Pericles, Prince of Tyre Pericles and the Wonder of Unburdened Proof - Essay

William Shakespeare

Pericles and the Wonder of Unburdened Proof

(Shakespearean Criticism)

Peter G. Piatt, Barnard College

2. Gent. Is not this strange?
  1.  Gent. Most rare.

At the beginning of act 5 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus and Hippolyta discuss the reports of the lovers from the previous act, and in doing so, they provide an enactment of the two models of wonder that I attributed . . . to Jonson and Daniel. An examination of their speeches will help take us toward an exploration of the Shakespearean marvelous.

Hippolyta begins the discussion by emphasizing the wonder of the stories: "'Tis strange, my Theseus, that these lovers speak of."1 Interested in downplaying the strangeness of the claims—and separating them from truth ("More strange than true" [2])—Theseus skeptically links lovers with madmen and poets as people who possess "seething brains" (4) and "shaping fantasies" (5), basing their interpretations of the world on imagination—"of imagination all compact" (8)—and apprehension (5), instead of on "cool reason" and comprehension (6). In short, all three create what does not exist, "as imagination bodies forth / The forms of things unknown" (14-15). These are the "tricks" (18) that imagination plays, forcing one to confuse apprehension—or mere perception, implying error—with comprehension—or full understanding, implying truth (19-20). To believe in the imagination, the strange, the wondrous, is to suppose a bush a bear (22).

Hippolyta has more room in her interpretive world for the marvelous. She draws a distinction between the "fancy's images" (25) dwelt upon by Theseus and the "something of great constancy" that is "strange and admirable" (26-27); she seems comfortable with this paradox, Puttenham's "Wondrer."2 Suggesting that something true or constant can come out of the "minds transfigur'd" (24) by the marvelous events in the forest, she turns a skeptical, Montaignian eye on Theseus's skepticism, suggesting that the marvelous can lead one to previously unimaginable realities. Instead of clouding minds and leading them into error, Hippolyta suggests (as do Patrizi, Montaigne, and Daniel), that the strange and admirable can transfigure minds.

In examining Shakespeare's use of the marvelous, I build on the notions of wonder underlying the work of both fiction and the masque explored in chapters 4 and 5: the link between intellectual and epistemological destabilization on the one hand, and visual, often theatrical, awe on the other. The present chapter, then, explores the significance of wonder to both the philosophical issues raised by and the dramatic strategies of the late plays, before examining Pericles within this framework.

This double sense of wonder—an ongoing inquiry and an aesthetic astonishment, both caused by an acceptance of and openness to the previously unimaginable—is crucial to an understanding of the late plays. While recent criticism has tended to focus on "skepticism" or politics, the late plays inevitably move beyond these concerns, and part of this move is a connection with the audience, the importance of which Patrizi's theory of wonder recognizes.3 Late Shakespeare operates within this framework, in a kind of philosophical and aesthetic contingency, and invites the spectators to engage in—and in some cases to shape—the marvels on the stage before them.4

The urge to locate Shakespeare intellectually has led in recent years to several books that address Shakespeare's skepticism.5 Although different in argument and meth odology, these studies share a sense of a tradition of "learned ignorance" that includes Plato, Nicholas of Cusa, Erasmus, Agrippa, and Montaigne (particularly the Montaigne of book 2 of the Essays, and even more particularly, of "Apology for Raymond Sebond"). In his important study, Richard Popkin distinguished "Academic" from "Pyrrhonian" skepticism in the third and fourth centuries B.C. and traced the significance of this dualism for the Renaissance and beyond. Popkin makes a distinction between the Academics—who argued, following Socrates's dictum "All I know is that I know nothing," that "no knowledge was possible"—and the Pyrrhonians, who went further and claimed that "there was inadequate evidence to determine if any knowledge was possible . . . ; the Pyrrhonians proposed to suspend judgment on all questions on which there seemed to be conflicting evidence, including the question whether or not something could be known."6 Cicero was primarily responsible for bringing Academic thought to the Renaissance, and Sextus Empiricus provided the only remnant the Renaissance had—or anyone has—of Pyrrhonian thought. In particular, Sextus had considerable influence on Montaigne, whom Popkin identifies as an intellectual descendant of the Pyrrhonian tradition.7 One example from "Apology for Raymond Sebond" will have to suffice for many: "Whoever will imagine a perpetual confession of ignorance, a judgment without learning or inclination, on any occasion whatever, he has a conception of Pyrrhonism."8

