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Literature Study GuidesPericlesAct 4 Scene 5 Summary

Pericles | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Pericles | Act 4, Scene 5 | Summary



This scene returns to Mytilene. Two gentlemen are talking about the virtuous young woman who preaches in a nearby brothel. They agree they both have been cured and been put "out of the road of rutting forever" due to this strange and until now unheard-of situation: a brothel containing a virtuous woman.


The gentlemen have gone to the brothel with the intent of enjoying the pleasures of the prostitutes. They have, however, been distracted from this purpose by being unexpectedly subjected to "divinity [i.e., religion] preached" to them. This has so completely put them off from seeking pleasure in sex they see before them a life of unwavering virtue.

Rutting is a term most often used to describe how animals like deer or elk behave during the breeding season. In this brief scene presumed to be taking place outside the brothel where Marina is being held, Shakespeare makes the point that conventional thinking holds a house of vice has nothing in common with one of virtue (such as a church). The idea is that the condition of sinfulness connects with a virtuous or moral character only through redemption. However, human nature is such that even the roughest and most animal-like (rutting) person has some part that responds to the chastity of another, just as the most virtuous person has an element of sinfulness. Although the brothel is the lowest state into which a woman can fall, it is her own state of mind that actually "houses" her. Marina's steadfast state of mind houses her so completely in a moral and chaste frame that it goes beyond simply protecting her from harm: even a brothel in which she is housed becomes virtuous and affects all who go there.

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