Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 4, Chorus | Summary

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Summary

A number of years have passed since the last scene. Gower enters and brings the audience up to date with events that have transpired during the intervening time. Pericles, he says, now rules in Tyre, while Thaisa serves Diana at Ephesus, and Marina has grown up under the care of Cleon and Dionyza in Tarsus. Gower goes into the details of Marina's accomplishments; she has mastered every skill and art from sewing to music, "when to the lute / She sung, and made the night bird mute." Everyone is so full of praise and wonder at Marina that the less accomplished daughter of Cleon and Dionyza is overshadowed. This has had the effect of stirring Dionyza into such a frenzy of envy that she engages the murderer Leonine to kill Marina so her own daughter will have no rival. Dionyza is further emboldened to take this action because the old nurse Lychorida has died, leaving Marina vulnerable.

Analysis

The betrayal of Dionyza is all the more vile for the solemn promises she had made to Pericles that she would be like a mother to Marina. Apparently she likely had every intention of fulfilling this promise, but when faced with constant reminders of how superior Marina was to her own daughter Dionyza's envy grows overpowering.

Gower observes "cursed Dionyza hath / The pregnant instrument of wrath / Prest for this blow. The unborn event / I do commend to your content." His use of words like "Pregnant instrument" and "unborn event" normally indicate birth and life, but he uses them with the opposite intent to imply murder and death are about to happen. The allusion makes Dionyza even more a monster because her festering resentment grows in the womb of her malicious mind. Dionyza has now become the mother of a murderous plot to kill her foster daughter.

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