The care I had, and have, for subjects’ good, I lay on thee, whose wisdom and strength can bear it,” he assures Helicanus. “I’ll take thy word for faith, not ask thine oath; who shuns not to break one will surely crack both.
“In our orbs we’ll live so safe and sound that Time this truth shall evince: thou showed’st as a true subject shines, I as a true prince!”
Later that morning, a visitor stands waiting, with his attendants, in the throne room. So, this is Tyre, and this the court, thinks Thaliard, looking glumly around the cheerful hall. Here must I kill King Pericles.
And if I do it not, I am sure to be hanged at home!
’Tis dangerous! Well I perceive he was a wise fellow and had good discretion, who, being bade to ask what he would of the king, desired he might know none of his secrets! Now do I see he had some reason for’t: for if a king bid a man be a villain, he’s bound by the indenture of his oath to be one!
Hush! Here come the lords of Tyre….
As Helicanus approaches with old Lord Escanes and several other noblemen, he is telling them, “You shall not need, my fellow peers, further to question me about your king’s departure. His seal and commission, left in trust with me, do speak sufficiently: he’s gone to travel.”
Thaliard is stunned. What?—the king gone!
“If further yet you will be satisfièd why he would depart unlicensed, as it were, by your loves, I’ll give some light unto you,” says Helicanus. “Being at Antioch,—”
What of Antioch? The emissary listens intently.
“—royal Antiochus, on what cause I know not, took some displeasure from him—at least he judgèd so. And, unsure if he had erred or sinned, to show his regret, he would correct himself—and so puts himself under the shipmen’s toil, which with each minute threatens life or death!”
Thaliard is relieved. Well, I perceive I shall not be hanged now, although I could have been! But since he’s gone, this the king must please: he ’scapèd from the land, to perish in the seas!
I’ll present myself. He steps forward. “Peace to the lords of Tyre!”
Helicanus returns the bow. “Lord Thaliard from Antiochus is welcome!”
“From him I come with message unto princely Pericles. But since my landing I have understood your lord has betook himself to unknown travels. My embassage must return from whence it came.”
“We have no reason to require it, commended to our master, not to us,” says Helicanus—dryly, considering the likely mission. “Yet, ere you shall depart, this we desire: as friends to Antioch, we may feast ye in Tyre!”
Once back at home, Lord Thaliard will report that penitent King Pericles has left the amiable realm of Tyre to brave the ocean’s hazardous waves.
A Rescue, a Wreck
Across the wide sea, ninety leagues northwest of Tyre, lies the port of Tarsus, capital of that long-prosperous farming region, which is now suffering from a protracted drought—and the resultant famine.
With neither grain to ship nor revenue with which to import food, the Tarsians see their harbor languish, its piers idle and forlorn. Moored at the many docks, round-bottom vessels, unladen and unmanned, float high and still on murky water.
This morning Lord Cleon, governor of all Tarsus, has visited the silent, empty warehouses, passed shuttered shops, and seen workers wandering, unemployed and in despair. With his wife and their attendants, he is now returning to his mansion on the highest hill overlooking the bay.
“My Dionyza, shall we rest us here?” he asks her. “And by relating tales of others’ griefs, see if ’twill teach us to forget our own.”
She scoffs. Angry townsmen have complained—vociferously—at each pause along their path. “That were to blow at fire in hope of quenching it!
“Ah, my distressèd lord,” she says, “such griefs as ours are, here they’re more felt.” The people are past worry—they are hungry. “And seen with mischief’s eyes, like to groves, being topped”—pruned, “they higher rise.”
Dionyza is annoyed; deigning to visit the commoners, she has not encountered the customary adulation, but only protest. She finds the visit futile. “He who digs into hills because they do aspire throws down one mountain to cast up a higher!” She wants to go home.
The governor, however, wants a show of sympathy for the citizens clustered about them. He raises his voice. “Oh, Dionyza, who wanteth food but can not say he wants it?—or will conceal his hunger till he famish?
“To air our woes, our tongues into sorrows do sound deep! Till lungs fetch breath which may proclaim them louder, our eyes will weep! If the heavens slumber while their creatures want, we may awake their helps to comfort them!”
As bystanders frown up toward somnolent gods, Cleon tells her, privately, “I’ll thus discourse on woes felt several years; if you lack breath to speak, help me with tears!” Listeners are watching the callous lady.
She regards him sourly. “I’ll do my best, sir,” she mutters. Dionyza never cries.
Cleon looks back, down toward the sea, and draws a public speaker’s deep breath. “This Tarsus, o’er which I have the government—is a city to whom Plenty held out a full hand!—herself strewed fair riches, even in the streets!—where towers bore heads so high they kissed the clouds, and strangers ne’er beheld but wondered!
“Here men and dames went strutting, adornèd like one another’s mirror to trim them by!
“On their tables were full stores, to glad the sight!—and not so much to feed on as to delight!
“All poverty was scorned—and in pride so great, the name of help grew odious to repeat!”
Dionyza nods. “Oh, ’tis too true!”
“But see what gods can do: although they gave in abundance to their creatures, for whom but of late earth, sea, and air were all too little to content and please, these mouths, by this dire change, are as houses defilèd by want of use!—they are now starved for want of exercise!
“Those palates which, not but two summers younger, required innovations to delight the taste, would now be glad of bread—even beg for it!
“Those mothers who, nuzzling up their babes, thought nought too curious,”—nothing too extravagant, “now are ready to eat those little darlings whom they loved!
“So sharp are hunger’s teeth that man and wife draw lots who first shall die, to lengthen the other’s life!”
Cleon glances at his noble companions; two are pressing perfumed silk kerchiefs to their noses to ward off the city’s common odors. “Here stands a lord, and there a lady, weeping!”
He motions toward the town. “Here many sink; yet those who see them fall have scarce strength left to give them burial! Is not this true?”
Some of the “mouths” nod.
“Our cheeks and hollow eyes do witness it!” says Dionyza. No one among their party is so foolish as to laugh—not with her plump face so near.
Says Cleon, “Oh, let those cities that of Plenty’s cup and her prosperities so largely taste with their superfluous revelry fear these tears! The misery of Tarsus might be theirs!”
A townsman hurries forward, past the stalled procession. “Where’s the lord governor?”
“Here. Speak out thy sorrows which thou bring’st in haste, for comfort is too far for us to expect!”
The out-of-work baker is agitated: “We have descried, from upon our neighbouring shore, the portly sail of ships making hitherward!”
Cleon groans. “I thought as much! One sorrow never comes but it brings an heir that may succeed it as inheritor—and so with ours! Some neighbouring nation, taking advantage of our misery, hath stuffed these hollow vessels with their power”—military might—“to beat us down, we who are down already!
“And to make a conquest of unhappy me!—overcoming whom no glory is gotten.”
“That’s the least fear,” say the young man, “for, by the semblance of their white flags displayèd, they bring us peace, and come to us as favourers, not as foes!”
Cleon is scornful. “Thou speak’st like him ’s untutored, so to repeat! Who makes fairest show means the most deceit!”—a principle he knows well. “But bring they what they will and what they can, what need we fear? The ground’s the lowest—and we are halfway there!”—into the grave.
“Go tell their general we attend him here, to know for what he comes, and whence he comes, and what he craves.”
The man bows. “I go, my lord!” He hurries down to greet the visitors’ leading vessel.
Cleon, watching as the ships approach, muses. “Welcome is this prince, if he in peace consist; if in war, we are unable to resist!”
“Lord Governor, for so we hear you are,” says Pericles, smiling as he strides up to meet Cleon, “let not our ships and number of our men be like a beacon fire”—one lighted to signal warning—“to amaze your eyes!
“We have heard of your miseries as far as Tyre, and see the desolation of your streets! We come not to add fear to your sorrows, but to relieve them of their heavy load! These our ships—which you haply may think are like the Trojan horse was, stuffèd with men of bloody mien, expecting to overthrow—are stored with grain to make bread for your needy, and to give them life whom hunger has starvèd half dead.”
“The gods of Greece”—the most powerful ones—“protect you!” cries a citizen. He and the others kneel together before Pericles, voicing relief and delight. “And we’ll pray for you!”
“Arise, I pray you!” says the young king jovially. “Rise!—we do not look for reverence, only loving—and harbourage for ourself, our ships and men.”
Cleon, noting Pericles’ gold crown, bows. “When any here shall not gratify, or repay you with unthankfulness—though it be our wives, our children, or ourselves—may the curses of heaven and men follow their evils!
“Till when—the which I hope shall ne’er be seen!—Your Grace is welcome to our town and us!”
Pericles clasps his hand. “Which welcome we’ll accept, and feast here a while—until your stars that frown lend us a smile!”
John Gower again comes forward on the platform. “Here have you seen: a mighty king his child, poor dear, to incest bring; a better prince and a benign lord who will prove awesome in both deed and word!
“Be quiet then, as man should be till he hath passed necessity, and I’ll show you those in trouble’s reign—losing a mite, a mountain to gain!
“The good to whom I, conversing, give my benison”—Pericles—“is still at Tarsus, where each man thinks writ what he has spoken!—and remembering what he does, they build him a statue to make him glorious!”
The storyteller moves to the left, making room on the stage. “But adverse tidings ’fore your eyes are brought!” He turns to watch the silent action. “What need speak I what’s being wrought?”
Pericles is talking with the governor when, passing by their attendants, a gentleman arrives, and bows; he has brought a letter to the king. Pericles reads it—and his face reveals growing consternation.
Then Cleon reads the missive, while Pericles rewards the messenger: with his sword, he confers knighthood on his kneeling subject.
Pericles bow to the governor, taking his leave; then his men follow him out at the left side. Cleon and his train exit at the other.
Gower turns back. “Good Helicane, who has stayed at home, eats not honey of others’ labour, like a drone, but thoroughly strives to kill any bad, keep good alive! And to fulfill his prince’s desire, he sends word of all that haps in Tyre—how Thaliard came, full bent to sin, and had intent to murder him!
“And that in Tarsus ’twould not be best for him longer to make his rest!
“Hearing so,” says Gower, “Pericles puts forth to seas—where when men be, there’s seldom ease. For now the wind begins to blow! Thunder above and deeps below make such unquiet that the sailing ship which should house him safe is wracked and split!
“And he, good prince, all having lost, by waves from coast to coast is tossed!—bereft of men, of wealth—not aught escaping but himself!
“Till Fortune, tired with doing bad, throws him ashore, to have him glad.
“And here he comes….
“What shall be next,”—says the poet, stepping away, “pardon old Gower; this ’longs to the text….”
Pericles struggles out of the foaming tide, his clinging clothes sodden with brine, to stagger onto a narrow shore.
“Yet cease your ire, you angry stirrers of heaven!” he cries into the howling tempest. “Wind, rain and thunder, remember: earthly man is but a substance that must yield to you! And I, as befits my nature, do obey too.”
He moans in weary supplication, and falls to the hard wet sand. Alas, the sea hath cast me on rocks, washed me from shore to shore, and left me but my breath!—nothing to think on but ensuing death!
He calls aloud to Neptune: “Let it suffice the greatness of your powers to have bereft a prince of all his fortunes, and thrown him from your watery grave! Here to have death in peace is all he’ll crave!”
He falls back, exhausted, and soon slips into a fitful sleep.
The storm has passed. Pericles awakens, lying, weak and nearly naked, on a strip of sunny beach along the southern Mediterranean. He hears a voice, and looks up to see a poor fisherman approaching not far away.
The sunburned ancient is calling seaward, “What, ho!—Pilch!”
A shirtless boy, staring out over the water, answers. “Yo! Come and bring away the nets….”
“What?” The man is annoyed. “Patch-breeches, I say!” he shouts.
The lad of twelve calls back. “What say you, master?”
“Look that thou stirrest now!” cries the old man, motioning him forward. “Come away, or I’ll fetch thee with a wanion!”—with a curse.
Says the tanned boy, approaching, “’Faith, master, I am thinking of the poor men that were cast away before us even now!”
The fisherman nods. “Alas, poor souls! It grieved my heart to hear what pitiful cries they made to us to help them, when, well-a-day, we could scarce help ourselves!”
“Aye, master.” The boy shakes his head sadly. “ Said I not as much when I saw the porpoise? How he bounced and tumbled! They say they’re half fish, half flesh. A plague on them!—they ne’er come but I look to be washèd!”—soaked by foul weather.
The lad ponders. “Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea….”
“Why, as men do a-land—the great ones eat up the little ones,” says the fisherman. “I can compare our rich misers to nothing so fitly as to a whale: he rumbles and ranges, driving the poor fry before him, and at last devours them all—at a mouthful!
“Such whales have I heard of o’ the land, who never leave off gaping till they’ve swallowed the whole parish—church, steeple, bells, and all!”
A pretty moral! thinks the young king, amused. He sits up, still unnoticed behind the others in the tall salt grasses.
“Master,” says the lad, “if I had been the sexton on that day, I would have been in the belfry!”
A young fisherman at the water’s edge has stopped working on their nets, and he now joins them. “Why, man?” he asks the boy.
“Because he should have swallowed me too!—and when I had been in his belly I would have kept up such a jangling of the bells that he should never have left till he cast bells, steeple, church, and parish up again!
“If only the good King Simonides were of my mind—”
Simonides. Pericles, listening, recognizes the name; he knows of this North African realm, conquered, and now held, by the Greeks.
“—we would purge the land of these drones that rob the bee of her honey!”
Thinks Pericles, Now from the finny subjects of the sea these fishers can tell the infirmities of men!—and from their watery empire detect all that land may prove, or men recollect! He rises. “Peace be at your labour, honest fishermen,” he rasps, his throat raw from crying out at sea.
The others are startled; but the younger, brawnier man only regards him sourly. “‘Honest!’ Good fellow, what’s that?” he demands. “Search you out the calendar, and if a day it befit, nobody here looks after it!”—celebrates honesty.
“You may see!” says Pericles, smiling and spreading his arms, to stand as an example. “The sea hath cast such a one upon your coast!”
The big fisherman laughs. “What a drunken knave was the sea to cast thee in our way!”
Says the king, brushing off sand, “A man whom both the waters and the wind on that vast tennis-court have made the ball for them to play with entreats you to pity him! He who asks of you was never used to beg….”
“No, friend?—cannot you beg?” asks the old man. “There’s them in our country,”—scorn is clear in his tone, “gets more with begging than we can do with working!”
