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MonkeyNotes-Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare
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Act I, Scene 2

Summary

This brief scene is set in Pericles' own kingdom of Tyre. Pericles is restless and worried, certain that Antiochus will stop at nothing to silence him about the incest. He tells Helicanus, a trusted advisor, about his fears that a vengeful Antiochus may even invade Tyre and punish Pericles' innocent subjects, simply because Pericles knows his dirty secret. Helicanus advises Pericles to leave Tyre and travel abroad until Antiochus' rage has cooled and Pericles accepts this sensible advice. He is sure of Helicanus' loyalty and appoints him regent, in his own absence. Then he leaves for Tarsus.


Notes

Scene 2 presents the audience with a lesson in contrasts. Scene 1 depicts Antiochus as a lecherous tyrant with uncontrollable desires. He is suspicious of Pericles and fears that the young prince, armed with the knowledge of the king's perversity, might threaten his rule. As a direct result, the perverse king plans to have the young prince killed. But in scene 2, Pericles shows himself as a ruler of a very different sort. His concern is not about a threat to his own safety, but one to the well being of his people. He describes himself as no more than the top of a tree, which shades the roots by which it grows. His people are shown to be feeding and supporting him. In return, he gives them shade and protects them. Pericles generously trusts his kingdom to Helicanus without fear of a coup or rebellion. He is confident in his authority and the affection of his people, and believes his perch is sound and unshakable.

Some important passages in this scene reflect the thematic concern that a ruler must be good in order to truly rule. Pericles, in contrast to Antiochus, appears to be noble and wise. Helicanus makes the statement that flattery gives rise to sin in kings and that kings, being human, can go wrong. Shakespeare then has Pericles appreciating Helicanus for his true loyalty, which is far different from the flattery of Antiochus' advisers. Once again, Pericles is characterized as fair and wise, moderate and tempered--a true hero.

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