Literature Study GuidesPericlesAct 4 Scene 1 Summary

Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Dionyza talks to Leonine, the murderer she has engaged to murder Marina. She wants his assurance that he will carry out the task and not be moved to pity the girl. Leonine agrees to the task but seems to have some misgivings, saying Marina "is a goodly creature." Dionyza responds that such goodness is the more deserving of the gods. Marina enters, still mourning the death of her beloved nurse Lychordia, and Dionzya tells her it would do her good to take a walk with Leonine by the seashore. She adds Marina's father is expected to arrive any day and would not want to see his daughter drooping with grief. "Go, I pray you, / Walk, and be cheerful once again" Dionyza encourages Marina and leaves.

Marina begins to tell Leonine how she was born at sea, but he draws his sword on her. She is amazed that he would kill her, telling him she had observed him "lately / When you caught hurt in parting two that fought. / Good sooth, it showed well in you." This reasoned appeal to his better nature seems to have no effect, but before he can kill her some pirates arrive and he runs away. They seize Marina and carry her off. Observing this event, Leonine figures if they take her with them she won't come back. Or, if they decide to ravish her, Leonine then can slay her with good reason.

Analysis

In reminding Leonine of his better nature, Marina exhibits a keen power of reasoning that will serve her well in the trials ahead. It is a reminder that even the most hardened criminal can demonstrate nobility, courage, and fidelity to justice. Likewise, a good and virtuous person can display moments of weakness. It is that "better self" Marina urges Leonine to remember about himself as she pleads with him to act with mercy toward her. The discussion she has with him also causes him to pause a moment, buying her a little time until the pirates show up to interrupt her murder.

The idea that a victim of rape ought to die is one that Shakespeare has also broached in other plays, notably in one of his most bloody plays, Titus Andronicus (1594). Titus's daughter has been raped and mutilated by the sons of the foreign queen. She lives long enough to confirm the identity of her abusers to Titus so he can avenge her defilement, whereupon her desire that he take her now worthless life is granted. If Marina is ravished by the pirates, then once they leave her Leonine would be doing her a favor by taking her life. But like Thaliard, Leonine seems not to have much appetite for his task: he seems relieved that the pirates have carried her off, announcing he will tell Dionyza that Marina is dead, should the pirates carry her aboard.

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