Pericles: that scene

So. Pericles. Act One, Scene Two. Its weird construction has convinced bardolators–who feel ol’ Bill can’t write crap–that this is part of the play for which Wilkins must get the credit, or in this case blame.

And why, you ask. Well, let’s take a look at the scene…

The scene opens with Pericles, returned to Tyre from Antioch, entering with the lords of Tyre. After a single half-line of verse–”Let none disturb us” (I.ii.1)–those lords exit, and our Prince of Tyre launches into a 33-line soliloquy, lamenting his state of unease following his flight from Antioch. The first time I read it, I wondered if maybe one or more lords–Helicanus, I’m a-thinkin’ about you, here–were still in attendance, and Pericles was delivering this speech to them. But the statements he makes, aren’t looking for answers from his listener. Plus, he uses the royal third person “we” later in the scene.

Helicanus then comes in with two lords who greet Pericles with respect, only to have Helicanus chide them for flattering the king. But they really hadn’t flattered him. [had Helicanus just come back from a performance of Timon?]

Pericles asks the lords to leave (again), which they do (again). Pericles then tells the kneeling Helicanus, “Rise, prithee rise, sit down” (I.ii.59). Is this comedy? Or bad writing?

The rest of the scene goes pretty much without (il-)logical incident. There are two wonderfully placed poetic pauses, though, that I do want to point out. As Helicanus ponders what advice to give to Pericles, his line at 104 is very short (“Will take away your life” [I.ii.104]). There’s a two-beat, four-syllable pause before Helicanus continues with “Therefore” in the next line. You really get the idea that Helicanus is thinking this up as he’s going. In the responding speech, Pericle pauses after his first short line (“I do not doubt thy faith” [I.ii.110]), before continuing with a question, as if Pericles is certain of Helicanus’ faith, but uncertain of his own fate. It’s a nice example of the scansion and line lengths helping out an actor or director.

Anyway…like I said at the opening of this post. Weird scene, with a disjointed feel.

How do you “solve” the problems in directing it?

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