The other fisherman challenges the bedrabbled castaway: “Canst thou catch any fishes, then?”
“I never practised it.”
“Nay, then thou wilt starve, surely; for here’s nothing to be got, now-a-days, unless thou canst fish for’t!”
Pericles is shivering. “What I have been I have forgone to show; but what I am, want teaches me to think on: a man thronged up with cold! My veins are chill, and have no more of life than may suffice to give my tongue that heat to ask your help!
“Which if you shall refuse,” he says weakly, “when I am dead, for that I am a man, pray see me burièd.”
“Die quoth-a? Now gods forbid!” says the wizened man gruffly. “I have a wrap here; come, put it on; keep thee warm.” He tugs a plain, wrinkled cloak from a scuffed canvas bag, and the king draws it around himself.
“Now, afore me, a handsome fellow!” laughs the kindly old fisherman, watching as Pericles rubs his arms for warmth. “Come, thou shalt come home—we have meat on holidays, fish on fasting days—and, moreo’er, sausages and flap-jacks! And thou shalt be welcome.”
Pericles bows. “I thank you, sir,” he says humbly.
The younger man laughs. “Hark you, my friend—you said you could not beg!”
The King of Tyre shrugs. “I had only to crave….”
“But crave? Then I’ll turn ‘craver,’ too—and so shall I ’scape whipping!”
Pericles is surprised. “Why, are all your beggars whipped, then?”
“Oh, not all, my friend, not all! For if all your beggars were whipped, I would wish no better office than to be beadle!”—the man paid to do the whipping. “But, master,” he tells the chuckling old man, “I’ll go draw up the net.” He and the boy head back to the surf.
Pericles admires their salty panache: How well this honest mirth becomes their labour!
“Hark you, sir, do you know where ye are?” asks his companion.
“Not well….” Pericles wants to learn more.
“Well, I’ll tell you: this is called Pentapolis, and our king the good Simonides.”
“The good King Simonides, do you call him?”
“Aye, sir—and he deserves so to be callèd, for his peaceable reign and good government!”
“He is a happy king, since he gains from his subjects the name of good by his governance. How far is his court distant from this shore?”
“Marry, sir, half a day’s journey.” The fisherman is proud of knowing the news. “And, I’ll tell you, he hath a fair daughter!—and tomorrow is her birthday!—and there are princes and knights come from all parts of the world to joust in tourney for her love!”
“Were my fortunes equal to my desires,” says Pericles, “I could wish to be one of them.”
“Ah, sir, things must be as they may.” The crinkled brown face is mischievous. “What a man cannot get lawfully he may deal for—with his life’s soul!” No demon rises, though, from the straggling brown kelp.
The youth and the wiry boy, panting and sweating, have dragged a stretch of woven mesh from the sea onto the sand. “Help, master, help!” calls the older one. “Here’s a fish hangs in the net like a poor man’s right in the law—’twill hardly come out!”
They manage, pulling and twisting, to free the heavy catch, then clear it of seaweed. “Hmh! Pox on’t! ’Tis come out at last—and ’tis turned into a rusty armour!” mutters the man in disgust; he’d much prefer a big, salable fish.
Pericles hurries over to them. “An armour, friends? I pray you, let me see it!” He is delighted with what they have hauled out. “Thanks, Fortune, that, after all my crosses, yet thou givest me something to repair myself!—though it was mine own,” he notes, “part of my heritage, which my dead father did bequeath to me with this strict charge, even as he left his life: ‘Keep it, my Pericles!—it hath been a shield ’twixt me and Death!’
“And he pointed to this ’brace,”—a piece of jointed armor for the right arm, “‘for that it savèd me! Keep it! In like necessity—which the gods protect thee from—it may defend thee!’
“It kept where I slept, I so dearly loved it, till the rough seas, that spare not any man, took it in rage!—though, calmèd, they have given’t again.
“I thank thee for’t!” he cries to the waves. “My shipwreck’s not so ill, since I have here my father’s gift—and his will!”
“What mean you, sir?” asks the old man. He sees no document.
“To beg of you, kind friends, this coat of worth, for it was sometime tangent to a king!—I know it by this mark,” he says, turning over the mail to show scarred links. “He loved me dearly, and for his sake I wish the having of it!
“And that you’d guide me to your sovereign’s court, where with it I may appear as a gentleman! And if ever my low fortune’s better, I’ll pay you bounties; till then, rest your debtor!”
“Why, wilt thou tourney for the lady?” asks the old fisherman.
Pericles nods. “I’ll show the virtue I have, borne in arms!”
“Well, do ye take it!—and the gods give thee good on’t!”
“Aye, but hark you, my friend,” says the younger man, “’twas we that made this garment come up through the rough streams of the waters! There are certain condolements, certain avails…. I hope, sir, if you thrive, you’ll remember from whence you had it.”
“Believe’t, I will!” vows Pericles heartily. “By your furtherance I am clothèd in steel! And in spite of all the ruptures of the sea,” he adds, “this jewel holds its biding on my arm!” He shows them a bracelet set with a large precious stone.
He touches the shining gem. “Unto thy value I will mount myself upon a courser whose prancing steps shall make the gazer joy to see him tread!”
Suddenly he blushes. “Only, I am yet unprovided, my friends, with of a pair of bases!”—a knight’s leg coverings—trousers.
“We’ll certainly provide!” laughs the young fisherman. “Thou shalt have my best robe to make thee a pair—and I’ll take thee to the court myself!”
Pericles is thinking beyond the bouts of chivalry. “Then may honours be but foal to my will!
“That day I’ll rise!—or else add ill to ill!”
King Simonides, with his daughter and their attendants, arrives this sunny day at a colorful pavilion set up near the palace in Pentapolis. One side of the wide tent is open for viewing of the lists, an area marked off in the field for the afternoon’s jousting. As the royals move to the front, the ruler asks a waiting lord, “Are the knights ready to begin the tournament?”
“They are, my liege, and stay your coming to present themselves.”
“Return with them; we are ready,” says the king. “And our daughter, in honour of whose birth these triumphs are, stands here like Beauty’s child, whom Nature begat for men to see!—and seeing, wonder at!” he says proudly. The nobleman bows and goes to summon the knights errant.
Princess Thaisa is beautiful indeed—but modest. “It pleaseth you, my royal father, to express my commendations great whose merit’s less!”
“It’s fit it should be so,” says he, “for princes are a model which heaven makes like itself; and, as jewels lose their glory if neglected, so princes their renown if not respected.”
The king watches as the knights stride toward the lists in their bright armor, followed by the dapper squires who have been busy polishing it. An image is emblazoned on each shield. “’Tis now your honour, Daughter, to explain the labour of each knight by his device.”
The princess, hearing two nearby lords’ uncouth laughter, blushes. “Which, to preserve mine honour, I’ll perform!” It will be a challenge: each impresa is subject to interpretation; but she intends to study the men themselves more closely than the emblems they have chosen.
The first knight comes before them, bows courteously, and proceeds to one side of the open space in front of the tent; his squire carries the contender’s shield and long lance.
“Who is the first that doth present himself?” asks Simonides of the golden-haired lady.
“A knight of Sparta, my renownèd father. And the device he bears upon his shield is a black Ethiope, reaching at the sun; the words might be: ‘Lux tua vita mihi’”—Your light gives me life.
“He loves you well that holds his life in you!” The king frowns chuckling nobles to silence. “Who is the second that presents himself?”
“A prince of Macedon, my royal father; and the device he bears—upon his shield—is an armèd knight who’s conquered by a lady. The motto thus is Spanish: More in softness than strength.”
The king’s laugh reflects a ribald reading—and a dig at rival Spain. “And what’s the third?”
Thaisa sees his haughty demeanor as he glances at them, then peers intently around the pavilion. “The third is of Antioch, and his device a wreath. Of chivalry,” she adds—but it looks like one for a grave; she feels a chill. “The words: ‘Me pompae provexit apex’”—My pride takes me highest.
“What is the fourth?”
“A burning torch that’s turnèd upside down.” She thinks for a moment. “The words: ‘Quod me alit, me extinguit.’”
Her father concurs. “Which shows that Beauty hath her power in the will—and can, as well as inflaming, kill.”
Another bold knight passes by.
“The fifth: a hand environèd with clouds, holding out gold that’s by a touchstone tried. The motto, thus, ‘Sic spectanda fides’”—So regard fidelity; as subject to testing.
“And what’s the sixth and last,” asks Simonides, “which the knight himself with such a graceful courtesy delivers?”
Pericles, who has no squire, bows. As he goes to wait beside the lists, he smiles at Thaisa.
As her cheeks redden, the princess considers. “He seems to be a stranger, and his presentment is a withered branch that’s green only at the top.” Her azure eyes twinkle. “‘In hac spe vivo!’”—In this hope I live!
“A pretty motto,” says her father—unaware that it now is hers. “From the dejected state wherein he is, he hopes by you his fortunes yet may flourish.”
One of the patricians watches with disdain. “Anyway, he had need of better than this mean show can speak in his just commend—for, by his rusty outside, he appears to have more practice with the whipstock than the lance!”—he looks like a knave.
“Well may he be a stranger,” sniffs another lord, “for he comes to a tournament of honour strangely furnishèd!”
“And for a set purpose has let his armour rust until this day: to scour it with the dust!” gibes a third.
Simonides frowns at them. “Opinion that makes us scan the outward habit and pass by the inward man is but a fool’s.
“But stay, the knights are coming! We will withdraw into the gallery.” The king and the princess go up to the highest seats, ready to watch the competition for the lady’s favor.
Soon the trials begin, and observers, from commoners behind the ropes to nobles in the stand, shout encouragement, cheering and jeering the courtly contestants, who ride high on their steeds.
Finally, a victor emerges. He dismounts to bow to the king, and raises his arms in triumph, as voices in the crowd rise, cheering happily.
“The indigent knight!” cries one man, still surprised.
A poor stranger in rusting armor has won the tournament—and the admiration of a very pleased princess.
Simonides hails the visitors, now in his palace, where they are to be entertained and provided with a banquet of fresh fruit, richly ripened cheeses, crusty brown bread—and plenty of good wine.
“Knights, to say you’re welcome were superfluous! To place your worth in arms in the volume of your deeds, as if upon a ‘title’ page, were no more than you’d expect, nor less than’s fit, since every word commended itself in the showing!
“Prepare for merriment, for mirth becomes a fest!” he cries. “You are princes as my guests!”
“But you,” says Thaisa, looking up happily at Pericles—who actually is of royal blood, though she doesn’t know it—“are my knight and guest!—to whom this wreath of victory I give, and crown you king of this day’s happiness!”
Pericles bows, and dips his head to receive a new crown, the circlet of shiny green leaves she proffers. “’Tis more by Fortune, lady, than by merit,” he says modestly—feeling the warmth of her hands near his face.
“Call it by what you will,” says Simonides, “the day is yours!—and here, I hope, is none that envies it!
“In framing artists, Art hath thus labored: to make some good, others to exceed—but you, most favorèd, her scholar she decreed!” He steps onto the dais. “Come, queen o’ the feast—for, Daughter, so you are—here take your place.
“Marshal the rest, as they deserve their grace,” he tells his steward.
Says the eldest knight, “We are honoured much by good Simonides!”
“Your very presence glads our days!” the king tells them. “Honour we love—for who hates honour hates the gods above!”
The steward tells Pericles, “Sir, yonder is your place!” He points to a tall chair just to the right of the two thrones.
“Some other is more fit!” protests Pericles.
A big knight clasps an arm around his broad shoulders. “Contend not, sir!—for we are gentlemen who, in neither our hearts nor outward eyes, envy the great, nor the low despise!”
Pericles smiles. “You are right, courteous knights.”
“Sit, sirs, sit!” commands Simonides. The knights find places at the tables, and Pericles takes the seat of honor beside Princess Thaisa.
Servants bring more to eat, adding some little cakes to a small table at the front, by Simonides.
Over a dish laden with food, the portly king, watching the couple as they chat cheerfully, muses; his child has become a woman. By Jove! I wonder, King of Thoughts, that—he but thought upon—she foregoes all these treats!
Thinks the princess, By Juno, queen of marriage, all viands seem unsavoury, I wishing him my meat!
She leans to tell her father, “He is certainly a gallant gentleman!”
Simonides replies casually. “He’s but a country gentleman,” he says, chewing, “has done no more than other knights have done.” He takes a drink. “Has broken a staff or two. So let it pass.”
But Thaisa sighs, murmuring “To me he seems like diamond to glass!”
Pericles is ruminating. Yon king’s to me like my father’s picture, which tells in what glory he once was!—had princes sit about his throne like stars, and he the Sun for them to reverence! None beheld him but, like lesser lights, did avail their crowns to his supremacy!
He feels a twinge. Now his son is like a glow-worm in the night, which hath fire in darkness, none in light! Whereby I see that Time’s the king of men: he’s both their parent and their grave—and gives them what he will, not what they crave.
Simonides calls happily to his guests: “What, are you merry, knights?”
“Who can be other in this royal presence?” cries one, as the guests applaud.
Simonides stands and raises his goblet. “Herewith a cup that’s stored unto the brim!—as you do love, full to your mistresses’ lips! We drink this health to you!”
The knights rise and quaff with him. “We thank Your Grace!”
Simonides again sits, and turns to the princess. “Yet pause awhile,” he says quietly, watching Pericles. “Yon knight doth sit too melancholy—as if the hospitality of our court had not shown it might countervail his worry. Note it not you, Thaisa?”
She seems content just being near the stranger—the man who might become her husband. “What is it to me, my father?”
He leans closer. “Oh, attend, my daughter, to this: princes should live like gods above, who freely give to every one that comes to honour them! And princes not doing so are like to gnats, which make no sound—only killed are wondered at!
“Therefore to make his visit sweeter, say that ye’ll drink this goblet of wine to him!”
Thaisa blushes. “Alas, my father, it befits not me unto a stranger knight to be so bold! He might at my proffer take offence, since men take women’s gifts for impudence.”
The king again frowns. “What? Do as I bid you, or you’ll provoke me else!”
She has been longing to speak to Pericles. Now, by the gods, he could not please me better!
“And furthermore,” says the king, “tell him we desire to know of him of whence he is, his name and parentage.”
