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Literature Study GuidesPericlesAct 2 Scene 2 Summary

Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary



At the court of Simonides, the king enters with his daughter, Thaisa, to review the knights who have come to participate in a tournament in honor of her birthday. As they pass in front of the royal assemblage, each knight's squire presents his shield to Thaisa, displaying the knight's coat of arms and the motto inscribed on it. Five knights pass by first, and then the sixth knight, Pericles, offers his shield to Thaisa. When Simonides asks Thaisa the identity of this knight, she answers, "He seems to be a stranger; but his present [the picture on his shield] is / A withered branch that's only green at top, / the motto: In hac spe vivo" ("In hope I live"). Some of the lords present remark on the poor appearance of this knight in his rusty armor, but Simonides reminds them appearances are deceiving. He commands everyone to move to the gallery, and everyone exits the stage. Offstage is heard the cry "The mean knight," indicating that Pericles has been victorious.


Pericles is set apart from the other five knights by appearing in rusty armor while theirs is polished as appropriate to a great knight from abroad. He is, indeed, in a "dejected state." And then he offers his shield to Thaisa himself instead of having a squire to do it for him. The implication is he is both direct and straightforward, without support or aid from any servant.

Simonides and his court don't know it yet, but the rusty armor Pericles wears as a symbol of his identity is not rusty because of poverty or lack of care but because it has been in the sea water following his shipwreck. Like Pericles himself, his armor has survived the storm. The joy Pericles has in reclaiming it stems from having received it from his father. Just as he "wears" the honor of being his father's son (rusty or not), so too does Thaisa wear the honor of her father Simonides, borne out by her very different relationship to him than the one between Antiochus and his daughter.

The tournament among the knights takes place offstage; as with the dumb shows, Shakespeare seems uninterested in portraying the action directly, unlike others of his plays, which show sword fights and other physical encounters to the audience. It may be the intention is to give the play a mythical quality since the action is continually narrated or represented in mime. The audience knows Pericles has won, however, because shouts from offstage calls out for "the mean knight," or the unknown knight who is so poor he has no squire to serve him and who wears rusty armor.

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