Literature Study GuidesPericlesAct 1 Scene 2 Summary

Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Pericles has escaped Antioch and is back in Tyre. In a soliloquy he reveals his anxiety over what Antiochus may do. Antiochus, he knows, is much more powerful than he and has the will and the means to have him killed, even if that means going to war with Tyre. Helicanus and other lords enter. In his conversation with his Lord Helicanus, Pericles tells him what transpired in Antioch and shares his concerns. "Antiochus you fear," Helicanus replies, "And justly too, I think." Helicanus then advises him to "go travel for a while / Till that his rage and anger be forgot, / Or till the Destinies do cut his thread of life." Pericles listens to this good advice and decides to go to Tarsus until matters calm down. However, this leaves the problem of who should be left in charge during his absence. Pericles gives Helicanus a chance to flatter him, but given the lord's answers he concludes, "Thou art no flatterer ... Who by thy wisdom makes a prince thy servant." He leaves Helicanus in charge of Tyre until he returns.

Analysis

Pericles knows well how power works in the courts of princes and kings. He knows Antiochus is a good deal more powerful than he, and one way or another the king will make Pericles pay for knowing the truth. However, Pericles is going to have to place his trust in his lords in order to preserve both himself and Tyre. Taking a chance, he tests Helicanus to see if this lord can be trusted to be genuinely loyal. The exchange between Pericles and Helicanus in this scene establishes the degree to which Pericles adheres to the truth instead of being distracted by flattery. Given that Pericles has recognized the flattery surrounding the king of Antioch and the terrible secret his court is complicit in preserving, he himself will have nothing to do with it and means to be sure Helicanus is going to give true counsel.

Trusting Helicanus to give him good advice, Pericles decides to sail for Tarsus. It is a wise decision as it turns out, because Thaliard, the villain Antiochus has ordered to kill Pericles, will show up in Tyre in the very next scene. Pericles will have to be absent from Tyre for an extended period of time as he waits either for Antiochus's rage to pass or for him to die. Pericles needs someone to govern Tyre during his absence and selects Helicanus as his regent.

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