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MonkeyNotes-Pericles, Prince of Tyre by William Shakespeare
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Act V, Scene 3

Summary

Without wasting time on preliminaries, Shakespeare takes Pericles straight to Diana's temple. Thaisa is presiding over the altar as high priestess, surrounded by the maiden priests. Cerimon, her rescuer, is also present.

Pericles stands before the altar and narrates his story, addressing the goddess. On hearing it, Thaisa faints. Cerimon steps in and informs Pericles that she is the wife he had given up for dead. He reveals the details of the coffin and the scroll. Thaisa regains consciousness. Pericles recognizes her voice and she recognizes his ring, which was a present from her father. Pericles, for the second time overcome with joy, declares:

"This, this: no more, you gods! your present kindness Makes my past miseries sports: you shall do well, That on the touching of her lips I may Melt and no more be seen. O, come, be buried A second time within these arms."

His happiness is so great that he feels he may die of it. Then there is Thaisa's joy on seeing her child, of whom she has known nothing.

The scene ends with Gower's concluding comments wherein he draws an overt conclusion from the monstrous lust of Antiochus and his daughter and their fitting end to the joyous reunion of a family in the story of Pericles, his queen Thaisa, and their daughter Marina:

"Altho' assailed with fortune, fierce and keen, Virtue preserved from fell destruction's blast, Led on by heaven and crown'd with joy at last."


Notes

This last scene has a foregone conclusion but is essential to the play. The reunion with Thaisa, under the benign influence of the goddess, completes the mood of harmony at the end.

In Shakespeare's time, peace and harmony were linked with the existing social order. A disturbance in the given social order was seen as a negative force to be done away with. In the tragedies, the protagonist is usually guilty of a crime or a serious error. Order is restored when he suffers, repents, and usually dies. In the comedies, the good are allowed to earn happiness by their struggle with misfortune, evil, or their own foolishness. The wicked are duly punished and restored (usually) to society.

In Pericles there are elements of both. Antiochus and his daughter meet their deaths as symbolic punishment for their sins. Cleon and Dionyza are forgiven and consequently restored to society. The harmonic conclusion of the play, and subsequent marriage, is a classic comedy resolution. In many respects, this combination of elements has made it difficult to place Pericles in any of the major categories, whether comedy or tragedy. As such, it is often called a dramatic romance and left at that.

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