About the Book

“This world to me is but a ceaseless storm
Whirring me from my friends.”
Eminent Shakespearean scholars Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen provide a fresh new edition of this classic tragicomedy of good and evil in many guises.
• an original Introduction to Pericles
• incisive scene-by-scene synopsis and analysis with vital facts about the work
• commentary on past and current productions based on interviews with leading directors, actors, and designers
• photographs of key RSC productions
• an overview of Shakespeare’s theatrical career and chronology of his plays
Ideal for students, theater professionals, and general readers, these modern and accessible editions from the Royal Shakespeare Company set a new standard in Shakespearean literature for the twenty-first century.
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Praise for Pericles

“A remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare’s extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever.”—James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University, bestselling author of A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599
“A feast of literary and historical information.”—The Wall Street Journal
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[Prologue] running scene 1

Enter Gower

GOWER To sing a song that 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,

On ember eves and holidays,

And lords and ladies in their lives

Have read it for restoratives.

The purchase is to make men glorious,

Et bonum quo antiquius eo melius.

If you - born in these latter times,

When wit's more ripe - accept my rhymes,

And that to hear an old man sing

May to your wishes pleasure bring,

I life would wish, and that I might

Waste it for you like taper light.

This Antioch, then: Antiochus the great

Built up this city for his chiefest seat -

The fairest in all Syria.

I tell you what mine authors say:

This king unto him took a peer,

Who died and left a female heir,

So buxom, blithe and full of face

As heaven had lent her all his grace,

With 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.

But custom what they did begin

Was with long use account' no sin.

The beauty of this sinful dame

Made many princes thither frame

To seek her as a bedfellow,

In marriage pleasures, playfellow,

Which to prevent he made a law

To keep her still, and men in awe:

That whoso asked her for his wife,

His riddle told not, lost his life.

So for her many a wight did die, Points to the heads on display

As yon grim looks do testify. above, or reveals them

What now ensues, to the judgement of your eye

I give my cause, who best can justify. Exit

[Act 1 Scene 1] running scene 1 continues

Enter Antiochus, Prince Pericles and Followers

ANTIOCHUS Young Prince of Tyre, you have at large received

The danger of the task you undertake?

PERICLES I have, Antiochus, and with a soul

Emboldened with the glory of her praise

Think death no hazard in this enterprise.

ANTIOCHUS Music! Music plays

Bring in our daughter, clothèd like a bride

For embracements even of Jove himself,

At whose conception, till Lucina reigned,

Nature this dowry gave: to glad her presence

The senate house of planets all did sit,

To knit in her their best perfections.

Enter Antiochus' Daughter

PERICLES See where she comes, apparelled like the spring,

Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king

Of every virtue gives renown to men:

Her face the book of praises, where is read

Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence

Sorrow were ever razed, and testy wrath

Could never be her mild companion.

You gods that made me man and sway in love,

That have inflamed desire in my breast

To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree

Or die in the adventure, be my helps,

As I am son and servant to your will,

To compass such a boundless happiness.

ANTIOCHUS Prince Pericles-

PERICLES That would be son to great Antiochus.

ANTIOCHUS Before thee stands this fair Hesperides,

With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touched,

For deathlike dragons here affright thee hard.

Her face, like heaven, enticeth thee to view

Her countless glory, which desert must gain,

And which without desert, because thine eye

Presumes to reach, all the whole heap must die.

Yon sometimes famous princes, like thyself Points to the heads

Drawn by report, adventurous by desire,

Tell thee with speechless tongues and semblance pale

That without covering save yon field of stars

Here they stand, martyrs slain in Cupid's wars,

And with dead cheeks advise thee to desist

From going on death's net, whom none resist.

PERICLES Antiochus, I thank thee, who hath taught

My frail mortality to know itself,

And by those fearful objects to prepare

This body, like to them, to what I must:

For death remembered should be like a mirror

Who tells us life's but breath, to trust it error.

I'll make my will, then, and as sick men do

Who know the world, see heaven, but feeling woe

Grip not at earthly joys as erst they did.

