There are 2329 lines in in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1165, or at Act Three, Scene Two, line 5. According to Dr. Rodes’ theory, you could find at this midpoint–or within twenty lines either way–a speech that perfectly sums up a major theme of the play (the 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions).
The play-opening chorus of Pericles, spoken by Gower, runs 42 lines, mostly in iambic tetrameter. Those are four-foot lines, as opposed to the five-foot iambic pentameter we’re used to hearing come from Shakespeare; of course, the historical Gower wrote in tetrameter, so it fits.
The speech in interesting as it introduces the play and Gower…but not Pericles. He’s not mentioned a single time in the speech, one that spends almost its entire length on Antioch and Antiochus.
In Act Two of Pericles, during the parade of jousters at the Pentapolis tournament, Pericles delivers to Thaisa a “withered branch that’s only green at top” (II.ii.43), with the motto “In hac spe vivo” (II.ii.44).
A couple of days back, I played with the idea of Marina as quasi-protagonist in Pericles. There’s so much bad sex in the play, that what she stands for–virginity and virtue–seems all the more important.
Yesterday, I discussed that troublesome Act One, Scene Two of Pericles, what with its weird entering and exiting lords, and references to actions not done. Today, I want to talk about what might seem to be the troublesome title.
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…
[EXPLICIT CONTENT, ADULT LANGUAGE AND SOPHOMORIC SEX HUMOR AHEAD… SKIP IF EASILY OFFENDED.]
So. Pericles and the bawdy. Given that Act Four takes place mostly in a brothel, you know it’s going to bring the bawdy. But what does our Bard of the Bawdy, Eric Partridge say in his Shakespeare’s Bawdy?
Two days ago, I asked the question ‘who is the protagonist of Pericles?’ We know he’s the main character, the one for whom we hold a rooting interest. But I questioned whether or not he advanced the plot (or if the plot advanced him). And then, of course, there’s the question of his goal. What is Pericles’ purpose?
Yesterday was our first Sunday matinee for Much Ado, and the Super Bowl (and my god, I hate the Patriots)…so I never got a posting up.
Today, I turn my attention to the purpose of something else altogether: the dumb-shows in Pericles.
Here’s a question for you: who’s the main character of Pericles? Easy. Pericles. And that’s true. He pretty much dominates the play. According to PlayShakespeare, he is in the Top Twenty of characters in terms of the most speeches in a play; and he’s in the Top Fifteen in terms of the percentage of the play’s speeches he speaks (with 27%; for reference and comparison, Timon was in the Top Ten in total, and number one is percentage, with 35%). So, yeah: Pericles, main character.