The title-page of the 1609 first quarto states that Pericles
had been ‘diuers and sundry times acted by his Maiesties seruants,
at the Globe’. The play was seen by the French and Venetian
ambassadors in 1607 or 1608. On 2 February 1610 (Candlemas) it was
performed by the Cholmeley players, a group of travelling actors,
at Gowthwaite Halle, Nidderdale, in Yorkshire. Pericles
was performed for the entertainment of the French ambassador at
Whitehall on 20 May 1619. There is also evidence that Pericles
was performed by the King’s Men at the Globe at least once
between 1625 and 1631, according to a transcription of an entry
dated 10 June 1631 from the Office Book of the Master of the Revels.
Publication in quarto and folio
Pericles appeared in six editions before 1642. The play
was not included in the first folio or the second folio.
- First quarto, 1609. Apparently printed from a surreptitious
and corrupt reported text. Many verse passages were set as prose,
and many prose passages were set as verse. The title-page names
Shakespeare alone as the author.
- Second quarto, 1609. Printed from the first quarto.
- Third quarto, 1611. Printed from the second quarto.
- Fourth quarto, 1619. Printed from the third quarto, with some attempt to correct errors.
- Fifth quarto, 1630. Printed from the fourth quarto. This edition includes a variant titlepage which has the bookseller’s address in the imprint.
- Sixth quarto, 1635. Printed from the fifth quarto, with some reference to the fourth quarto.
Pericles was entered by Edward Blount on the Stationers’
Register on 20 May 1608. Blount apparently never printed the play.
The first quarto was printed by William White and Thomas Creede
for Henry Gosson in 1609. The second quarto, also by White and Creede
for Gosson, appeared the same year. In 1611 the third quarto was
printed by S. Stafford.
The fourth quarto, printed by William Jaggard for Thomas Pavier,
was issued as part of The Whole Contention Betweene the two
Famous Houses, Lancaster and Yorke in 1619. It was among the
group of 10 plays printed by Jaggard for Pavier that year. These
were apparently intended to form a collection of plays attributed
to Shakespeare. The King’s Men may have protested against
Pavier’s intentions, for the Lord Chamberlain subsequently
wrote to the Stationers’ Company demanding that no more plays
belonging to them should be printed except with their consent.
A Stationers’ Register entry dated 4 August 1626 records
the transfer of Pavier’s ‘right in Shakesperes plaies
or any of them’ from his widow to E. Brewster and Robert Bird.
This transfer is assumed to include Pericles. In 1630 the
fifth quarto of Pericles was printed by John Norton for
Robert Bird. The Stationers’ Register records the transfer
of Pericles from Bird to Thomas Cotes on 8 November 1630.
The sixth quarto appeared in 1635, printed by Thomas Cotes.
British Library copies of Pericles contains detailed bibliographic descriptions of all the quarto copies of the play.
Shakespeare drew on a handful of sources for Pericles.
- John Gower, De Confessione Amantis (1554). Book 8 of this work suggested the figure of Gower, who acts as a chorus in Pericles. It also provided Shakespeare with the main outline of his plot, the names of places and characters, and a number of passages in the play.
- The Patterne of Paineful Aduentures , translated by Lawrence Twine (1607). It is not possible to tell which edition between 1576 and 1607 Shakespeare used. Twine’s novel influenced scenes 1, 3, and 6 in act 4.
- Barnabe Barnes, The Diuils Charter (1607). This influenced the chorusses spoken by Gower.
- John Day, William Rowley, George Wilkins, The Trauailes of the Three English Brothers (1607). This work also influenced Gower’s chorusses.
Pericles is closely related to The Painfull Aduentures of Pericles Prince of Tyre by George Wilkins, published in 1608. Although it is accepted that the novel by Wilkins is not a source for the play, there is no agreement on the nature of the relationship between the two works. Several passages in The Painfull Aduentures of Pericles seem to report a play, which may be Pericles. Wilkins’s novel has thus been used by modern editors of Pericles to help restore corrupt readings and to supplement stage directions in the quartos.
Titlepage. George Wilkins, The
Painfull Aduentures of Pericles Prince of Tyre, 1608. British Library, C.34.l.8. Larger
Story of the play
Note: the links below will take you to the page in the quarto where each
act begins, according to standard modern editions. (The quartos themselves
have no act divisions.) The quarto shown for each play is always the earliest
in the Library's collection - unless it is a 'bad' quarto in which case
it is the earliest 'good' quarto.
(Act 1) Gower opens the play with a chorus to set the first scene.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre, wishes to marry the daughter of Antiochus,
King of Antioch. Antiochus sets him a riddle, from which Pericles
learns that Antiochus and his daughter are incestuous lovers. He
answers the riddle, but rejects the girl. Knowing that Antiochus
seeks to kill him, Pericles flees Antioch and then travels away
from Tyre. Reaching Tharsus, he relieves the famine there with corn
from his ships.
(Act 2) Gower continues the story with another chorus. Pericles
is shipwrecked and loses everything. He struggles ashore at Pentapolis
and is rescued by fishermen. Simonides, King of Pentapolis, and
his daughter Thaisa preside over a tournament. Pericles takes part,
and despite his mean attire Thaisa falls in love with him. Simonides
agrees to her marriage with Pericles.
(Act 3) In a new chorus, Gower explains that the death of Antiochus
and his daughter have freed Pericles to return to Tyre with his
new wife Thaisa. On the voyage home, a storm arises. Thaisa apparently
dies giving birth to a daughter and her body is cast overboard in
a coffin. The coffin comes ashore at Ephesus, where it is opened
by Cerimon who finds Thaisa still alive. Pericles reaches Tharsus.
He decides to travel on to Tyre, leaving Marina with the governor
of Tharsus Cleon and his wife Dionyza. Thaisa is restored to health
but, believing that Pericles is dead, she resolves to become a priestess
(Act 4) Gower’s chorus recounts the return of Pericles to
Tyre, and tells how Marina grows up beautiful and accomplished.
Dionyza, jealous that Marina overshadows her own daughter, plots
to kill her. Before the murder can be carried out, Marina is seized
by pirates. She is taken to Mytilene and sold to a brothel. Gower,
in another chorus, tells of the voyage of Pericles to see Marina
only to discover she is dead. In the brothel at Mytilene, Marina
guards her virginity. She is visited by Lysimachus, governor of
the town, who honours her chastity and gives her gold. With the
help of the gold, and her accomplishments, Marina escapes from the
(Act 5) Gower announces in a chorus that Pericles, still grieving
for Marina, has arrived at Mytilene. Lysimachus, learning that Pericles
is ill with grief, sends for Marina to help him recover. Pericles,
seeing Marina’s resemblance to Thaisa, questions her. Father
and daughter are reunited. Overwhelmed with joy, Pericles sleeps.
Diana appears to him in a dream, and orders him to go to Ephesus.
Gower tells, in a chorus, that Lysimachus is to marry Marina. At
Ephesus, in Diana’s temple, Pericles and Marina are reunited
with Thaisa. Gower’s epilogue reveals how all those in the
drama have received their just rewards.