Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 3, Chorus | Summary

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Summary

Gower enters to inform the audience Pericles and Thaisa have married and the celebration has come to an end. Now, everyone is asleep, "No din but snores about the house, / Made louder by the o'erfed breast." Gower further states the night brought Pericles and Thaisa to parenthood. He presents a dumb show in which the pregnant Thaisa and Pericles receive a letter from Simonides and prepare to leave Pentapolis. Gower explains the gestures of the dumb show by saying the letters sent to Simonides inform him of the death of Antiochus and his daughter, and that although there is a movement in Tyre to crown Helicanus, the loyal lord refuses it unless Pericles does not return within a year. Pericles leaves Pentapolis with his wife and the nurse Lychordia, taking ship to Tyre. But while they are at sea, a storm strikes and the ship is tossed at sea "as a duck for life that dives, / So up and down the poor ship dives." Thaisa goes into labor in the midst of the storm.

Analysis

The din of snores about the "house" with which Gower opens his Chorus may not only have referred to the house of Simonides but also to members of the audience in the "house" of the play who have become bored with the play and fallen asleep. There are many references throughout Pericles to food and eating. Pericles and his attendants are invited to feast with Antiochus. The would-be assassin Thaliard is diverted from his mission by an offer to feast with the lords of Tyre, while the populace of Tarsus is so badly starved family members consider cannibalism to stay alive. These reminders of food and drink in abundance and privation may serve as reminders to the audience that not everyone enjoys a lavish life style, and even if they do fortune can quickly change that. Here, again, major plot points are enacted in a dumb show and explained to the audience by a third party rather than being enacted live on stage. The effect takes away some of the play's potential realism, again giving the audience the sense they are being told a story rather than immersing them in the action.

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