Rising, she curtseys, picks up the wine, and goes to the champion. “The king my father, sir, has drunk to you.”
Pericles stands and smiles. “I thank him.”
Thaisa gazes up at the handsome face. She lifts the goblet in salute. “Wishing it so much blood unto your life!”—added strength and longevity, she means, although blood can mean desire.
“I thank both him and you,” Pericles replies, also innocently, but much aware of the bright blue of her eyes as she sips, “and pledge him freely!” He, too, is tasting—both the wine and a more piquant potion.
“And further he desires to know of you: of whence you are, your name and parentage.”
“A gentleman of Tyre; my education, in arts and arms; my name, Pericles—who, looking for adventures in the world, was by the rough seas reft of ships and men, and after shipwreck driven upon this shore.”
She curtseys and returns to her father. “He thanks Your Grace; names himself Pericles, a gentleman of Tyre, who only by mischance of the seas is cast onto this shore, bereft of ships and men!”
“Now, by the gods, I pity his misfortune, and will awake him from his melancholy!” says Simonides. He calls jovially to the knights before him, “Come, gentlemen! We sit too long on trifles, and waste the time which looks for other revels! Even your armour, as you are so dressed, well becomes a soldier pressed!”—conscripted. “I will not hear this music called too harsh for ladies’ heads: ’tis no excuse, since they love men in arms as well as in beds!”
The knights find gentlewomen for a stately dance, done to a tune played by three court musicians.
“As well as this was taskèd, so ’twas well performèd!” cries the king as they finish. “Come, sir,” he says, pulling Pericles toward Thaisa, “here is a lady that wants breathing, too! I have heard your knights of Tyre excel in making ladies skip—and that their measures”—dance steps—“are as excellent!”
“In those that practise them, they are, my lord!” Pericles refers simply, innocently, to dancing, which the young prince has done it only with a tutor.
Simonides laughs. “Ah, that’s as if you would deny our fair courtesy!”
The music is louder and faster this time, and the lively couples all dance with vigor and great enjoyment.
“Unclasp, unclasp!” calls the king, as they finish the round. “Thanks, gentlemen, to all!—all have done well! But you the best!” he tells the tall and graceful gentleman from Tyre. He calls: “Pages and lights, to conduct these knights unto their several lodgings!
“Yours, sir,” he tells Pericles, “we have given order be next to our own.”
Pericles bows. “I am at Your Grace’s pleasure.”
Simonides releases his now-paired guests. “Princes, it is too late to talk of love—and that’s the mark I know you level at!” The knights laugh. “Therefore each one betake him to his rest!”
It is nearing midnight. “May all who are for achievement, toward morrow do their best!”
Helicanus, continuing in command at Tyre during the king’s absence, can now make a startling revelation, as preface to some news. “Know, Escanes, this from me: Antiochus from incest lived not free!
“For which the most-high gods, no longer minded to withhold vengeance—in store and due unto his heinous’s capital offence—even in the height and pride of all his glory, when he was seated in a chariot of inestimable value, and his daughter with him—a fire from heaven came down and shrivelled up their bodies!—even to loathing; for they so stunk that all those whose eyes adored them ere their fall did scorn that their hands should give them burial!”
The older lord is astonished: “’Twas very strange!”
“And yet but justice! For though this king were great, his greatness was no guard to bar heaven’s shaft!—and sin had its reward.”
“’Tis very true!”
They can hear voices from the corridor, as several noblemen of the realm come toward the throne room. They sound determined. “Not a man can private conference or council see who has respect for any but he!” one is saying. Another concurs. “We shall no longer grieve without the proof!” “And cursèd be he that will not second it!” adds a third, as they enter the hall.
“Follow me, then!” says the first. They approach the throne. “Lord Helicane, a word….”
“With me? And welcome! Happy day, my lords….”
“Know that our griefs are risen to the top, and now at length they overflow their banks!”
“Your griefs! For what?” asks Pericles’ dutiful surrogate. “Wrong not your prince you love!” he warns.
“Wrong not yourself, then, noble Helicane!” says the tall lord respectfully. The nobles have been pleased with his governance, despite the uncertainty of the ruler’s absence. “If the prince do live, let us salute him!—or know what ground’s made happy by his breath. If in the world he live, we’ll seek him out! If in his grave he rest, we’ll find him there, and be resolvèd.
“But he lives to govern us!—or, dead, gives cause to mourn at his funeral, and leaves us to our free election!”
“This dearth is indeed strongest in our censure,”—Tyre’s greatest defect, notes the second lord. “Goodly buildings left without roof soon fall to ruin!
“Knowing this kingdom is without a head, to your noble self, who best know how we live and how to reign, we thus submit as our sovereign!”
“Rule, noble Helicane!” says the tall nobleman, and he and the others bow deeply.
The loyal Helicanus is taken aback. “For honour’s cause, forbear your suffrages! If that you love King Pericles, forbear!
“Undertaking your wish, I’d leap into the seas—where’s hourly trouble for a minute’s ease!” Helicanus knows that the northern threat expired with Antiochus; upon learning of his death, Pericles will surely return. “A twelvemonth longer, let me entreat you, endure the absence of your king!—if at which time expired he not return, I shall with agèd patience bear your yoke.”
He can see they are unwilling to wait. “But if I cannot win you to this love, go search like nobles!—as noble subjects! And in your search, spend your adventure’s worth!”—spare no effort. “If you find and win him unto return, you shall sit about his crown like diamonds!”
The tall patrician nods. “’Tis wisdom; he’s a fool that will not yield! And since Lord Helicane enjoineth us, we with our travels will endeavour!”
Helicanus smiles, pleased. “Then you love us, we you, and we’ll clasp hands!” Each reaches to place a hand atop his. “When peers thus knit, a kingdom ever stands!”
Won, then Lost
In the palace at Pentapolis, the king enters the large hall where the visiting knights have again gathered.
“Good morrow to the good Simonides!” cries the youngest—the one least pained by the previous night’s indulgence in drink. Most of the others, wincing at the loud voice, stifle groans.
The sovereign is clearly troubled. “Knights, from my daughter I must let you know that, for this twelvemonth, she’ll not undertake a married life! Her reason, which from her I cannot yet learn, is known only to herself.”
“May we not earn access to her, my lord?” asks another of the knights, still hopeful of courtship.
Simonides sighs. “’Faith, by no means; she has so strictly tied her to her chamber that ’tis impossible! One twelve-moons more she’ll wear Diana’s livery!”—remain a virgin. “This hath she vowed by the eye of Cynthia,”—the moon, “and on her honour will not break it!”
Says a third knight sadly, “Loath to bid farewell, we’ll take our leaves.” He bows courteously, as do the others.
Simonides gives a nod of approval, and watches the disappointed gentlemen go, to return home on their several ways.
So—they are well dispatched! Now to my daughter’s letter! Taking it from his coat, he unfolds the paper and reads.
She tells me, here, she would wed the stranger knight, or never more view nor day nor light!
’Tis well, mistress! Your choice agrees with mine—I like that well! He reads further, and laughs. Nay, how absolute she’s in’t, not minding whether I dislike or no!
Well, I do commend her choice, and will have it be delayed no longer!
Soft!—here he comes! I must dissemble….
Says Pericles, “All fortune to the good Simonides!”
The king smiles. “To you as much, sir! I am beholding to you for your sweet music this past night! I do protest mine ears were never better fed with such delightful, pleasing harmony!”
“It is Your Grace’s pleasure to commend, not my desert.”
“Sir, you are music’s master!”
“The worst of all her scholars, my good lord.”
Simonides now regards him. “Let me ask you one thing: what do you think of my daughter, sir?”
“A most virtuous princess!”
“And she is fair, too, is she not?”
“As a fair day in summer!—wondrous fair!”
“Sir, my daughter thinks very well of you—aye, so well, that you must be her master, and she will be your scholar. Therefore look to it.”
Tutor her? Pericles likes to sing, but…. “I am unworthy for her schoolmaster.”
“She thinks not so,” says Simonides. “Peruse this writing else.”
Pericles takes the paper. What’s here? A letter—that she loves the knight of Tyre!
He sees that her father is eyeing him closely—and a previous lesson flashes in his mind. ’Tis the king’s subtlety to have my life!
He blurts out, “Oh, seek not to entrap me, gracious lord—a stranger and distressèd gentleman that never aimed so high as to love your daughter, but bent all offices to honouring her!”
Simonides scowls, grabbing the letter. “Thou hast bewitchèd my daughter!—and thou art a villain!”
“By the gods, I have not! Never did thought of mine levy offence!—nor never did my actions yet commence a deed might gain her love, or your displeasure!”
“Traitor, thou liest!” cries the king.
Pericles glares, proud and defiant. “Unless it be the king that calls me traitor, even in his throat”—right to his face—“I return the lie!” Repeating the accusation would demand a duel.
The ruler is still frowning; but he thinks, Now by the gods, I do applaud his courage!
Pericles is indignant. “My actions are as noble as my thoughts, that never relished of a base descent! I came unto your court for Honour’s cause, and not to be a rebel to her state!—and he that otherwise accounts of me, this sword shall prove he’s Honour’s enemy!”
Simonides scoffs. “No? Here comes my daughter—she can witness it!”—attest to the charge.
Pericles faces Thaisa. “Then as you are as virtuous as beautiful, resolve your angry father if my tongue did ere solicit, or my hand subscribe, to any syllable that made love to you!”
Despite a lingering frustration, she smiles. “Why, sir, say if you had; who takes offence at what would make me glad?”
Simonides looks shocked. “Yea, mistress, are you so peremptory?” he demands angrily. I am glad on’t with all my heart!
“I’ll tame you!” cries the seemingly irate king. “I’ll bring you into subjection!
“Will you—not having my consent!—bestow your love and your affections upon a stranger?” Who for aught I know may be—nor can I think the contrary—as great in blood as I myself!
“Therefore hear you, mistress!—either frame your will to mine—
“And you, sir!—hear you both!—either be ruled by me, or I will make you—”
He pauses. “—man and wife!”
Pericles and Thaisa blink, then smile.
The king beams. “Nay, come, your hands and lips must seal it, too!” They blush, take each other by the hand, and kiss—quite tenderly.
“To be so joined—thus I’ll your hopes destroy!” laughs the old king. “And for a further grief: God give you joy!
“Well, are you both pleasèd?”
Thaisa smiles up at Pericles. “Yes, if you love me, sir!”
“Even as my life, or blood that fosters it!”
“What, are you both agreed?” asks Simonides.
“Yes, if it please Your Majesty!”
“It pleaseth me so well that I will see you wed!—then with what haste you can get you to bed!”
As evening darkness glides westward, again blanketing the happy kingdom, John Gower returns to the front.
“Now sleep hath beslackèd all the rout; no din but snores the house about—made louder by the o’er-fed breast of this most-pompous marriage fest!
“The cat with eyne of burning coal now crouches ’fore the mouse’s hole!—and crickets sing at the oven’s mouth, e’er the blithe-er for their drought!
“Hymen hath brought the bride to bed—where enfolded, by loss of maidenhead, a child is molded!”
Gower watches as players move into place behind him. “Now, be you attent, past time briefly spent we’ll further fancies cunningly reach!
“What’s mute in show, I’ll plain with speech….”
At court with his attendants, the King of Pentapolis greets a messenger, who bows and gives Pericles a document. He examines it, briefly, then hands it to Simonides.
The old king reads and, delighted, addresses the courtiers. Then he bows to Pericles, and the lords of Pentapolis all kneel before the King of Tyre.
Thaisa comes to them, well rounded in her pregnancy, and accompanied by a nurse. Her father shows her the letter, and she is pleased to learn she is a queen.
Pericles and Thaisa take leave of Simonides, departing with the nurse and their attendants.
Gower explains: “Past many a dire and painful lurch, for Pericles the careful search—through four opposing coigns that do the world together join; by horse and sail at high expense!—was made with all due diligence.
“At last, unto those quests of Tyre, Fame answered their most-strange inquire!
“Then to Simonides are brought letters whose tenor thus is wrought: Antiochus and his daughter dead, the men of Tyre now on the head of Helicanus would set the crown of Tyrus.
“But he will none! The mutiny there he hastes to slack!—says if Pericles come not back in twice-six moons, obedient to their dooms, then he will take the crown.
“The sum of this, brought hither to Pentapolis, be-ravishes all the regions round! And every one as can clap does sound: ‘Our heir apparent is a king! Who thought, who dreamed, of such a thing?’
“Briefly must he hence to Tyre! His queen, with child, speaks her desire—which who shall deny her?—along to go!
“Lychorida, her nurse, takes she—omit we all their toil and woe—and off they sail across the sea!
“Their vessel glides on Neptune’s billows; half the flood their keel hath cut!”—they are midway on the journey to Tyre. “But Fortune’s mood again enlarges: the windy West such a tempest disgorges that, like a duck that for its living dives, so up and down the poor ship strives!
“The lady shrieks!—and well a-near does fall in travail with her fear!”—soon goes into labor.
“And what ensues in this fell storm, itself for you shall now perform! I nill of that would state—than by me told, may this better relate: in imagination hold this stage a sea-tossed ship, upon whose deck Pericles seems to slip….”
Pericles catches himself at the rail, and shouts through the gale, first to Neptune, then to Jupiter: “Thou god of this great vast, rebuke these surges which wash both heaven and hell! And thou who, having called them from their sleep, hast upon the winds command, bind them to the bells! Oh, still thy dreadful, deafening thunders, quench thy nimble, sulphurous flashes!”
The creaking wooden vessel rises and plunges, beleaguered by the stormy Aegean. Clinging to a rope at the mast, in the gloom under darkening clouds, Pericles glimpses a faint gleam as a hatch opens, and Thaisa’s nurse emerges.
“Oh, how, Lychorida, how does my queen?” he asks, meeting her as she edges forward, hood and cloak pulled close against stinging rain and salt spray.
He calls into the clamor of roiling skies, “Thou storm most vehement!—wilt thou spit all thyself?
“The seaman’s whistle is as a whisper in the ears of Death!—unheard, Lychorida!”
He looks up. “Lucina, O divinest patroness and midwife, gentle to those that cry by night, convey thy deity aboard our bobbing boat!—make swift the pangs of my queen’s travails!”
And then he is stunned. “Now, Lychorida?” he gasps—seeing that she is cradling in her arms, on a small pillow, a swaddled baby.
