Literature Study GuidesPericlesAct 2 Scene 5 Summary

Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 2, Scene 5 | Summary



The five knights who have been guests of Simonides in Pentapolis are restless to know which one among them finds favor to woo his daughter Thaisa. Simonides, however, puts them off by telling them Thaisa has taken a year's vow of chastity to honor the goddess Diana. During that time she will not entertain any proposals of marriage. Unwilling to wait that long, the five knights leave. Having gotten rid of these knightly suitors without directly rejecting them, Simonides then reads a letter he's received from Thaisa. In it she states she will have no other husband than the strange knight. Simonides is pleased and shares Thaisa's declaration with Pericles, who has not left with the other knights. But Pericles is wary this might be a trap. When he begs Simonides to not deceive him, Simonides accuses Pericles of having "bewitched" his daughter. When Pericles pleads his innocence, Simonides calls him a traitor. Pericles replies with vehemence that he is not. Simonides is pleased with Pericles's response—in an aside saying, "Now, by the gods, I do applaud his courage." Thaisa enters and confirms she would be very happy to take Pericles for her husband.


Diana is the Roman goddess of chastity and guardian of female fertility and often appeared as an athletic, virginal young woman. The announcement by Simonides that Thaisa has taken a year's vow of chastity to honor this goddess is not met with any particular surprise, so it may be taken that such vows were not uncommon among the devotees of Diana. Diana is also the goddess of the hunt; she protects both wild and domestic animals. In this role her sign is the crescent moon, which serves as her "silver bow." The moon not only marks female cycles of fertility but also controls ocean tides. The themes of the deceptive nature of appearances and sudden changes of fortune exemplified in sea storms that wreck ships or send them off course and chastity are bound together in the person of this goddess.

It is notable that even virtuous characters in the play are not above deception; appearance and reality can be very different for good reasons as well. The audience has seen this already, when Helicanus lies easily to Thaliard so Pericles can escape; here Simonides willingly lies to his daughter's suitors in order to clear a path for Pericles.

And Pericles's suspicion of Simonides's announcement that Thaisa loves him is entirely understandable given his previous experience with Antiochus and his daughter. If one bride can appear to be exactly the opposite of what she really is, all potential brides are also suspect of deception. It is not likely that Simonides believes Pericles has "bewitched" her, but the accusation reveals Thaisa's state of mind about her choice of a husband and feelings for him. At the same time it establishes Simonides's credentials as an actively concerned and protective father. Likewise Thaisa is shown to be a decisive and assertive woman. She is certain of her feelings and willing to pursue a relationship with Pericles. Unlike the passive daughter of Antiochus, she goes about getting what she wants. In other words, while the sexuality of Antiochus's daughter is hidden due to its incestuous nature, the honest sexuality of Thaisa is clear and out in the open.

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