Pericles, Prince of Tyre: Essay Q&A

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Essay Q&A

1.  Consider the reasons for the use of Gower as a narrator.
His name is thought to be taken from the 14th century writer, John Gower, as he wrote Confessio Amantis (and this contains a re-telling of the romance of Apollonius of Tyre, which Pericles draws upon).
Gower acts as the narrator and commentator and may be compared to a Greek chorus in that he invites the audience to think about the unfolding events in a certain way. That is, he enables the audience to understand clearly the moral outlook they should be taking and this is particularly evident in the Epilogue.
He is also used to pull the narrative together and acts as a device for connecting the scenes and acts. In addition, as this play ranges across several cities and states, a narrator is useful for the purposes of exposition.
2. To what extent is the sea and natural forces important to the plot?
The sea is used as an indicator of how slight humans are compared to the power of the gods and/or natural forces. Further to this, when Pericles survives a shipwreck, his nobility and goodness is underscored as he is made the sole survivor.
The tempests are also a means to highlight the dangers of the adventures he undergoes, and therefore emphasize his heroic status. Furthermore, they are useful plot devices; for example, by surviving a shipwreck he is allowed to appear at the tournament as a modest man in rusty armour. When Thaisa is thought to have died on board another ship, she is thrown overboard as a form of superstition as the sailors believe the sea will now be quietened.
3. Consider how women are represented in the play.
When one examines the various women such as Dionyza, Thaisa and Marina it is apparent that they (like the men) are depicted as either good or evil. The virtue of Marina and Thaisa is emphasized by the sanctuary they take in deferring to Diana and whereas Thaisa does this physically by living as a nun, Marina is similar in that she refuses to be considered as anything other than sin free.
As women, their goodness is made apparent by the now stereotypical view of them being depicted as virtuous virgins rather than whores. This may be compared to Pericles who is mainly characterized as good by the courage he shows.
4. Describe the adventures and misfortunes that Pericles undergoes.
The play may be regarded as a series of adventures united by the eponymous hero. In some ways it resembles The Odyssey as the adventurous man is seen to survive several different situations and his ingenuity and bravery give him the means to endure his lot.
The heritage of Pericles is also of note as his noble status (and that of his wife and daughter) is always positioned as admirable. He is of high birth and a leader of men, and this is never questioned as the play adheres to the hierarchy that establishes that a good leader naturally deserves to have this position. He is made to suffer, of course, and parallels may be drawn with Job in that he undergoes trial after trial, but finally he is rewarded for his goodness when he is reunited with Marina and Thaisa.
5. Consider the treatment of good and evil.
This play is clear and somewhat simplistic in its portrayal of good and evil, and this is emphasized all the more in the punishments meted out to those who have sinned.
This lack of complexity originates in the way characters are used as ciphers for the opposing ends of the good/evil binary and is most apparent in the difference between Antiochus and Pericles. There is also absolutism in the vengeance of the gods and this reiterates the binary as Cleon is killed for Dionyza’s plan to kill Marina. Although the murder did not take place, the plan was enough to secure their punishment.

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