Literature Study GuidesPericlesAct 4 Scene 3 Summary

Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 4, Scene 3 | Summary

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Summary

The scene returns the action of the play to Tarsus, where Dionyza attempts to reason with Cleon that since Marina has been done away with there's nothing more to be done about it. For his part Cleon is horrified that Dionyza would do such a thing, and to top it off, Dionyza has also poisoned Leonine to ensure word of Marina's murder doesn't come to light. He asks her what she will say when Pericles shows up to retrieve his daughter, but Dionyza points out that with the nurse gone, there's no one to say any different than that Marina died at night. Cleon is uncomfortable with the deception, but Dionyza calls him a coward and accuses him of not loving his own daughter enough, saying, "You not your child well loving, yet I find / It greets me as an enterprise of kindness / Performed to your sole daughter." She goes on to say that Pericles can't say much. They mourned, she says, and held a fine and costly state funeral for Marina complete with monument with "epitaphs / In glitt'ring golden characters express / A general praise to her." Cleon calls his wife a harpy, but she counters with the certainty that Cleon will do as she tells him.

Analysis

Having taken advantage of the death of Marina's nurse, Dionyza has also silenced Leonine by poisoning him. That leaves only her husband to know the truth of what happened to Marina. Dionyza rightly assumes Cleon will do as she tells him because he needs to save face with Pericles. A great show of sorrow, an elaborate funeral complete with a tomb inscribed with praises to the deceased Marina, should convince Pericles they did all they could for his daughter.

Harpies were mythological creatures that are typically shown as birds that have the faces of women. In the Greek story of Jason and the Argonauts, harpies punished a king by snatching away his food because he mistreated his children. The comparison Cleon makes between his wife and these creatures is both apt and pointed since she has so badly abused the foster daughter placed in her care and shamelessly betrayed Pericles's trust in her. Unrepentant of her horrific acts, Dionyza rationalizes them as benefitting their own daughter by removing the source of unflattering comparisons. By removing Marina entirely, Dionyza believes the prospects for her daughter will improve.

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