Tears are mingled with the streaming rain on her face. “Here is a thing too young for such a place!—who if it could perceive would die!—as I am like to do!” She reaches to him. “Take in your arms this piece of your dead queen.”
Even as he holds his child for the first time, Pericles staggers, and backs against the mainmast. “What?—what, Lychorida?”
“Patience, good sir! Here’s all that is left living of your queen: a little daughter! For the sake of it, be manly, and take comfort; do not assist the storm!”
“O you gods!” wails Pericles. “Why do you make us love your goodly gifts, then snatch them straight away? We here below call not back what we give, therein to lose honour with you!”
“Patience, good sir, if only for this your charge!” cries Lychorida; now is hardly the time to affront the gods.
The rain has paused, briefly, and Pericles looks down at the infant’s peaceful face. “Now, may thy life be mild—for a more blustrous birth had never babe! Quiet and gentle come thy conditions, for thou art the rudeliest welcomed to this world as ever was prince’s child!
“What haply follows?” he wonders. “Thou hast as chiding a nativity as heaven’s fire, wind and water can make on earth, to herald thee from the womb!
“And even at the first, thy loss is more than can thy portage acquit with all thou canst find here!” The infant must carry on in the world without her mother. “Now may the good gods shine their best eyes upon’t!”
Two mariners reel past, defying the deck’s roll and pitch as they struggle to keep the groaning craft afloat. The ship’s master sees the tears. “What?—courage, sir!” he calls. “God save you!”
“Courage enough,” replies Pericles. “I do not fear the flood!—it hath done to me the worst! Yet for the love of this poor infant, this fresh new seafarer, I would it would be quiet!”
The master calls to his men: “Slack the bowlines there!” The old man glares upward. “Thou wilt, wilt thou? Blow!—and split thyself!”
His burly boatswain watches the swelling waves. “Just sea-room!”—he asks only for open water in which to navigate. “Then if the brine in cloudy billow kiss the moon, I care not!”
The master removes his sodden cap and approaches Pericles respectfully. “Sir, your queen must go overboard!—the sea works high; the wind is loud, and will not lie till the ship be cleared of the dead.”
Pericles stares. “That’s your superstition!”
“Pardon us, sir!—with us at sea it hath been ever observèd, and we are strong in custom. Therefore soon yield her; for she must be overboard straight!”
Sorrowfully, Pericles nods. “As you think meet.” He sobs, “Most pitiable queen!” As the master goes to get a casket, two sailors carry Thaisa, wrapped in white linen, to the wet deck. Pericles can only sob.
“Here she lies, sir,” says Lychorida, taking the infant back into her arms.
Pericles kneels by his wife’s side. “A terrible childbed hast thou had, my dear: no light, no fire—the friendly elements forgot thee utterly!
“Nor have I time to give thee hallowèd to thy grave, but straight must cast thee, scarcely coffined, unto the ooze—where for a monument to thy bones, and e’er-illumined lamps, the belching whale in humming water must mourn o’er thy corpse, left lying with the simple shells.
“Oh, Lychorida, bid Nestor bring me ink and paper—spices, and my casket of jewels. And bid Nicander bring me the case of satins. Lay the babe upon the pillow.”
He touches the sheet. “Hie thee, while I say a priestly farewell to her.” Lychorida is weeping. “Suddenly, woman!” She nods, tearfully, and hurries below.
The boatswain returns. “Sir, we have a chest beneath the hatches, caulked and bitumed a‑ready.” It will soon be sealed with more tar.
“I thank thee.” Pericles looks out to starboard, where, earlier, land had been discerned. “Mariner, say what coast is this.”
“We are near Tarsus”—a port just to their north.
“Thither, gentle mariner—alter from thy course to Tyre! When canst thou reach it?”
“By break of day, if the wind cease.”
“The babe cannot hold out to Tyre! I’ll make for Tarsus. There will I visit Cleon; there I’ll leave it to careful nursing.
“Go thy ways, good mariner. I’ll bury the body presently.”
The boatswain goes to get the makeshift coffin.
Alone, the king sobs as he lifts a corner of the sheet and kisses his pale young queen goodbye.
Shortly before dawn’s light, a gale comes crashing ashore from the Aegean Sea, battering the western coast of Asia Minor near the thriving city of Ephesus. Fierce winds sweep over the foaming tide, and across the grounds of Lord Cerimon’s stone mansion, shivering its tall casements.
A servant hurries into a room off the main hall, ushering along six weary seamen who have been shipwrecked.
Cerimon, just awakened and still in his night clothes, arrives. The patrician Greek scholar is widely celebrated for his abilities as a healer. He looks around for his steward. “Philemon, ho!”
The man is already at a side door. “Doth my lord call?”
“Get fire and meat for these poor men!” The mariners, their clothing sodden with seawater, settle onto benches at the back, or lie on the floor along the wall. “It’s been a turbulent and stormy night!”
The old servant, lighting tapers, nods. “I have been in many; but such a night as this, till now I ne’er endured!”
Philamon soon returns from rousing a cook, and he watches while Cerimon moves from man to man, examining each carefully for injury.
He finds that the captain’s journey is ending; the physician places a hand gently on the boatswain’s shoulder. “Your master will be dead ere you return; there’s nothing in nature can be ministered that will recover him.”
He turns to hand Philemon a note. “Give this to the ’pothecary, and tell me how it works.” The steward goes down the hall for coat and hat, then hurries out into the rain to get the medicines he will bring to the surviving sailors.
Cerimon, in a thick robe, is sitting in his study and making entries in his journal when two distraught neighbors are shown in by a servant. The taller visitor bows. “Good morrow!”
“Good morrow to Your Lordship!” says the other Ephesian.
Cerimon rises. “Gentlemen, why do you stir so early?”
“Sir, our lodgings, standing bleak upon the sea, shook as if the earth did quake!—the very principals did seem to rend, and all to topple!” the tall man tells him. “Pure surprise and fear made me to quit the house!”
“That is the cause we trouble you so early; ’tis not our husbandry!” says his portly friend—who actually does hope for breakfast.
Cerimon teases: “Oh, you say well!”
“But I much marvel that Your Lordship should at these early hours shake off the golden slumber of repose and have such attire about you,” says the tall one. He looks around at the books and papers in the well-appointed room. “’Tis most surprising that one whose nature not being compelled thereto should be so conversant with pain,” he says, of the nobleman’s generosity and kindness.
Cerimon ponders. “I’ve held it ever that virtue and nobleness were endowments greater than cunning and riches. Careless heirs may the latter two darken and expend, but immortality attends the former—making a man like a god.
“’Tis known I have long studied physic, through which secret art, by turning o’er authorities,”—their books’ pages—“I have made familiar to me, and together with my practise, brought to my aid the blest infusions that dwell in vegetives, in metals, and in stones. And I can speak of the disturbances that Nature works, and of her cures.” He closes his book of records. “Which doth give me more content in a course of true delight than to be thirsting after tottering ‘honours,’ or to tie my treasure up in silken bags that please the fool!… until death.”
The paunchy man commends the nobleman. “Your Honour has through Ephesus poured forth your charity, and hundreds who by you have been restorèd call themselves your creatures! And not only your knowledge, your personal pains, but even your purse, ever open, hath built Lord Cerimon such strong renown as time shall never—”
A loud noise of harsh scraping interrupts. The visitors follow Cerimon to a room into which three servants have dragged, past the open door, a dark, wet object.
“So; lift there!” orders the oldest, pushing the door shut against the wind. The others hoist the large wooden box, and carry it toward a low stone bench.
“What is that?” asks Cerimon.
“Sir, even now did the sea toss upon our shore this chest!” the elderly man tells him. “’Tis from some wreck.”
“Set it down; let’s look upon’t.” The men lower their burden.
“’Tis like a coffin, sir,” the stout gentleman observes.
“Whate’er it be, ’tis wondrous heavy,” says Cerimon, as his men wipe their sweating faces. “Wrench it open straight! If the sea’s stomach be o’ercharged with gold, ’tis a good compulsion in Fortune that it belches upon us!”
“So ’tis, my lord.”
Cerimon regards the dripping case. “How close ’tis caulked and bitumed!”—well sealed with pitch. “Did the sea cast it up?”
The old servant nods, cap in hand. “I never saw so huge a billow, sir, as tossed it upon shore!”
“Wrench it open,” Cerimon tells the servant who has used his knife to cut through the cover’s seal. He leans forward, “Soft!—it smells most sweetly in my sense….”
The short gentleman agrees. “A delicate aroma!”
“As ever hit my nostril!” says Cerimon. “So, up with it,” he tells the servant, and the lid is raised. “O you most potent gods! What’s here? A corpse!”
“Most strange!” cries the tall gentleman.
Cerimon peers into the box. “Shrouded in cloth of state; balmed with bags full of spices….” He opens the box of jewels. “And entreasured!” Spotting a letter, he adds, dryly, “A passport, too!
“Apollo, perfect me in the characters….” But the language is not foreign; he reads aloud from a document blotched by tears: “‘Here I give ye to understand, if e’er this coffin drive a-land, that I, King Pericles, this queen have lost—worthy of all our mundane cost!
“‘Who finds her, give her burying; she was the daughter of a king! Besides this treasure for a fee, may the gods requite this charity!’”
Cerimon is moved. “If thou livest, Pericles, thou hast a heart that ever cracks for woe!” He looks at the corpse. “This chancèd last night.”
The short gentleman concurs. “Most likely, sir.”
“Nay, certainly last night; for look how fresh she looks!” says Cerimon.
He has been unwrapping the shroud to see the face—and now is startled to sense some warmth. “They were too rough that threw her into the sea!” He turns to the servants. “Make a fire within! Fetch hither the boxes from my cabinet!” They run to the physician’s work room.
“Death may usurp many hours from Nature, and yet the fire of life kindle again the oppressèd spirits! I’ve heard of an Egyptian that had for nine hours lain dead who was by good applications recoverèd!”
The servants and Philemon return, bringing the physician’s paraphernalia and some strips of clean linen, and soon they have logs burning on the hearth.
“Well done, well done, the fire and cloths!” says Cerimon, rubbing his hands together eagerly. He opens a small, brass-bound casket of medicines and selects a vial of amber fluid; he removes the cork stopper, and carefully allows three drops to fall between Queen Thaisa’s parted lips.
He motions to the old Turkish servant. “The rough and woeful music that we have—cause it to sound, beseech you!” As men strike a tabor and rattle a tambourine, he watches her. “The violence more!” he demands.
The men add a shrill pipe and some vigorous foot-stamping to their clamorous performance.
“Now thou stirr’st, thou block!” cries Cerimon—very pleased to see, within the shroud, a hand moving. “Stop the music there! I pray you, give her air!” he tells the two neighbors, who are leaning closer to look.
“Gentlemen, this queen will live!” he says happily. “Nature awakes!—a warmth breathes out of her! She hath not been entranced above five hours—see how she ’gins to bloom into flower again!”
Says the tall gentleman, truly amazed, “The heavens through you increase our wonder, and set up your fame forever!”
“She is alive!” cries Cerimon, as the blonde lady’s lashes flutter. “Behold, her eyelids, cases to those heavenly jewels which Pericles hath lost, begin to part their fringes of bright gold; the diamonds of a most praisèd water”—highest clarity—“do appear, to make the world twice rich!
“Live, fair creature,” he urges, “and make us weep to hear your tale, rare as it appears to be!”
Thaisa moves, and after a moment, she looks up, still in a daze. “O dear Diana, where am I? Where’s my lord? What world is this?”
The shorter gentleman stares. “Is not this wondrous?”
“Most rare!” breathes his friend.
Cerimon fairly dances with delight. “Hush, my gentle neighbours! Lend me your hands; to the next chamber bear her!
“Get linen!” he tells the steward. “Now this matter must be looked to; for her, relapse is mortal!
He appeals to the god of healing: “And, Aesculapius, guide us!”
Following Pericles’ arrival with considerable food and help, Tarsus has survived its crisis: plenteous crops and a grand harvest have fed the people and nourished the nation. Over the seasons, the warehouses and storage sheds have been replenished, and heavy vessels sailing from the busy port must ease past ships bringing many goods from abroad.
But now the sorrowful King of Tyre, a guest at the governor’s mansion, addresses his host. “Most honoured Cleon, I must needs be gone! My twelve months are expirèd, and Tyrus stands in a litigious peace.
“You and your lady receive from my heart all of its thankfulness; the gods must make up the rest to you!”
Says Lord Cleon, “Shifts in your fortune, though they’ve hurt you full mortally, yet glance wanderingly upon us….”
“Oh, your sweet queen,” moans Lady Dionyza. “If only the strict Fates had pleasèd, you had brought her hither to have blessed mine eyes with her!”
“We cannot but obey the powers above us,” says Pericles sadly. “Could I rage and roar as doth the sea she lies in, yet the end must be as ’tis.”
Beside him, Lychorida holds his child in her arms.
“My gentle babe, Marina, whom I have named so for she was born at sea, here I charge to your charity withal—leaving the infant here in your care, beseeching you to give her princely training, that she may be mannered as she is born.”
“Fear not, my lord!” says Lord Cleon. “Think but that Your Grace—who fed my country with your grain!—for which the people’s prayers ever fall upon you!—must be thought upon in your child. If therein my nature need a spur, the common body by you relievèd would force me to my duty! And if neglection should make me vile, may the gods revenge it upon me and mine, to the end of generation!”
Pericles smiles. “I believe you; your honour and your goodness teach me of’t without your vows.”
He turns to Dionyza, with a pledge of his own: “By bright Diana, whom we honour, till Marina be married, madam, all unscissored shall this hair of mine remain, though I show ill in’t.
“So I take my leave. Good madam, make me blessèd in your care in bringing up my child!”
“I have one myself,” she replies, “who shall not be more dear in my respect than yours, my lord.”
Pedicles bows. “Madam, my thanks and prayers!”
“We’ll bring Your Grace e’en to the edge o’ the shore,” Cleon offers, “then give you up to the sleeping Neptune and the gentlest winds of heaven.”
“I will embrace your offers,” says Pericles. “Come, dearest madam.”
He looks to the nurse and his daughter. “Oh, no tears, Lychorida, no tears!” he chides gently, to steady her. “Look to your little mistress, on whose grace you may depend hereafter!