Recently Graham Bradshaw, in attempting to locate Shakespeare's skepticism vis-à-vis Montaigne, set forth ahistorical categories parallel to Popkin's, which he called "dogmatic" and "radical"; he firmly lodges Shakespeare in the latter group, along with Montaigne.9 James L. Calderwood is more specific about Shakespeare's stance with regard to uncertainty: "Shakespeare's negative mode is more radical and less resolvable. . . . In place of Hamlet's implied ['To be or not to be'] and Aristotle's explicit law of the excluded middle (a thing is either A or not-A) we have Shakespeare's law of the included middle (a thing may be both A and not-A). This is by no means the same thing as saying, with some of the more extreme devotees of indeterminacy, that a thing is neither A nor not-A; nor is it a license to valorize any A or any not-A."10 This notion of "included middle" neatly captures the logic of Shakespearean wonder, and I return to it when considering the couplet from As You Like It that forms my title. There is much force, then, in the version of intellectual history that undergirds recent characterizations of Shakespeare as a type of skeptic. Nevertheless, I propose to recast the terminology, with the help of late Montaigne and Patrizi. For I want to argue that Shakespeare adheres far more closely, especially in his late plays, to a philosophy of wonder than to a philosophy of skepticism.11

Just as Shakespeare puts philosophical certainty into question, he challenges the conventions of the stage. Ernest B. Gilman notes the connection between the two—epistemology and aesthetics—when he claims that the movement in perspective treatises from Alberti to the seventeenth century was one toward "a more complex and ambiguous relationship between the knower and the knowable."12 Barbara Mowat, also turning to art theory, bases her terminology on Heinrich Wölfflin's Principles of Art History and calls Shakespeare's late drama "open form": "Open form drama, specifically, is that drama in which cause-and-effect patterns are broken, generic conventions abandoned (and with them the easily established point of view, of attitude, that observance of generic conventions made possible), and the dramatic illusion repeatedly broken through narrative intrusion, spectacle, and other sudden disturbances of aesthetic distance."13 Several critics have suggested that Shakespeare's late plays be thought of as mannerist.14 Indeed, mannerism, as defined by Arnold Hauser, goes a long way toward helping us link the challenge to certainty that Shakespeare presents both intellectually and theatrically: "Common to mannerism in all the arts are intellectualism and irrationalism, a mingling of the real and the unreal, a predilection for striking contrasts and insoluble contradictions, and a taste for the difficult and paradoxical."15 Man nerism considers the spiritual "so irreducible to material form," Hauser explains, "that it can only be hinted at (it is never anything but hinted at) by the distortion of form and the disruption of boundaries."16 Shakespeare's late plays evince just this sort of "distortion of form" and "disruption of boundaries."

It is easy to demonstrate that these late plays evince a dramaturgy that reinforces their intellectual preoccupation with uncertainty. But it is difficult to explain why this development occurred. Biography has never yielded an answer here, and recent political criticism has focused on James's family and power relations but has not sufficiently accounted for the intellectual, supernatural, and theatrical/aesthetic issues that the presence of the marvelous raises in these late plays.17

Theater historians are slightly more helpful. G. E. Bentley tentatively suggested many years ago that the dramaturgical change was rooted in the King's Men's acquisition of the private Blackfriars Theater in 1608.18 Andrew Gurr has urged caution, however, in light of the fact that the same plays were performed both at the outdoor Globe and at the indoor Blackfriars, citing the Globe productions of late plays such as Pericles in 1607 and The Winter's Tale and Cymbeline in 1611: "His Globe plays transplanted to the Blackfriars unchanged, as his Blackfriars plays transplanted to the Globe."19 Daniel Seltzer notes that while there is clearly something different in tone and structure in the late plays, this "does not mean that the staging which articulated them was necessarily new in any drastic way." He goes on, however, to add that "It would be folly to ignore aspects of private production which, although practicable, are given interesting significance . . . ; the needs of the playwright's art and the development and availability of theatrical facilities answered each other." Not the least of these coincidences of art and facility is what Seltzer calls the "experiments towards joining visual and moral wonder."20 This joining is particu larly significant because visual and philosophical wonder are together so widespread in the last plays.

