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Literature Study GuidesPericlesAct 1 Scene 3 Summary

Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 1, Scene 3 | Summary



Just as Pericles has predicted, Antiochus's paid assassin Thaliard arrives in Tyre looking for Pericles. Helicanus enters and tells those following him that Pericles the prince has "His sealed commission left in trust with me." He further states Pericles has gone traveling after having somehow offended King Antiochus. "So puts himself unto the shipman's toil, / With whom each minute threatens life or death." Thaliard overhears this information and figures that if Pericles is lost at sea then his job is accomplished for him and he can return to Antioch without fear of the king. Thaliard introduces himself to the company, and Helicanus greets him, saying, "Lord Thaliard from Antiochus is welcome." Thaliard tells them he has a message for Pericles from Antiochus, but since Pericles is off traveling, whereabouts unknown, he will have to return. Helicanus calls upon Thaliard to stay a while and enjoy a feast.


Helicanus is no fool, and his wisdom justifies the trust Pericles has placed in him. He very cleverly pretends not to know what it is that Pericles might have done to annoy Antiochus, adding the title of "Lord" to Thaliard, which no doubt flatters him considerably. Thaliard is in reality no lord but a personal servant of Antiochus who has been ordered to kill Pericles. It appears it is an assignment he would as soon never have been given. He accepts it only because he knows Antiochus would kill him if he didn't go through with it. In learning that Pericles is at sea, he seizes the opportunity to escape his responsibility. Now he can safely return to Antioch by simply telling his master Pericles has died at sea, a fate that was not uncommon in those times.

Like Pericles, Thaliard carefully considers his chances for survival in dangerous situations, like the one he has found himself in. But unlike Pericles (who did not hesitate and stay in Antioch to enjoy its pleasures), Thaliard is easily distracted from his task with the pleasures offered to him in Tyre. Helicanus most likely knows exactly who Thaliard is and his purpose in coming to Tyre. If he can distract the would-be assassin for a while, Helicanus knows this would give Pericles a little more time to distance himself from Antiochus's rage.

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