“Come, my lord,” he says, turning away—tearful himself, despite his words.
At Ephesus, Lord Cerimon stands beside the chair on which Thaisa rests, her hands folded on a warm blanket; she has recovered her health, but with melancholy thoughts the lady has remained forlorn—and perturbed.
Still, he shows her what he feels she is now ready to see. “Madam, this letter, and some certain jewels which lay with you in your coffer, are now at your command.” She looks up, surprised, then unfolds the paper. “Know you the character?”—the handwriting.
“It is my lord’s,” she says sorrowfully. “That I was shipped at sea, I well remember, just at my childbirth time; but whatever there delivered, by the holy gods, I cannot rightly say!
“But since King Pericles, my wedded lord, I ne’er shall see again, a vestal livery will I take unto me, and never more have joy.” She intends to devote herself to solemn and austere abstention from worldly pleasures.
“Madam, if this you purpose as ye speak, Diana’s temple is not far distant, where you may abide till your date expire. Moreover,” says kindly Cerimon, “if you please, a niece of mine shall there attend you.”
Thaisa folds up the blanket, rises and curtseys. She smiles, gratefully, as she gives him the box of precious gems. “Thy recompense is thanks, and this withal; my good will is great, though the gift be small!”
Bad to Worse
Old Gower ambles into the light—with an hourglass. “Imagine Pericles arrivèd at Tyre, welcomed, and settled to his home’s desire. His woeful queen we leave at Ephesus, unto Diana there a votaress.”
He stops now, and smiles, almost apologetically. “Posting on lame feet—of rhyme—I carry only wingèd time, which never could I so convey, unless your thoughts came on my way.” A wide sweep of his arm and hand blurs the tilting glass and its flowing sand, and he motions us past a fortnight—of years.
“Now to Marina bend your mind, whom, fast-growing, our scene must find.
“At Tarsus by Cleon trained in music and letters, she hath gained by education such grace as makes her the general wonder, both for heart and for place!
“And of this kind hath Cleon his own: a wench alike now full-grown, even ripe for marriage rite. This maid is Philoten hight,”—called; the teller of stories savors antique terms, “and ’tis said for certain in our story, she would ever with Marina be.
“When Philoten weaved the slender silk, with fingers long and white as milk, or with sharp needle did the cambric wound, by hurting it, she made it more sound. When she sang along with a lute, made the nightingale a mute; and when she would with rich and constant pen hail her goddess Diana, even then did she in skill contend with absolute Marina….
“So might vie the black crow’s night with dove of Paphos’ feathers white!
“Unto Marina are praises driven—paid as debt, and not as given!
“This so darkens all Philoten’s marks that Cleon’s wife, with envy rare, a present murder does prepare for good Marina, so that her daughter might stand peerless by this slaughter!
“And so, alas, that monster envy, oft the wrack of earnèd praise, by treason’s knife seeks to erase Marina’s very life!
“Accurst Dionyza hath for the blows impressed a tool of wrath”—conscripted a henchman. “And soon, her vilest thoughts to stead, Lychorida our nurse is dead!”
Says Gower, turning to watch the platform behind him, “The unborn crime I do commend for you to apprehend. Dionyza does appear, with Leonine, a murderer….”
They stand in the sunshine, on a grassy field sloping down to the shore. “Thine oath remember!—thou hast sworn to do’t!” insists the governor’s steely wife. “’Tis but a blow which never shall be known.
“Thou canst not do a thing in the world so soon to yield thee so much profit! Let not conscience, which is but cold, claiming no love i’ the bosom, inflame ever so slightly; nor let pity, which even women have cast off, melt thee—but be a soldier to thy purpose!”
“I will do’t.” He watches as the princess gathers flowers from among grasses beside the sand. “But yet she is a goodly creature.”
“The fitter then the gods should have her. Here she comes, weeping for her only mistress’ death,” she says scornfully. “Thou art resolvèd?”
“I am resolved,” Leonine tells her grimly.
Marina approaches, cradling a basket of blossoms, and thinking of Lychorida. So will I rob Tellus of her weeds —the earth-goddess of her raiment— to strew thy grave with flowers! The yellows, blues, the purple violets, and marigolds shall as a carpet hang upon thy green, while summers’ days do last.
Ay, me!—poor maid, born in a tempest, when my mother died! This world to me is like a lasting storm, whirling me from my friends!
Lady Dionyza scolds. “How now, Marina?—why do you keep alone? How chance my daughter is not with you? Do not confound your blood with sorrowing—you have a nurse in me.
“Lo, how your favour’s changèd”—face is affected—“by this unprofitable woe! Come, give me your flowers,” she says, taking the basket. “Walk with Leonine along the sea-margent,” she urges, motioning toward the shore. “The air is alive there, and it pierces lungs, sharpens the stomach!”—stirs vigor. “Come, Leonine, take her by the arm—walk with her.”
Marina would demur. “No, I pray you; I’ll not bereave you of your servant,” she says—unaware of the irony.
“Come, come!” says Dionyza. “I love the king your father, and yourself, with more than foreign heart! We every day expect him here; when he shall come and find our paragon—to all reports—thus witherèd, he will repent the length of his great voyaging!—blame both my lord and me that we have taken no care to your best course!
“Go, I pray you, walk and be cheerful once again; recover that excellent complexion which did steal the eyes of young and old. Care not for me; I can go home alone.”
Marina had wanted to visit, again, her nurse’s grave, but she nods. “Well, I will go; but yet I have no desire to it.”
“Come, come, I know ’tis good for you,” says Dionyza. “Walk half an hour, Leonine, at the least.” She wants the deed done well away from the castle. “Remember what I have said.”
“I warrant you, madam.”
Dionyza’s smile is thin. “I’ll leave you, my sweet lady, for a while; pray, walk softly, do not heat your blood! Tsk! What a care I must have of you!”
Marina curtseys as they leave her. “My thanks, sweet madam.”
The two walk slowly down to the sand. “Is this wind westerly that blows?” she asks.
“When I was born, the wind was the North!”—strong and cold.
“My father, as Nurse said, did never fear,” says Marina proudly, “but cried, ‘Good seamen!’ to the sailors!—galled his kingly hands, hauling ropes!—and, clasping to the mast, endured a sea that almost burst the deck!”
“When was this?”
“When I was born. Never was wind nor wave more violent! When from the ladder-tackle a canvas-climber washès off, says another, ‘Hah! Wilt out?’”—are you quitting?
“And with a deadly industry they skip from stem to stern! The boatswain whistles and the master calls—and treble their distress!”
Leonine stops and pulls off his gloves. “Come, say your prayers.”
“What mean you?”
“If you require a little space for prayer, I grant it,” he says darkly, a knife gleaming in his hand. “Pray; but be not tedious, for the gods are quick of ear—and I am sworn to do my work with haste.”
Marina stares, wide-eyed. “Why will you kill me?”
“To satisfy my lady.”
“Why would she have me killed?” cries Marina. “Now by my troth, as I can remember I never did her hurt in all my life!—I never spake bad word, nor did ill turn to any living creature! Believe me, now, I never killed a mouse, nor hurt a fly! I trod upon a worm against my will—but I wept for it!
“How have I offended? Wherein might my death yield her any profit, or my life imply her any danger?”
Leonine shrugs. “My commission is not to reason of the deed, but do it.”
“You will not do’t for all the world, I hope!” Her eyes scan his face. “You are well favoured, and your looks foreshow you have a gentle heart! I saw you lately when you caught a hurt in parting two that fought! In good sooth, it showed well in you! Do so now!—your lady seeks my life; come you between, and save poor me, the weaker!”
“I am sworn,” he mutters, “and will dispatch.” He grasps her by the hair and raises the blade.
“Hold, villain!” An angry cry startles Leonine.
He sees two men running on the sand, already quite near—and both are brandishing broadswords. He turns and dashes away, scrambling up onto the firm turf, then in among the trees.
The pirate who shouted laughs at the fleeing lubber, but his younger companion gazes hungrily at Marina. “A prize! A prize!”
“Half part, mate, half part!” cries the older man as he grabs her arm. “Come, let’s have her aboard immediately!”
The men hurry away down the shore, pulling poor Marina with them, and pondering happily their shares of the captive’s ransom.
From the woods above, Leonine watches. These roguing thieves serve the great pirate Valdes, he realizes, and they have seizèd Marina.
Let her go. There’s no hope she will return. I’ll swear she’s dead and thrown into the sea.
He moves carefully among the trees, still observing the shore. But I’ll see further. Perhaps they will but please themselves upon her, not carry her aboard. If she remain, whom they have ravished must by me be slain!
But the pirates row out to their ship and board it—taking away with them the princess, a girl of fifteen, her hands bound together with rope.
Thirty leagues north of Ephesus lies the old port city of Mytilene, on an island in the Aegean. A vital center of commerce, it is teeming with lusty sailors on brief leave ashore, eager to spend their silver—and infested with some women who would, for a price, satisfy the seamen’s desires, along with those of affluent locals.
“Boult!” calls a seedy man, sitting with his wizened wife in the brothel they operate.
A sinister bulk comes into the squalid room. “Sir?”
“Search the market narrowly!” the procurer orders. “Mytilene is full of gallants, but we lose much money in this mart by being too wenchless!”
“We were never so much out of creatures,” complains the woman. “We have but three poor ones, and they can do no more than they do—and with continual action, even they are as good as rotten!”
The small man’s hand strikes the table. “Therefore let’s have fresh, whate’er we pay for ’em! If there be not a conscience to be used in every trade, we shall never prosper!” he says, of the hope to purvey better-quality merchandise.
“Thou sayest true.” She shakes her head. “’Tis not in our bringing up of poor bastards—as I have brought up, I think, some eleven!”—prostitutes’ daughters.
“Aye, to eleven—then brought them down again!” says the henchman; each has come to her own bad end. “But shall I search in the market?”—a desperate move.
“What else, man?” demands the bawd. She scowls. “The stuff we have, a strong wind will blow it to pieces, they are so pitifully sodden!”
“Thou sayest true,” says her husband. “They’re too unwholesome, in conscience! The poor Transylvanian is dead that lay with the littlest baggage!”
Boult had brought the reckless, fevered client to them. “Aye, she quickly cooked him!—she made him roast meat for worms!” He buttons his frayed brown coat, spotted with stains of cheap wine. “But I’ll go search the market,” he says, and goes out at the door.
The wiry old man muses. “Three or four thousand chequins were a pretty proportion for to live quietly, and so give over….” He wants money enough to retire from the business.
“Why to give over, I pray you? Is it a shame to get when we are old?”
“Ah, our credit comes not like the commodity,” he notes wryly, “nor the wages weigh with the danger! Therefore, if we could pick up some petty estate,”—gold from a wealthy customer, “’twere not amiss to keep our door latchèd in our youth.”
She laughs harshly; their youth is long gone.
“Besides,” he says, “the sore terms we stand upon with the gods will be strong reason with us for giving over.”
She scoffs. “Come, other sorts offend as well as we!”
“As well as we!—aye, and better, too! We offend worse—nor is our profession any but a trade; it’s no ‘calling.’ But here comes Boult.”
The big brute returns, bringing with him the two pirates and Marina. He tugs her forward by the arm, saying, “Come your ways.” He turns to the sordid sailors. “My masters, you say she’s a virgin?”
“Oh, sir, we doubt it not,” says the younger—ruefully.
Boult tells the elder procurer, “Master, I have gone through”—made a bargain—“for this piece you see. If you like her, so; if not, I have lost my earnest”—deposit.
The bawd squints at the dejected younger woman. “Boult, has she any quality?”—breeding.
“She has a good face, speaks well, and has excellent-good clothes; there’s no necessity of further qualities as can make her be refused.” Not in the line of work proposed.
“What’s her price, Boult?” asks the woman.
“I cannot be abated one doit of a thousand pieces,” the older pirate tells them.
The house’s owner rises, irked by the price, but resigned to necessity. “Well, follow me, my masters; you shall have your money presently. Wife, take her in; instruct her what she has to do, that she may not be raw in her entertainments.”
He leads the cutthroat seamen to a back room—hoping they’ll spend some of the proceeds with the late Transylvanian’s wretched nemesis.
The bawd wants immediate return on the outlay. “Boult, take you the marks of her—the colour of her hair, complexion, height, age, with warrant of her virginity—and cry up that he who will give most shall have her first! Such a maidenhead were no cheap thing, if men are still as they have been!
“Get this done as I command you!” she says grandly, anticipating much profit.
Boult effects a courtly bow. “Performance shall follow!” he vows, already on his way to solicit.
Marina shivers in dread. Alack that Leonine was so slack, so slow!—he should have struck, not spoke!—and that these pirates, not barbarous enough, did not throw me o’erboard to seek for my mother!
“Why lament you, pretty one?”
“That I am pretty.”
“Come, the gods have done their part in you.”
“I accuse them not!”
“You are alighted into my hands—where you are likely to live,” the bawd points out.
“The more my fault, to ’scape his hands where I was likely to die!”
“Ah, but you shall live in pleasure.”
“Yes, in deed shall you, and taste of gentlemen of all fashions!”—a play on a phrase for encounter. Marina shudders. “You shall fare well!”—the bad jest taken further. “You shall draw the preference of all complexions,” the bawd assures the blonde, regarding the establishment’s varied maritime clientele. She sees that the girl is holding both hands tightly against her head. “What?—do you stop your ears?”
Marina glares at the callous crone. “Are you a woman?”
“What would you have me be, if I be not a woman?”
“An honest woman, or not a woman!”
The bawd only laughs. “Marry, whip thee, gosling!” But then she regards the girl sourly. “I think I shall have something to do with you. Come, you’re a young, foolish sapling, and must be bowed as I would have you!”
“The gods defend me!” cries Marina, backing away.
The woman shrugs. “If it please the gods to defend you by man, then men must you comfort; men must feed you, men must upward speed you.” She looks to the door. “Boult’s returned.
“Now, sir, hast thou cried her through the market?”
“I have cried her almost to the number of her hairs!—I have drawn her picture with my voice!”
“Then I prithee tell me, how dost thou find the inclination of the people?—especially of the younger sort.”
Boult laughs. “’Faith, they listened to me as they would have hearkened to their father’s testament!”—reading of the will. “There was a Spaniard’s mouth so watered that he ‘wet the bed’ at her very description!”