Shakespeare's use of the romance form—being essentially "nomadic" and "associating itself with an imaginative uprooting, a drive over and across everything settled and planted and built"21—also allows for the epistemological and theatrical interrogations of these late works. As a starting point, I use Stanley Wells's definitions of the contentious term "romance": "Romancers delight in the marvellous; quite often this involves the supernatural; generally the characters are larger than life size. All is unrealistic; the logic of chance or fortune governs all."22 In addition, the ro mance tradition and form better encompass the late plays than the tradition of tragicomedy, at least as defined by Giambattista Guarini and his literary descendant, John Fletcher. Guarini asserts that the author of tragicomedy "takes from tragedy . . . its pleasure but not its sadness, its danger but not its death," while Fletcher claims that the genre "wants deaths, which is inough to make it no tragedie, yet brings some nere it which is inough to make it no comedie." Roman unlike tragicomedy, includes sadness and death, or as Howard Felperin puts it, "Shakespeare's final romances subsume tragedy in the process of transcending it."23

And Lee Bliss has distinguished Beaumont and Fletcher's tragicomedy from Shakespearean romance by noting that the former requires "an aesthetic and technical rather than a primarily emotional response. It is not allowed to evoke our participation in mysteries beyond full comprehension."24

Foregrounding story, spectacle, and "mysteries beyond full comprehension" instead of character and "a mirror up to nature," Shakespeare's romances experiment with the uncertain and the unreal.25 In the late plays this experimentation with uncertainty is wedded to an experimental, non-naturalistic form that, in its movement from disorder and confusion toward wonder, resembles the structure of the masque.26 Focusing on this destabilizing quality of the romances, Robert Knapp has pointed out that they "seem to emphasize difference itself: between art and nature, between experience and innocence, between belatedness and the imaginary unity which it always posits, between diegetic mediation and mimetic sheerness of display."27

This notion of Shakespearean romance's recognition of differences brings us back to Calderwood's formulation of Shakespeare's "included middle," and it is here that Montaigne and Patrizi can furnish some contemporary reinforcement. . . . [T]he Montaigne of book 3 of the Essays, and particularly "Of Cripples" and "Of Experience," revaluates wonder, making it part of an intellectual project of ongoing inquiry; the marvelous pushes out the boundaries of the known and forces us to open up new epistemological categories: "Wonder is the foundation of all philosophy, inquiry its progress, ignorance its end," and "Its [a spirited mind's] pursuits are boundless and without form; its food is wonder, the chase, ambiguity."28 Furthermore, as we have seen, Patrizi presents a poetics that recognizes that this late Montaignian notion of wonder can be—should be—the essential quality of aesthetic experience. To be in a play, suspended between the various categories listed by Knapp, is to be in a state of Patrizian wonder, "of believing and not believing. Of believing because the thing is seen to exist; and of not believing because it is sudden, new, and not before either known, thought, or believed able to exist."29

Before moving to Pericles, let us return briefly to a Montaignian/Patrizian model—Hymen's lines from As You Like It, cited as one of my epigraphs and discussed in the preface: "Feed yourselves with questioning; / That reason wonder may diminish" (5.4.138-39). As I note above, these lines highlight the destabilizing relationship between reason and wonder, but they also provide—with their radical ambiguity—an example of Calderwood's "included middle." It could be argued, of course, that the epilogue reveals the triumph of logic and reality, that reason, in the end, diminishes wonder. In this reading, the marvels cease as the character of Rosalind—who has pretended to be a young man in order to work her magic on Orlando—reveals that, after all (and on the Elizabethan stage this would be the actual case), she has been a young boy all along: "If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleas'd me" (epilogue, 18-19).

However, I see Shakespeare looking ahead to the late plays, in which his admission and demonstration of his art become essential aspects of his dramaturgy of wonder. The Patrizian potenza ammirativa, the capacity that lies in between reason and affect and that allows us to be moved by the incredible, is what Shakespeare is able to evoke in his foregrounding of the artistic act.30 M. S. Kuhn notes the bawdy (but ultimately aesthetic) pun in the epilogue—"between you and the women the play may please" (17)—and goes on to comment, "In a sexual encounter, there must be a mutual yielding for the love-play to please. At a stage-play the audience must yield its disbelief to be pleased."31 In late Shakespearean drama, some elements of which are anticipated in As You Like It, there exists also the play between wonder and reason, underscored by Shakespeare's self-referentiality and mannerist style, the form that Mowat calls "open" and "startingly anti-Aristotelian"32 and that ultimately provides wonder for the marveling observer.

