Pericles: Back to the Ephesus!

In Pericles, when Thaisa “dies” (or when they think she’s dead, but she’s only “mostly dead”), they put her body in a chest and dump it overboard. It washes up on the shore of Ephesus.

And if that place sounds oddly familiar, it should. We (and by “we” I mean this project) have visited there before…

If we use the “way-back machine” and go all the way back to the beginning of this project, you’ll find The Comedy of Errors, which is set in–you guessed it–Ephesus.

In that play, Ephesus was a pretty inhospitable place. If you were a merchant of Syracuse like ol’ Egeon, they’d confiscate your goods, and unless you could ransom yourself out, you’d be executed. And what’s a poor Syracusan boy like Antipholus to do when he finds himself in Ephesus–seemingly recognized, only not exactly, and ostensibly married, though he’s attracted to “his wife’s” sister–but to proclaim this place to be bonkers and that “none but witches do inhabit here” (CoE III.ii.155).

Yet it’s not completely inhospitable: years before, Egeon’s wife, separated from her husband and identical twin sons by shipwreck, lands at Ephesus, where the abbey takes her in, and over the course of those intervening years, she becomes the Abbess. And by play’s end, husband, wife, and identical (and identically named) twin sons (and their identical [and identically named] twin servants) are reunited.

Hmmmmm

Thaisa was thought dead. Then put to sea. Then washes up on the shores of Ephesus. After revival, she goes to “Diana’s temple” (III.iv.12) where she plans to live out her years, as she thinks her husband and child are dead. Years intervene, and when that husband and child show up to pray at the temple, the family is reunited.

The ridiculousness of two sets of identical twin brothers is replaced by the incredible-ness of a “mostly dead” woman coming (back) to life.

It almost makes sense.

And if the Ephesus of Pericles is as unwelcoming to strangers as the Ephesus of The Comedy of Errors, that might explain why news of Pericles’ survival never made it to Thaisa (you’d think that ol’ Cerimon, if he heard the news, would have gotten word to inside the temple and the not-widow).

Yeah, it almost makes sense.

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