The bawd is delighted. “We shall have him here tomorrow—with his best ruff on!”—starched stiff.
“Tonight,” Boult believes, “tonight! But, mistress, do you know the French knight that cowers i’ the hams?”—lacks rise between thighs.
“Who, Monsieur Veroles?”
“Aye, he. He offered to cut a caper at the proclamation!—but then he made a groan at it, and swore he would see her tomorrow.”
“Well, well, as for him, he brought his disease hither—here he does but return with it,” says the old woman peevishly. “I know he will come into our shadows to scatter his crowns”—not coins, symptoms of syphilis—“out of the sun.”
Boult regards Marina happily. “Well, if we had from every nation a traveller, we should lodge them all with this sign!”
“Pray you, come hither awhile,” the bawd tells her, ready to advise. “You’ll have fortunes coming upon you!” Marina winces. “Mark me: you must seem to do that fearfully which you commit willingly!—seem to despise profiting where you have most gain! Weeping that you live as ye do makes pity in your lovers; it’s seldom but that pity begets you a good opinion, and that opinion, more profit!”
Marina shakes her head sadly, watching the reprobate. “I understand you not.”
Demands Boult impatiently, “Oh, take her home, mistress, take her home! These blushes of hers must be quenched with some present practise!”
“Thou sayest true, i’ faith; so they must,” says the woman, “for even your bride goes in shame to that which is her way to go with warrant.”
“’Faith, some do, and some do not,” says Boult. He looks again at Marina—closely. “But, mistress, as I have bargained for the joint….”—secured this cut of meat.
The crone nods. “Thou mayst cut a morsel off the spit.”
Boult grins. “I may so!”
“Who would deny it you?” She pulls back the edge of Marina’s cloak. “Come, young one, I like the manner of your garments well!”
Boult, too, notes her fine clothes—and decides, considering the value of fresh property, that he can wait a while. “Aye, by my faith, they shall not be changèd yet!”
“Boult, spread thou that in the town!—report what a sojourner“—short-lived commodity—“we have!” the bawd urges. “You’ll lose nothing by custom”—by her starting to sell. “When Nature framed this piece, she meant thee a good turn! Therefore say what a paragon she is—and thou hast the harvest out of thine own report!”
Boult intends to reap. “I warrant you, mistress, thunder shall not so awake the beds of eels as my giving out her beauty stir up the lewdly inclined! I’ll bring some home tonight!”
Marina pales at the promises.
The old woman seizes her arm. “Come your ways; follow me.”
Marina resists. “If fires be hot, knives sharp, or waters deep, then tièd will I still my virgin knot keep!” She appeals to the chaste goddess of the moon: “Dian, aid my purpose!”
The bawd cackles. “What have we to do with Diana?
“Pray you, will you go with us?” she asks politely—and roughly shoves the princess forward.
“Why, you are foolish!” snaps the large lady. “Can it be undone?”
In their mansion atop the hill overlooking the capital of Tarsus, the governor faces his wife, appalled by her revelations. “Oh, Dionyza, such a piece of slaughter the sun and moon ne’er looked upon!”
She replies scornfully: “I think you’ll turn child again!”
“Were I chief lord of all this spacious world, I’d give it to undo the deed!” cries Cleon. “Oh, that noble lady,” he groans, remembering Marina, “much less in lineage than in virtue, yet a princess equal to any single crown o’ the earth!
“Oh, villainous Leonine!—whom thou hast poisoned, too!” He stares at her. “If thou hadst drunk what thou gave to him it had been a kind of justice well becoming thy crime!”
He shakes his head, thinking fearfully of the King of Tyre’s next visit—which is expected soon. “What canst thou say when noble Pericles shall demand his child?”
“That she is dead. Nurses are not the Fates—are to foster, not to preserve. She died in the night—I’ll say so. Who can cross it?—unless you play the pious innocent, and for an honest attribute”—to look so—“cry out she died by foul play.”
“Oh, go to!” growls Cleon. He rubs his throbbing temples. “Of all the faults beneath the heavens, the gods do like this worst!”
“Well, well, be you one of those that think the pretty wrens of Tarsus will fly hence and open this to Pericles? I do shame to think of what a noble strain you are, and of how cowardly a spirit!”
Cleon glares at the brazen woman. “Whoever but adds his accord to such proceeding, though not his prime consent, he did not flow from honourable sources!”
“Be it so, then,” says the lady calmly. “As yet none but you does know how she came dead, nor none can know, Leonine being gone.
“She did disdain my child!” says Dionyza angrily, “and stood between her and her fortunes! None would look on her but cast their gazes on Marina’s face!—whilst ours was blurred, and held as a malkin,”—a stray cat, “not worth the time of day!
“It pierced me through! And though you call my course unnatural—you your child not well loving!—yet I find it meet!—an enterprise of kindness performèd for your sole daughter!”
“Heavens forgive it!”
Dionyza continues, coldly, “And as for Pericles, what should he say? We wept after her hearse, and still we mourn; her monument is almost finished, and her epitaphs in glittering, golden characters express the general praise of her—and care in us, at whose expense ’tis done!”
He stands aghast. “Thou art like the harpy which, with an angel’s face to betray, dost seize with an eagle’s talons!”
Dionyza sneers. “You are like one that doth swear to the gods, superstitiously, that winter kills all the flies!”
She turns away with contempt. “But yet I know you’ll do as I advise.”
Now Gower moves from the side to the center, watching as the scene again changes on the platform beyond.
“Thus time do we truncate, long leagues make short!—sail seas in but cockles, having merely wished for’t!—meaning to take you from bourne unto region, from each of them borne by imagination! By you being pardoned, we commit no crime to use but one language in each several clime where our passing scene does seem to live.
“I beseech you now to learn what I give, who i’ this gap can teach thee the stage of our story.
“Pericles again goes athwart the wayward sea, attended by many a lord and knight, to see his daughter—all his life’s delight!
“Old Escanes, whom Helicanus hath advancèd to great and high estate, is left to govern, bear you in mind. Now Helicanus comes along behind.
“Well-sailing ship and bounteous wind have brought this king to Tarsus! Think his piloting thoughts, and thus shall yours with the steerage come on: to fetch home his daughter he first has gone!”
Gower steps to the right. “See them like motes and shadows move awhile; your ears unto your eyes I’ll then reconcile….”
With all of his train following, King Pericles, his hair and beard now grown quite long, meets Cleon and Dionyza before the monument to Marina. The governor shows Pericles the memorial, on which ivy has already begun to grow. Pericles, weeping, reads the inscription. He cries out in lamentation, and departs in a deep and dolorous passion. The others, heads bowed, follow sadly.
“See how belief may suffer from foul show,” says Gower, walking toward the tomb. “Thus borrowed passion stands for true-held woe.
“And Pericles—in sorrow all devoured, shot through with sighs, by bitterest tears o’ershowered—leaves Tarsus, and again embarks.
“He swears never to wash his face, nor cut his hairs; he puts on sackclout.
“To sea he bears a tempest, which his mortal vessel tears! And yet he rides it out.”
Gower stops beside the monument. “Now hear you: Dionyza, with a wicked wit, Marina’s epitaph hath writ.” From the stone he reads aloud the inscription:
“The fairest, sweet’st, and best lies here,
Who withered in her spring of year.
She was of Tyrus, the king’s own daughter,
On whom foul Death hath made this slaughter.
Marina was she callèd, and thus at her birth
Thetis,”—goddess of the sea—“being proud, swallowed some o’ the earth!
Therefore the lands, fearing to be o’erflowed,
Hath Thaisa’s birth-child on the heavens bestowed.
Wherefore does Thetis, swearing she’ll never stint,
Make raging battery upon shores of flint!”
Gower shakes his head. “No masking does befit hard villainy so well as soft and tender flattery!
“Let Pericles believe his daughter’s dead, and bear that his courses be orderèd by Lady Fortune, while our scene must play his daughter’s woes—and heavily, alas-the-day, in such unholy throes!
“Have patience, then, and think you now in Mytilene….”
On a dark and filthy street near the water, two affluent city gentlemen emerge from a brothel unsated—and astonished.
“Did you ever hear the like?”
“No!—nor never shall do in such a place as this, she being once gone!”
The younger looks back at the tawdry establishment. “But to have divinity preachèd there! Did you ever dream of such a thing?”
“No,” says the older man, stopping. “No,” he says thoughtfully, looking up the long street toward a temple. “Come, I am no more for bawdy-houses. Shall we go hear the vestals sing?”
The younger man has never before visited the shrine devoted to Diana, but he nods. “I’d do something now that is virtuous—and I am out of the road of rutting forever!”
They walk, still somewhat dazed, toward the hallowed site.
Inside the despicable den, the old procurer fumes—still unrewarded. “Well, I had rather than twice the worth of her she had ne’er come here!”
“Fie, fie upon her!” cries his wife. “She’s liable to freeze the god Priapus and undo a whole generation! We must either get her ravished or be rid of her!
“When she should for clients do fitment on her knees—and do the kindness of our profession for me!—she tells them her reasons, her prayers!—her master quirks that would make a puritan of the Devil, ’fore he’d cheapen a kiss of hers!”
Boult, too, is worried. “’Faith, I must ravish her, or she’ll disfurnish us of all our cavaliers, and make our swearers into priests!”
Marina’s refusals anger the master of the house. “Nay, as for me, the pox upon her green-sickness!”
The bawd sourly concurs. “’Faith, there’s no way to be rid of’t but by the way to the pox!”—the route to a disease of venery.
A tall man, very well dressed, enters the front room somewhat stealthily, and peers around in the gloom, holding before his face an elegantly feathered eye-mask at the end of a thin black rod. “Here comes the Lord Lysimachus—disguised,” she says, rolling her eyes.
“We should have both lord and low one, if the peevish baggage would but give way to customers!” grumbles Boult.
The nobleman asks curtly, “How now. Have a dozen of virginities?”
The slovenly woman laughs as she curtseys clumsily. “Now the gods do bless Your Honour!”
Boult bows. “I am glad to see Your Honour in good health!”
“You may well wish so,” says Lysimachus. “’Tis the better for you that your resorters stand upon sound legs. How now? Wholesome iniquity have you?—that a man may deal withal, yet defy the surgeon?”
She replies coyly: “We have one here, sir!—if she would—but there never came her like in Mytilene!”
“If she’d do ‘the deed of darkness,’ wouldst thou say?” A virgin might be challenging, he thinks.
“Your Honour knows well enough what to say!”
“Well, call forth.”
Boult wants to stimulate the customer. “Flesh and blood, sir, ‘the white and red,’ sir, you shall see arose! And she were a rose indeed, if she had but….”
“What, prithee?” He thinks bloomed would be rather mild, here; opened up, perhaps.
“Oh, sir, I can be modest.”
Lysimachus laughs. “That dignifies the renown of a bawd less than it gives good report to call a whore chaste!” He waves the man away, and Boult goes to fetch the new addition to the firm.
The procurer’s wife smiles as Boult returns with Marina. “Here comes that which grows to the stalk!” she says lasciviously. “Never yet plucked, I can assure you! Is she not a fair creature?”
Lysimachus looks Marina up and down—and sighs; he knows how to negotiate. “’Faith, she would serve, after a long voyage at sea.” He hands the crone a coin. “Well, there’s for you. Leave us.”
She curtseys—but, taking Marina by the arm, she says to him, “I beseech Your Honour, give me leave! A word, and I’ll have done presently….”
Lysimachus is eyeing the young lady. “I beseech you, do!”
Her voice hushed but urgent, the bawd tells Marina, “First, I would have you note this is an honourable man!” She means a wealthy one.
Marina looks at the patrician, who is watching impatiently from behind his mask. “So I desire to find him, so that I may worthily note him.”
“Next: he’s the governor of this country!” Its agents accept—extort, in her view—the payment of bribes. “And a man whom I am bound to—”
“You are bound to him indeed, if he govern the country; but how honourable he is in that, I know not.” Citizens should be dutiful; but the princess despises official toleration of the highly popular crimes committed here.
The bawd whispers to her insistently: “Pray you, without any more virginal fencing, will you use him kindly? He will line your apron with gold!”
“What he will do graciously, I will thankfully receive.”
Lysimachus comes nearer. “Have you done?” He smiles warmly.
“My lord, she’s not pacèd yet; you must take some pains to work her to your manage,” the old woman cautions—in horseman’s terms, as if the princess were simply coltish. She motions to her husband and Boult: “Come, we will leave his honour and her together; go thy ways.”
Soon Marina is alone with the lord who would be stealthy.
“Now, pretty one, how long have you been at this trade?” he inquires politely.
“What trade, sir?”
“Why, I cannot name’t but I shall offend.”
“I cannot be offended with my trade. Please you to name it.”
“How long have you been of this profession?”
She has long professed her faith. “E’er since I can remember.”
Lysimachus has seen wily street urchins, of course. “Did you go to ’t so young? Were you a gamester at five or at seven?”
She frowns; beliefs are not games. “Earlier, too, sir—if now I be one.”
At if, Lord Lysimachus frowns, too. “Well, the house you dwell in proclaims you to be a creature of sale!”
She demands angrily, “Do you know this house to be a place of such resort, yet will come into’t? I hear say you are of honourable parts, and are the governor of this place!”
He is taken aback. “Why, hath your principal made known unto you who I am?”
“Who is my ‘principal’?”
“Why, your… herb-woman—she that sets seed and root of shame and iniquity!” says the seeker of their fruits. He regards her with a cynical eye. “So, you have heard something of my power—and remain aloof for more serious wooing!”—to garner greater reward. “But I protest to thee, pretty one, my authority shall not see thee, let alone look friendly upon thee!
“Come, bring me to some private place! Come, come!”
Marina steps back. “If you were born to honour, show it now!” she demands. “If it was put upon you, make good the judgment that thought you worthy of it!”
“What’s this, what’s this?” he mumbles, annoyed and petulant. “No more!—be sage!” he warns, to urge a woman of low commerce to stop haggling.
But the princess is defiant. “As for me—who am a maiden, though most ungentle fortune have placed me in this sty, where, since I came, diseases have been sold for more than remedies!—oh, that the gods would set me free from this unhallowèd place, though they did change me to the poorest bird that flies i’ the purer air!” A tear appears on one cheek.
Lysimachus is stunned. “I did not think thou shouldst have spoken so well!” he gasps. “Ne’er dreamed thou couldst!