My argument so far has focused on several variations on the tension between the rational and the marvelous, . . . I suggest that this pair has a corresponding dualism: the verbal and the visual. The clash between them is personified in the conflict between the rational and verbal Ben Jonson and the marvel-making and visual Inigo Jones. Shakespeare's earliest romance, Pericles, begins a foregrounding of this dualism that was to assume a central significance in the late plays. I want to focus first on the prominence of this tension in the speeches of Gower and then look at the symbiotic nature of the verbal and visual in Pericles as a whole. For the power of wonder is evinced in speech and action, words and spectacles, and both must be acknowledged—by the characters and by the audience—if new epistemological insights are to be gained and tragedy is to be avoided.

While it has been well established that Shakespeare did not write Pericles alone, all of the Gower speeches (save the very last) are linked by a preoccupation with the interaction of speech and spectacle.33 Indeed, Gower proclaims in his first appearance that he wants "To glad your ear and please your eyes" (1.cho.4). Referring, perhaps, to the lost source of his own Confessio Amantis, Gower says that "lords and ladies in their lives / Have read it for restoratives" (7-8), but he concludes his opening speech focusing not on the verbal but on the visual: "What now ensues, to the judgment of your eye / I give my cause, who best can justify" (41-42).

There is a more problematic relation between narrative and spectacle in Gower's speech at the opening of act 2. He summarizes the events of act 1, distinguishing between the wicked and incestuous Antiochus and Pericles, "A better prince and benign lord, / That will prove aweful in deed and word" (2.cho.3-4); Gower suggests that the "aweful"—the wonder-ful—Pericles will unite action and speech. But the division between them is highlighted here. After telling us that the people of Tharsus have built a statue thanking Pericles for saving them from the horrors of famine, Gower informs us that "tidings to the contrary / Are brought to your eyes; what need speak I?" (15-16). What follows is a dumb show that, the stage directions tell us, reveals Pericles' receiving a letter and knighting the messenger who delivers it. Yet Gower returns after the dumb show to explain in detail what we have just seen. As Thomas Bishop has pointed out, "there is a substantial need for Gower's supplementary speech: emblematic truths of the eye are not alone sufficient. . . . The dumb-shows thus function both as a foreshortening of the narrative and as a reminder of the potential of appearances to become screens. . . . Our viewing is now an occasion of difficulty and scepticism, of something remote and requiring interpretation."34 The deception perpetrated by Antiochus and his daughter taints subsequent viewing—for us and, as we shall see, for Pericles.

And yet the issue gets complicated again at the end of the speech, as Gower does not privilege the verbal. After interpreting the dumb show—in which he relays to us that Antiochus's Thaliard is seeking Pericles in order to murder him—Gower describes Pericles' flight from Tharsus and his ensuing shipwreck. Just before releasing us to watch what happens to Pericles at Pentapolis, Gower says: "And here he comes. What shall be next, / Pardon old Gower—this long's the text" (2.cho.39-40). The Riverside editor glosses "this long's the text" as "the text of my speech is this long and no longer" (1489n.). The Arden edition cites the line as "this 'longs the text," reading "'longs" to mean "belongs to [the play itself]" (41n.).35 I suggest a third possibility: that "this 'longs the text" is a return to Gower's self-deprecation about the importance of words; "'longs," then, would mean "prolongs." The OED (1.2) confirms this denotation. Although its last citation for this usage is 1500, an outmoded definition would be consistent both with Gower's words and in a play that is generally rich in archaism. In any case Gower's speech in act 2 reveals the complexity of the relation between word and enactment.

This same sense of the mutual dependence of the verbal and visual permeates Gower's speech at the beginning of act 3. After briefly describing the marriage of Pericles and Thaisa, Gower introduces the dumb show, this time recognizing in advance that it will be insufficient: "What's dumb in show I'll plain with speech" (3.cho.14). Yet Gower again does not privilege speech, and at this point recalls the chorus in Henry V as he exhorts the audience to help forge a bridge between the verbal and the visual:

And what ensues in this fell storm
Shall for itself itself perform.
I nill relate, action may
Conveniently the rest convey,
Which might not what by me is told.
In your imagination hold
This stage the ship, upon whose deck
The sea-toss'd Pericles appears to speak.


