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

Summary

The scene opens in a brothel in the coastal town of Mytelene. The brothel keeper, his wife, and their servant Boult are present. The place is described as "wenchless" since they have only three women who "with continual action are even as good as rotten." Their only remedy is to get more women. The coarse talk of the three exposes the pitiful condition of the prostitutes.

Like an answer to their prayers, the pirates enter with Marina. Assured that she is a virgin of refined sensibilities, the brothel keeper buys her for a thousand gold pieces. He sends her inside to be instructed by his wife, and makes plans to auction her to the highest bidder as a virgin prostitute.

Marina laments that Leonine did not succeed in killing her, realizing what fate awaits her. Listening to the prostitute's crude acceptance of her profession, Marina cannot believe she is really a woman. Boult enters very cheerfully. He is confident of a crowd of bidders for Marina. The woman at the brothel gives Marina sincere advice: "you must seem to do that fearfully which you commit willingly, despair profit where you have most gain. To weep that you live as ye do make pity in your lovers." The irony of this well- meant suggestion is underlined by Marina's bewildered response: "I understand you not." Yet her innocence doesn't prevent her from deciding to defend her honor. She declares:

"If fires be hot, knives sharp, or waters deep, Untied I still my virgin knot will keep. Diana, aid my purpose!"

She has been told to act resistant, but to be willing. Marina, however, is unwilling, so her resistance is true. To aid her in persistent chastity, she lifts up a prayer to Diana, at whose temple her mother unwittingly abides.


Notes

In the brothel episode, as in the sequence with the fisherman, the characters speak in prose. These scenes with the common people are full of rough wit and humor. However, unlike the fishermen's scene with its social comments and warmth, this one shows ruthless exploitation of the women in the trade.

Marina's resolve is admirable, and her honor and integrity are unshakable. Like her father, she is truly heroic, and deserving of many great rewards. The threat to her chastity is real enough, but the audience knows this is a romance, and nothing truly bad will happen. Her assailants will fail. Like her father and mother, she simply has to overcome the obstacles to her happiness. Therein lies the plot of the entire play.

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