“Had I brought hither a corrupted mind,” he says, flushing, “thy speech would alter it!”
He is stricken to see another tear slip down. “Hold—here’s gold for thee! Persever in that clear way thou goest—and the gods strengthen thee!”
Marina touches his hand, and looks up, meeting his eyes. “The good gods preserve you.”
Watching her honest face, Lysimachus blushes again. “As for me, be you thoughten that I came with no ill intent,” he says weakly. He looks around—and has an epiphany of sorts. He blinks, and murmurs, “To me the very doors and windows now savour vilely….
“Fare thee well! Thou art a piece of virtue, and I doubt not but thy training hath been noble! Hold—here’s more gold for thee! A curse upon him—die he like a thief!—that robs thee of thy goodness!
“If thou dost hear from me, it shall be for thy good!” he vows.
Now Boult, who has heard gold, comes into the room, to claim a gratuity for the transaction. “I beseech Your Honour, one piece for me!”
“Avaunt, thou damnèd door-keeper!” cries the transformed governor. “Your house, but for this virgin that doth prop it, would sink and overwhelm you! Away!” He strides from the building in high indignation.
Boult glares. “What’s this?” His jaws clench. “We must take another course with you! If your peevish chastity—which is not worth a breakfast in the cheapest country under the sky!—shall undo the whole household, let me be gelded like a spaniel!
“Come your ways!” He motions her toward the door leading to the bed-chambers.
Marina stands still. “Whither would you have me?”
“I must have your maidenhead taken off ere the common hangman”—Death—“shall execute it! Come your ways. We’ll have no more gentlemen driven away! Come your ways, I say!” He grasps her arm roughly.
The bawd has heard voices raised. “How now?” she asks, entering the room. “What’s the matter?”
“Worse and worse, mistress!” says Boult. “She has here spoken holy words to the Lord Lysimachus!”
“Oh, abominable!” cries the crone.
Boult regards Marina dourly. “She makes our profession, as it were, to stink afore the face of the gods!”
“Marry, hang her up forever!”
“The nobleman would have dealt with her like a noble man, but she sent him away as cold as a snowball!—saying his prayers, too!” adds the disgusted pander.
The weary bawd has suffered enough. “Boult, take her away!—use her at thy pleasure! Crack the glass of her virginity—and make the rest malleable!”
The big man is confident. “Even if she were a thornier piece of ground than she is, she shall be ploughed!”
Marina looks upward. “Hark, hark, you gods!”
“She conjures!” warns the old woman. “Away with her! Would she had never come within my doors!” She scowls at Boult. “Marry, hang you!—she’s born to undo us!
“You will not go the way of woman-kind?” she says angrily to the princess. “Marry, you’ll come up, my dish of chastity, with rosemary and bay!”—well seasoned. She clumps away.
Boult towers above Marina. “Come, mistress; come your ways with me.”
“Whither wilt thou have me?”
“To take from you the jewel you hold so dear!”
“Prithee, tell me one thing first….”
Boult motions toward the door. “Come now for your first thing!” he taunts; thing is a term for the male member.
“What canst thou wish thine enemy to be?” asks Marina.
The pander laughs, picturing, wryly, a harsh punishment. “Why, I could wish him to be my master—or, rather, my mistress!”
But Marina shakes her head. “Neither of those is so badly off as thou art, since they do better, with thee in their command!
“Thou hold’st a place in reputation with which the painèdest fiend of Hell would not exchange: thou art the damnèd doorkeeper for every coistrel that comes inquiring for his Tib!”—scoundrel wanting a whore. “To the fist of every choleric rogue is thine ear liable!”—for cuffing. “Thy food is such as hath been belched on by infected lungs!”
Boult shrugs. “What would you have me do?—go to the wars, would you?—where a man may serve seven years for the loss of a leg!—and have not money enough in the end to buy him a wooden one?”
Marina’s eyes search his sad face—and pleads: “Do anything but this thou doest! Empty old receptacles or common shores of filth; serve by indenture to a hangman!—either of those ways is yet better than this!—for what thou professeth to be, a baboon, could he speak, would call a name bought too dear!”—damned.
“Oh, that the gods would safely deliver thee from this place!” She takes his hand and gives him the governor’s penance. “Here—here’s gold for thee.”
Boult blinks, astonished.
She has an alternative to offer, as well. “If that thy master would gain by me, proclaim that I can sing, weave, sew, and dance—with other virtues, which I’ll keep from boasting of—and I will undertake to teach all of these! I doubt not that this populous city will yield many students!”
Boult, surprised, considers. “But can you teach all this you speak of?”
She challenges: “Prove that I can not, and you may take me home again and prostitute me to the basest groom”—stable-boy, not wayward husband, although the brothel accommodates both—“that doth frequent your house!”
Boult believes the lady could actually accomplish what she suggests. “Well, I will see what I can do for thee. If I can place thee, I will.”
“But amongst honest women,” Marina insists.
Boult laughs. “’Faith, my acquaintance lies little amongst them!
“As my master and mistress have bought you, there’s no going but by their consent. Therefore I will make them acquainted with your purpose, but I doubt not I shall find them tractable enough.
“Come, I’ll do for thee what I can.” He grins: “Come your ways!”
John Gower ambles forward and stands again at the right. “Marina thus the brothel ’scapes!
“She moves into an honest house, so our story says. She sings like one immortal, and dances just as goddess-like to her admirèd lays!”—songs. “Poor clerks she skills; and with her needle enhances Nature’s own shapes, of bud, bird, branch or berry—so well that her art sisters even natural roses!—yarn and silk are twinned with rubied cherry!
“As for pupils, lacks she none of noble race; they pour their bounty upon her—and the gains she gives to the cursèd bawd.
“Here we Marina place.”
Now he moves toward the other side, raising an eyebrow. “To her father, wind-guided on the sea, turn again. He arrives from whence we left him, lost; and here suppose him now, at anchor on this coast.
“Good Neptune’s annual feast to keep, the city’s now intent; from thence Lysimachus our Tyrian ship espies, its banners sable,”—funereal black, “but trimmed with rich expense! To it in his barge with hopeful fervor hies.”
Gower glances toward the tall vessel, with its solemn flag and costly fittings. “In our supposing, once more put your sight on heavy-hearted Pericles; think this his bark, where what in action is done, more than I might shall be uncoverèd.
“Please you, sit—and hark….”
An officer of Pericles’ ship looks around the deck. “Where is Lord Helicanus? He can resolve you,” he tells the visitor who has just come aboard. “Oh, here he is—
“Sir, there’s a barge put off from Mytilene, and in it is Lysimachus—the governor—who craves to come aboard. What is your will?”
“That he have his,” says Helicanus. The city man bows and returns with his news to the harbor vessel lying beside.
“Call up some gentlemen,” orders Helicanus, to ready a reception for the governor.
A Tyrian sailor goes below. “Ho, gentlemen! My lord summons!”
As they emerge into the sunshine, one asks, “Doth Your Lordship call?”
“Gentlemen, there’s some of worth would coming aboard; I pray ye, greet them fairly.”
Lysimachus and several of his lords arrive, smiling broadly. The noblemen from Mytilene are first greeted by the Tyrian officer; he brings them to old Helicanus, whose hair is now white. “Sir, this is the man that can, in aught you would, resolve you.”
Lysimachus steps forward to bow. “Hail, reverend sir! The gods preserve you!”
“And you, sir, to outlive the age I am,” says Helicanus, returning the courtesy, “and die as I would do!” His smile suggests never.
Lysimachus laughs. “You wish me well!
“Being on shore honouring Neptune’s triumphs, and seeing this goodly vessel ride unto us, I made to it, to know of whence you are.”
“First, what is your place?”
“I am the governor of this land you lie before.”
“Sir, our vessel is of Tyre; in it, the king—a man who for this three months hath not spoken to any one, nor taken sustenance but enough to prolong his grief.”
On the wide wooden deck is a weather-grayed canvas shelter; redolent of despair, it allows the sorrowing king to take air, but remain in shadows. Its front curtain is closed.
“Upon what ground is his distemperature?”
“’Twould be too tedious to repeat,” says Helicanus, “but the main grief springs from the loss of a belovèd daughter, and a wife.”
Lysimachus looks at the tent. “May we not see him?”
“You may; but bootless is your sight: he will not speak to any,” says Helicanus.
“Yet let me obtain my wish.”
Lord Helicanus nods. “Behold him,” he says, drawing back the curtain to reveal King Pericles, clad in rough sackcloth, supine and oblivious on a plain bench of dark-stained wood. His beard and hair are very long, and unkempt. “His was a goodly person, till the disaster, that one mortal night, drove him to this.”
Lysimachus kneels. “Sir!—King!—All hail! The gods preserve you! Hail, royal sir!”
“It is in vain,” Helicanus notes sadly. “He will not speak to you.”
One of the lords in Lysimachus’s party approaches him as he muses, watching the unresponsive ruler. “Sir, we have a maid in Mytilene I durst wager would win some words of him….”
“’Tis well bethought!” says the governor. “Questionless, with her sweet harmony and other chaste attractions she would charm, and make battery through his deafened parts which now are midway stopped up!”
He speaks to the nobleman, who hurries away to the rail.
Lysimachus tells his surrogate host, “She is held happily as the fairest of all!—and, with her fellow maids, is now within the leafy shelter that abuts against the island’s side.”
Helicanus sighs. “All’s surely effectless; yet nothing we’ll omit that bears recovery’s name!
“But since your kindness we have stretchèd thus far, let us beseech you that we may have, for our gold, provisions—wherein we are not destitute for want, but weary for their staleness.”
Mytilene will certainly be willing to sell fresh and various comestibles to the Tyrians. “Oh, sir, ’tis a courtesy which, if we should deny, the most-just gods for every growth would send a caterpillar, and so afflict our providence!”
He glances at the silent sovereign. “Yet once more let me entreat to know at large the cause of your king’s sorrow.”
“Sir, I will recount it to you.” Helicanus looks toward an opening in the bulwark. “But, see; I am prevented….”
The governor’s barge has returned with the tall lord, and from the park beside her cottage he has brought Marina, attended by one of her patrician pupils.
“Ah, here is the lady that I sent for!” says Lysimachus. “Welcome, fair one!” he calls.
He asks, watching her with admiration. “Is’t not a goodly presence?”
“She’s a gallant lady!” says Helicanus, impressed by Marina’s poise as she approaches.
Lysimachus nods. “She’s such a one that, were I well assurèd came of a gentle kind and noble stock, I’d wish no better choice, and think me rarely wed!”
Reaching them, Marina curtseys, and the noblemen nod to her.
“Fair one,” says Helicanus, “all goodness that consists in thy bounty exercise even here, where is a kingly patient! If that thy perspicacious and artificing feats can draw him but to answer thee in aught, thy sacred physic shall receive such pay as thy desires can wish!”
Marina smiles. “Sir, I will use my utmost skill in his recovery, provided that none but I and my companion maid be suffered to come near him.” Men, she knows, tend to take over, and demand.
As Helicanus guides her to the slight sanctuary, the curtain is rustled by a breeze.
“Come, let us leave her,” says the governor, “and may the gods make her prosperous!”
First, Marina sings, softly, a sweet song for the disheveled, odd-looking king.
- Watching, from away at the starboard side, Lysimachus asks, “Markèd he your music?”
- “No. Nor looked on us.”
- The governor tells Helicanus: “See—she will speak to him….”
“Hail, sir,” says Marina. “My lord, lend ear.”
Pericles, moving for the first time, blinks, and mumbles almost inaudibly.
Marina steps forward. “I am a maid, my lord, who ne’er before invited eyes—but have been gazed on like a comet!” Unwanted attention, she suspects, has aggravated his loneliness.
Her voice continues. “She who speaks, my lord, it may be hath endured a grief that might equal yours, if both were justly weighed. Though wayward fortune did maim my state, my derivation was from ancestors who stood equivalent with mighty kings!
“But Time hath obscurèd my parentage, and, in a world of awkward causalities, bound me in servitude….”
The king slowly rubs his eyes; without looking, he motions for her to leave.
I will desist…. Marina looks at his face, and is strangely moved. But there is something glows upon my cheek, and whispers in mine ear, ‘Go not till he speak!’
Pericles sits up and pulls his long hair back at either side. He looks at her, and speaks—annoyed. “‘Thy fortunes… parentage’—good parentage—to equal mine!” He challenges, his voice rising: “Was it not thus? What say you?”
“I said, my lord, if you did know my parentage, you would not abuse me.”
Having seen her now, Pericles nods. “I do think so.” She averts her own gaze as he stares. “Pray you, turn your eyes upon me. You are like something that….” He squints. “What country-woman? Here, of these shores?”
“No—nor of any shores. Yet I was brought forth mortal, and am no other than I appear.”
Pericles, unwilling to deal with a riddle, slumps back with a groan. I am great with woe, and shall deliver weeping!
But he turns his head to regard her again—thoughtfully. My dearest wife was like this maid—and such a one my daughter might have been….
My queen’s square brows; her stature to an inch, and as a wand so straight; her eyes as jewel-like, and cased as richly; as silver-voicèd—in speech, another Juno, who starves the ears she feeds, and makes them hungrier the more she gives them!
“Where do you live?”
“Where I am but a stranger,” Marina replies. “From the deck you may discern the place.”
“Where were you bred? And how achieved you these endowments, which to own make you more than rich?”
Marina smiles. “If I should tell my history, it would seem like lies, disdainèd in the reporting.”
“Prithee, speak!” says Pericles. Falseness cannot come from thee; for thou look’st as modest as Justice, and thou seem’st a palace for the crownèd Truth to dwell in!
He says, kindly, “I will believe thee, and make my senses to credit thy relation of points that seem impossible—for thou look’st like one I loved.
“Who were thy friends? Didst thou not say, when I did wave thee back—which was when I misperceivèd thee—that thou camest from good descending?”
“So indeed I did.”
“Report thy parentage,” says Pericles, sliding forward. “I think thou said’st thou hadst been tossed from wrong to injury—and that thou thought’st thy griefs might equal mine, if both were opened.”
“Some such thing I said—but said no more than what my thoughts did warrant me was likely….”
“Tell thy story! If thine, considerèd, prove the thousandth part of my enduring, thou art a man, and I have suffered like a girl!
