Pericles: the wrap up


I can’t help but think of a song by the band X, one of the greatest punk bands to come out of the Los Angeles music scene in the late 70s/early 80s: “The World’s a Mess, It’s in my Kiss.”

This play’s a mess, but the magic is in its evocation of emotion.

This play is an utter mess on the page. Choruses that introduce the play, but not the main character. Some choruses have dumb-shows, others don’t; some are in couplets, other not.

We have a main character who I am VERY hard-pressed to call a protagonist (a gripe I’ve raised on many occasions). He runs. He flees. He abandons his daughter. And that daughter in Act Four–in my humble opinion–shows more objective, more through-line, more agency in her three scenes than her dear ol’ dad did in the rest of the play. We get a deus ex machina that’s almost laughable, when Diana descends to tell Pericles to go to Ephesus where he’ll be reunited with his wife–you know, the one he thought was dead these past fourteen years. Marina–the daughter–after showing so much life in her first scenes, nearly disappears after her reunion with dad, and is almost a non-entity in the scene in which she is reunited with her mother.

And yet…

As I’ve mentioned before, what is such a mess on the page, has been nothing but magical on the stage. I’ve noted that I’ve seen this play live twice, and in both occasions, it has been evocative, incredibly moving.

There’s got to be something there for that to happen. It’s a mess, and yet it’s magical.

So where do I put it?

Well, as it’s the first of the romances I’ve read for the Project, it’s both the best and worst of the tragicomedies (at this point). But that’s a cheat…so where do I put it in the Canon as a whole? About midway up/down the list. I rank it ahead of Julius Caesar (another strange play, tonally speaking), but behind Henry V (another play with a chorus)… and as it turns out, putting it at number 15 puts it right next–at number 14–with that other play with action in Ephesus, The Comedy of Errors.

Yeah, that works for me.

And for you, I leave you with the wisdom of Doe and Cervenka:

No one is united
And all things are untied
Perhaps we’re boiling over inside

There are no angels
There are devils in many ways
Take it like a manThe world’s a mess, it’s in my kiss
The world’s a mess, it’s in my kiss
The world’s a mess, it’s in my kiss
The world’s a mess, it’s in my kiss
  • “The World’s a Mess, It’s in My Kiss”
    John Doe and Exene Cervenka

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