So I bequeath a happy peace to you

And all good men, as every prince should do,

My riches to the earth from whence they came,-

But my unspotted fire of love to you.- To Daughter

Thus ready for the way of life or death, To Antiochus

I wait the sharpest blow.

ANTIOCHUS Scorning advice, read the conclusion Gives Pericles

then, the riddle

Which read and not expounded, 'tis decreed,

As these before thee, thou thyself shalt bleed.

DAUGHTER Of all 'ssayed yet, mayst thou prove To Pericles


Of all 'ssayed yet, I wish thee happiness.

PERICLES Like a bold champion I assume the lists,

Nor ask advice of any other thought

But faithfulness and courage.

The riddle Reads

'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 mother, wife and yet his child:

How they may be, and yet in two,

As you will live resolve it you.'

Sharp physic is the last!- But O, you powers Aside

That gives heaven countless eyes to view men's acts,

Why cloud they not their sights perpetually

If this be true, which makes me pale to read it?-

Fair glass of light, I loved you, and could still To Daughter

Were not this glorious casket stored with ill.

But I must tell you, now my thoughts revolt,

For he's no man on whom perfections wait,

That knowing sin within will touch the gate.

You are a fair viol, and your sense the strings,

Who, fingered to make man his lawful music,

Would draw heaven down, and all the gods to hearken.

But being played upon before your time,

Hell only danceth at so harsh a chime.

Good sooth, I care not for you. Pericles gestures towards

ANTIOCHUS Prince Pericles, touch not, upon thy life, the Daughter

For that's an article within our law

As dangerous as the rest. Your time's expired:

Either expound now or receive your sentence.

PERICLES Great king,

Few love to hear the sins they love to act,

'Twould braid yourself too near for me to tell it.

Who has a book of all that monarchs do,

He's more secure to keep it shut than shown.

For vice repeated is like the wandering wind

Blows dust in others' eyes to spread itself.

And yet the end of all is bought thus dear,

The breath is gone and the sore eyes see clear

To stop the air would hurt them. The blind mole casts

Copped hills towards heaven, to tell the earth is thronged

By man's oppression, and the poor worm doth die for't.

Kings are earth's gods: in vice, their law's their will,

And if Jove stray, who dares say Jove doth ill?

It is enough you know, and it is fit,

What being more known grows worse, to smother it.

All love the womb that their first being bred,

Then give my tongue like leave to love my head.

ANTIOCHUS Heaven, that I had thy head! He has found Aside

the meaning,

But I will gloze with him.- Young prince of Tyre, To Pericles

Though by the tenor of your strict edict,

Your exposition misinterpreting,

We might proceed to cancel of your days,

Yet hope, succeeding from so fair a tree

As your fair self, doth tune 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 entertain shall be

As doth befit our honour and your worth.

[Exeunt.] Pericles remains alone

PERICLES How courtesy would seem to cover sin,

When what is done is like an hypocrite,

The which is good in nothing but in sight.

If it be true that I interpret false,

Then were it certain you were not so bad

As with foul incest to abuse your soul:

Where now you're both a father and a son

By your untimely claspings with your child -

Which pleasures fits a husband, not a father -

And she 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 they poison breed.

Antioch farewell, for wisdom sees those men

Blush not in actions blacker than the night

Will 'schew no course to keep them from the light.

One sin, I know, another doth provoke:

Murder's as near to lust as flame to smoke.

Poison and treason are the hands of sin -

Ay, and the targets to put off the shame.

Then lest my life be cropped, to keep you clear,

By flight, I'll shun the danger which I fear. Exit

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About the Author

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. More by William Shakespeare
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About the Author

Jonathan Bate
SIR JONATHAN BATE is an academic, broadcaster, critic, novelist, and prize-winning author of biographies of Wordsworth, Keats, and John Clare. He is the Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University, as well as a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, where he holds the title of Professor of English Literature. Until September 2019 he was Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. He was knighted in 2015 for services to literary scholarship and higher education. More by Jonathan Bate
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About the Author

Eric Rasmussen
Eric Rasmussen, a professor of English at the University of Nevada, is one of today's leading textual experts on Shakespeare. More by Eric Rasmussen
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