“What were thy friends? How lost thou them? Thy name, my most-kind virgin? Recount, I do beseech thee!
“Come, sit by me.”
As her young companion watches, she perches beside him, at the edge of the bench. “My name is Marina.”
Pericles gasps. “Oh, I am mocked!” he cries, jumping up, “and thou by some incensèd god art sent hither to make the world laugh at me!”
“Patience, good sir,” she says gently, “or here I’ll cease.”
He thinks, And thou dost look like Patience, gazing o’er kings’ graves and smiling Extremity out of action!
Calming himself, Pericles promises, “Nay, I’ll be patient. Thou little know’st how thou dost startle me, to call thyself Marina!” He sits down.
“The name was given me by one that had some power: my father—and a king.”
“What? A king’s daughter—and called Marina!”
“You said you would believe me,” she protests, coming to her feet. “But not to be a troubler of your peace, I will end here.”
Pericles rises, staring at her, dazed. “But are you flesh and blood?—have you a working pulse, and share no fairy motion?
“Well; speak on…. Where were you born?—and wherefore called Marina?”
“Called Marina for I was born at sea.”
“At sea! What mother?”
“My mother was the daughter of a king; she died the minute I was born—as my good nurse Lychorida hath oft, weeping, reported.”
Pericles gapes. “Oh, stop there a little!” This is the rarest dream that e’er dull sleep did mock sad fools withal! This cannot be!—my daughter’s burièd!
“Well,” he says, as soothingly as he can, “where were you bred?” Seeing that she is becoming alarmed, he moves back a little. “I’ll hear you more—to the bottom of your story, and never interrupt you….”
Marina is doubtful. “You scorn! Believe me, ’twere best I did give o’er.”
“I will believe you by the syllable in what you shall deliver!” pledges Pericles. “Yet, give me leave to ask: how came you unto these parts? Where were you bred?”
“The king my father did in Tarsus leave me, till cruel Cleon, with his wicked wife, did seek to murder me! They having worked a villain to attempt it, he had drawn to do it! Then a crew of pirates came and rescued me, brought me to Mytilene—”
His cry of angry dismay has halted her story. “Well, good sir,” she says, flustered, “whither would you have me?” And now she is surprised. “Why do you weep?”
He is staring, speechless.
“It may be you think me an impostor. No, in good faith!—I am the daughter to good Pericles, if King Pericles be!”
The monarch is staggering. “Ho!—Helicanus!”
“Calls my lord?”
Pericles grasps his friend’s arm for support. “Thou art a grave and noble counsellor, most wise in general! Tell me, if thou canst, who this maid is—or is likely to be—that thus hath made me weep!”
“I know not.” He motions to the governor. “But here’s the regent, sir, of Mytilene, who speaks nobly of her….”
Lysimachus comes forward to Pericles. “She would never tell us her parentage!—being demanded that, she would sit still, and weep!”
“Oh, Helicanus, strike me, honoured sir!” pleads the king. “Give me a gash, put me to sudden pain!—lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me o’erbear the shores of my mortality, and drown me with its sweetness!”
He faces Marina: “Oh, come hither, thou that beget’st him that did thee beget!—thou that wast born at sea, buried at Tarsus, and found again at sea!
“Oh, Helicanus, down on thy knees!—thank the holy gods as loud as their thunder threatens us!” he cries. “This is Marina!
“What was thy mother’s name?” he asks urgently, longing to hear it. “Tell me but that!—for truth can never be confirmed enough, though doubts be put to sleep….”
“First, sir, I pray: what is your title?”
“I am Pericles of Tyre! In the rest you’ve said thou hast been godlike perfect! Only tell me now my drownèd queen’s name, and become the heir to Pericles’ kingdom—and another like to thy father’s!”—Pentapolis.
Amazed, she kneels. “Is it no more to be your daughter than to say my mother’s name was Thaisa?” As she looks up at him; her face reflects both pride and sorrow: “Thaisa was my mother, who did end the minute I began.”
“Now, blessing on thee!” His tears are flowing freely. “Rise!—thou art my child!”
Father and daughter embrace, both weeping in joy. He kisses her cheek tenderly.
He calls: “Give me fresh garments—mine own, Helicanus! She is not dead at Tarsus—as she would have been by savage Cleon! She shall tell thee all!—and thou shalt kneel, justifièd in knowledge she is thy very princess!”
Helicanus, astonished by the discoveries, sends a man to fetch the king’s proper raiment.
Pericles now sees Lord Lysimachus. “Who is this?”
“Sir, ’tis the governor of Mytilene,” says Helicanus, “who, hearing of your melancholy state, did come to see you.”
“I embrace you!” cries Pericles to Lysimachus, doing so, for Marina has thrived here. “Give me my robe!” he cries, as it is brought to him; he pulls on the long red cape trimmed with ermine. “Now am I wild only in my beholding!” He is unable to take his gaze from Marina.
But then he pauses for a moment, and looks up—humbly. O heavens, bless my girl!
The onlookers watch, entranced, as the reborn king fairly glows with new life.
“But, hark… what music?” he asks softly, now standing quite still. “Tell Helicanus, my Marina!—tell him o’er, point by point!—for yet he seems to doubt, how surely you are my daughter!”
And then he stops, and again listens. “But… what music?” he asks, his voice hushed.
“My lord, I hear none,” Helicanus tells him, watching as the king peers around—then upward.
“None?” Pericles laughs joyously. “The music of the spheres!”—heavenly harmonies. He backs slowly toward the bench, listening intently. “List, my Marina!”
Helicanus cautions the others: “It is not good to cross him; give him way.”
Pericles sits and listens, eyes closed, “Rarest sounds!—do ye not hear?”
“My lord, I hear,” says his friend softly.
For the king, though, sounds are drifting from above, and a tingling rapture settles upon him.
“Most heavenly music!” breathes Pericles, overwhelmed; he sinks back, peacefully. “It bids me unto listening… and thick slumber hangs upon mine eyes….
“Let me rest,” he sighs.
Helicanus motions to Pericles’ attendants. “A pillow for his head!
“So leave him, all,” he urges quietly. Marina and the others move away, following him aft.
“My companion friends,” Helicanus tells them, “if this but answer to my just belief, I’ll well recount for you!” They listen to the story, well known in Tyre, of the king’s trials.
As Pericles lies dreaming, in a beautiful vision the goddess Diana seems to descend and hover above him. Her speech is subtle, warm, and charming; it echoes faintly, as if coming from a great distance.
My temple stands in Ephesus. Hie thee thither, and upon mine altar make sacrifice.
With my maidens’ priestess met, do the people call; together mourn thy crosses and thy daughter’s—all! There reveal how at sea thou didst lose thy wife, and give them repetition to the life!
Perform my bidding!—or thou’lt live in woe; do it, and be happy, by my silver bow!
She smiles. Awake!—and tell thy dream!
With that, she vanishes.
Slowly blinking, Pericles rises, calm and resolute. Celestial Diana, goddess argentine, —of the moon’s silvery light— I will obey thee!
“Helicanus!” he calls.
That lord returns, with Lysimachus and Marina. “Sir?”
“My purpose was for Tarsus—there to strike the inhospitable Cleon!
“But I am for other service first! Toward Ephesus turn our blown sails! Eftsoons I’ll tell thee why!”
He takes Marina by the hand and faces Lysimachus. “Shall we refresh us, sir, upon your shore, and give you gold for such provision as our intents will need?”
“Sir, with all my heart! And when you come ashore, I have another suit,” says Lysimachus gazing at Marina—who blushes.
Pericles beams. “You shall prevail, were it to woo my daughter!—for it seems you have been noble towards her! Come, my Marina!”
“Sir, lend me your arm,” says she.
Lysimachus lead the way to the barge, and soon they have crossed over the tranquil blue water, toward the governor’s sunny mansion in the center of great Mytilene.
Now our sands are almost run; more, but little, yet to come,” old Gower advises.
“This, my last boon, give unto me, and with such kindness do believe ye!
“You aptly will suppose what pageantry, what feats, what shows, what minstrelsy, there were in Mytilene!—what pretty din the regent made, here to greet these kin!
“So well he thrived, he’s promised to be wived!—to the fair Marina!
“But we’re done no-wise till has been made by Pericles his sacrifice—as bade by adorèd Diana.
“Whereto being bound, the interim, pray you, all compound in feathered briefness: wishes fall out as willed, and sails are soon filled!”
As the new scene is revealed, he moves aside. “At Ephesus in the temple, see our king and all his company! That hither he can come so soon is, thank you, by your fancy’s doom!”
The high priestess stands, with four virgins at each side, near the raised altar in the temple of Diana, ready for the sacrifice arranged for today. On the steps below are Lord Cerimon and many other residents of Ephesus, noble, gentle and common.
A regal train approaches. At the front with the still-unshorn sovereign and Helicanus are Marina and Lysimachus.
Pericles kneels and looks to the sky. “Hail, Diana! To perform thy just command, I here profess myself the King of Tyre—who, frighted from my country, did wed at Pentapolis the fair Thaisa.
“At sea in birthing bed dièd she, but brought forth a maid-child called Marina—who, O goddess, wears yet thy silver livery”—is still a virgin.
“At Tarsus was she nursèd with Cleon—who at fourteen years sought to murder her!
“But her better stars brought her to Mytilene—’gainst whose shore riding, our fortunes brought us toward the maid, and where, by her own most-clear remembrance, she made herself known my daughter,—”
A cry shatters the calm: “By voice and face, you are! You are!” cries the priestess. “O royal Pericles!” She moans—and faints, falling to the stone.
Pericles rushes to her side. “What means the nun? She dies! Help, gentlemen!”
Old Cerimon comes to them and kneels. “Noble sir, if you have told Diana’s altar true, this is your wife!”
Pericles only groans. “Reverend appearer, no. I threw her overboard from these very arms.”
Cerimon smiles. “Upon this coast, I warrant you….”
“’Tis most certain.”
“Look at the lady!” says Cerimon, watching as she opens her eyes. “Ah, she’s but o’erjoyed!
“Early one blustering morn this lady was thrown upon this shore! I oped the coffin, found there rich jewels—”
“Now we see one!” cries Pericles.
“Great sir, I restorèd her, and placed her here in Diana’s temple; the others shall be brought to you at my house—whither I invite you. Look!—Thaisa is recoverèd!” They help the lady to her feet.
“Oh, let me look!” she says weakly, peering at the king. “If he be none of mine, my sanctity will to my sense bend no licentious ear, but curb it, spite of seeing….
“Oh, my lord, are you not Pericles? Like him you spake!—like him you are! Did you not cite a tempest, a birth, and a death?”
Pericles hearkens, stunned. “The voice of dead Thaisa!”
“That Thaisa am I, supposèd dead and drowned!”
Pericles looks up. “Immortal Diana!” he whispers reverently.
The priestess smiles, and moves closer. “Now I know you better!” She shows him a golden ring. “When we with tears parted Pentapolis, the king my father gave you such a ring….”
Pericles shows her its twin—and jubilates, despite the tears. “This, this! No more, you gods!—your present kindness makes my past miseries sports! You shall do well if, on the touching of her lips, I may melt, and no more be seen!”
He spreads his hands wide. “Oh, come, be burièd a second time, within these arms!” The reunited lovers embrace in wonder.
“My heart leaps to be gone to my mother’s bosom!” cries Marina, coming to Thaisa, and taking her hand.
“Look who kneels here!” Pericles tells his wife. “Flesh of thy flesh, Thaisa!—thy burden at sea—and called Marina for she was yielded there!”
As her arms encircle her rising daughter, Thaisa is happily weeping. “Blest!—and mine own!”
Lord Helicanus comes to kneel, at last, before Thaisa. “Hail, madam!—and my queen!”
She dabs at the tears, smiling. “I know you not….”
“You have heard me say,” Pericles tells her. “When I did fly from Tyre, I left behind an ancient substitute—can you remember what I called the man? I have named him oft….”
Thaisa nods. “’Twas Helicanus then.”
“Ever confirmation! Embrace him, dear Thaisa!—this is he!
“Now do I long to hear how you were found; how impossibly preservèd!—and whom to thank, besides the gods, for this great miracle!”
Thaisa leads him to the healer. “Lord Cerimon, my lord!—this man, through whom the gods have shown their power, can from first to last resolve you.”
Pericles bows to the nobleman. “Reverend sir, the gods can have no mortal officer more like a god than you! Will you deliver how this dead queen re-lives?”
Cerimon bows to the king. “I will, my lord! Beseech you, first go with me to my house, where you shall be shown all that was found with her, and hear how she came to be placèd in the temple—no needful thing omitted!”
Pericles kneels before the goddess’s statue. “Pure Diana, bless thee for thy vision! I will offer nightly oblations to thee!”
He rises, and brings Lysimachus to the queen. “Thaisa, this prince—the fair betrothèd of your daughter—shall marry her at Pentapolis!
“And now, this ornament that makes me look dismal will I clasp to my form!” he proclaims, embracing Thaisa. He turns to Marina and touches his hair. “And what these fourteen years no razor touched, to grace thy marriage-day, I’ll beautify!”
Thaisa thinks of her childhood home at Pentapolis. She tells Pericles, sadly, “Lord Cerimon hath good, credible letters, sir, that my father’s dead.”
Pericles remembers well King Simonides’ warm good humor. He says, softly, as she lays her head on his shoulder, “Heaven’s made a star of him.
“Yet there, my queen, we’ll celebrate their nuptials, and ourselves will in that kingdom spend our following days.
“Our son-in-law and daughter shall in Tyrus reign!
“Lord Cerimon, we do in longing wait to hear the rest, as yet untold!
“Sir, lead us the way!”
John Gower returns.
“When Fame has spread the cursèd deeds of Cleon ’gainst honoured Pericles, to such a rage does the city turn, they him and his in the palace burn! The gods so seem content to punish for murder not done, if follows consent.
“Of Antiochus and his daughter you’ve already heard: to a monstrous lust, the due and just reward.
“In Helicanus you may well descry a figure of truth, of faith, of loyalty.
“In reverend Cerimon there well appears the worth that learnèd charity ever wears.
“Pericles’ queen and daughter you’ve seen: though assailed with fortunes fierce and keen, virtue preservèd from fell destruction’s blast, led on by heaven, is crowned with joy at last!
“So, your patience evermore attending, may new joy wait upon you!—for here our play has ending!”