On multiple occasions, I’ve complained about the lack for goal/motive/agency for our title character in Pericles. But maybe he’s not the main character or protagonist.
In the second half of the play…
Hear me out.
After Pericles drops off Marina with Cleon and Dionyza in Tarsus at the end of Act Three, we see him only three times for the rest of the play (IV.iv, V.i, and V.iii), and one of those is in dumb-show (IV.iv). On the other hand, we see Marina five times and none of those are in dumb-show.
But does she show any agency, any objective?
In Act Four, Scene One, we find her gathering flowers:
To strew thy green with flowers. The yellows, blues,
The purple violets and marigolds
Shall as a carpet hang upon thy grave
While summer days doth last. Ay me, poor maid,
Born in a tempest when my mother died,
This world to me is as a lasting storm,
Whirring me from my friends.
- IV.i. 14-21
It seems almost as if she’s gathering flowers for a funereal remembrance (“upon thy grave”). But whose? Given her immediate statement about the death of her mother, I’d say that she sees the entire world as a storm, one that has killed her mother and is taking her from her friends. (foreshadowing?) When Leonine reveals his murderous intentions, she attempts to convince him to to kill her. This is, I suppose, more action than Pericles shows in fleeing Antioch in the opening scene of the play. Only she’s not successful in her pleas; Leonine is more than willing to dispatch her. Of course, then, she’s kidnapped by pirates.
In Act Four, Scene Two, she is brought to the brothel in Mytilene by both the pirates and Boult who wants to purchase her from them. When the sale is done, she argues with the Bawd, which definitely shows agency and spirit (if not success). She ends the scene declaring that her “virgin knot [she] will keep” (IV.ii.141). And in this, she is successful, as …
In Act Four, Scene Six, she’s still a virgin. And what’s more, she’s been successful in getting brothel customers to seek more virtuous hobbies (IV.v). Obviously, her argumentative skills have improved since the opening of this act: lustful Lysimachus is turned, and she begins to work on Boult, who by scene’s end no longer wants to rape her. At the end of the scene and act, she’s arguing to open up a section of the brothel as a school for “honest women” (IV.vi.187). And we learn in Gower’s Chorus to begin Act Five, that she wins that argument and that her school is a success.
In Act Five, Scene One, she is brought aboard Pericles’ ship to “use / [Her] utmost skill in his recovery” (V.71-2), to get Pericles to talk. She is successful in this objective, needless to say, and father and daughter are reunited.
In Act Five, Scene Three, the play’s final scene, she accompanies her father in his quest to the temple of Diana. This would be important, even if they weren’t reunited with Thaisa there. Diana is the goddess of chastity, and Marina is nothing if not chaste. There’s not much agency in this last scene for her (she speaks only ten words in the scene), but it represents a fitting close to a character whom we meet while she speaks of being torn from her mother.
I’m not sure I’d say that Marina has a through-line in the play, but she certainly seems to take more action than her father does.