It seems particularly appropriate that Gower needs the aid of the audience in an act that will contain such catastrophes and wonders as Thaisa's death and "re-birth" and the birth of Marina.

Both speeches in act 4 also focus on the power of the audience to knit together tale and spectacle. In the first, Gower needs the audience's credence because he is about to thrust the story ahead many years "[on] the lame feet of my rhyme, / Which never could I so convey, / Unless your thoughts went on my way" (4.cho.48-50). After we have seen the attempted murder of Marina and the brothel at Mytilene, Gower returns to "Take our imagination, / From bourn to bourn, region to region" (4.4.3-4): he, "who stand i'th' gaps to teach you, / The stages of our story" (8-9), takes us by means of narrative to Tharsus, where Pericles hopes to see Marina. Knowing that the following dumb show—in which the monument to the "dead" Marina is unveiled to Pericles by Cleon and Dionyza—will need explication, Gower proclaims: "Like motes and shadows see them move a while, / Your ears unto your eyes I'll reconcile" (21-22). Like an emblem theorist, Gower recognizes that the act of perception is complex and relies on a marriage of the visual and verbal. Because the audience has an increased role in making meaning, in achieving wondrous effects, it must not be misled by "motes and shadows." Or, as Gower exclaims after the dumb show, "See how belief may suffer by foul show!" (23). Gower thus encourages the audience to believe even as he exposes the difficulty of belief. Although the feet of his rhyme are lame, Gower senses the danger of misinterpretation that spectacle without language can bring, and he hopes to protect the audience's belief from further suffering.

Gower grants the spectators their power of supposing in his first speech in act 5, but again he asks them both to watch and to listen to the wondrous recognition scene that is about to unfold:

In your supposing once more put your sight:
Of heavy Pericles think this his bark;
Where what is done in action, more, if might,
Shall be discover'd, please you sit and hark.


In Gower's penultimate appearance, the narrator asks the audience to help bring off one final miracle: Pericles' swift arrival at Ephesus, where he will make a sacrifice to Diana and will be reunited with Thaisa: "That he can hither come so soon / Is by your fancies' thankful doom" (5.2.19-20).

Gower's final speech is the only one not to foreground the verbal/visual dichotomy; it acts as a summary and provides a moral for the play. But there is one more invocation of the audience, who, as it will in The Tempest, has the responsibility for closing the play: "So, on your patience evermore attending, / New joy wait on you! Here our play has ending" (5.3.101-2). Gower's role, then, is twofold: he provides a narrative framework but also acts as a guide to how the spectators are to see and hear the play. In a drama that begins with a catastrophic fall into knowledge based on a false appearance, a wicked signifier, Gower must lead the audience toward perceptual healing, must help it learn how to accept knowledge that is not wicked, how to believe both in the marvels of a non-naturalistic, anti-Aristotelian theater and in the wonder of a kind of truth. The terrible alternatives are naive credulity—Pericles' first error—or despairing skepticism. How Pericles is led away from this latter periculum is the subject of the rest of this chapter.

That Pericles' journey to Antioch is an epistemological catastrophe has been noted by very few, but this is a crucial aspect of the play.36 Pericles' first description of Antiochus's daughter emphasizes both her visual beauty and the hermeneutical dimension of this encounter for the young prince of Tyre:

See where she comes, apparelled like the spring,
Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king
Of every virtue gives renown to men!
Her face the book of praises, where is read
Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence
Sorrow were never ras'd, and testy wrath
Could never be her mild companion.


Significantly, Antiochus's daughter is described as both a marvelous vision and a wondrous text. Indeed, her features conflate the visual and verbal: Pericles tells Helicanus specifically in the next scene that "Her face was to mine eye beyond all wonder" (1.2.75), and here her face is called "a book of praises." After hearing the riddle, he wonders why heaven's eyes, the stars, do not eschew vision altogether if encounters like this one can exist on earth:

  But O you powers!
That gives heaven countless eyes to view
men's acts,
Why cloud they not their sights perpetually,
If this be true which makes me pale to read it?


Indeed, the uncovering of the daughter's falseness taints Pericles' confidence in perception and leads to a distaste for the aesthetic: "Here pleasures court mine eyes, and my mine eyes shun them" and "neither pleasure's art can joy my spirits, / Nor yet the other's [Antiochus's] distance comfort me" (1.2.6, 9-10).37 Like Philoclea in the Arcadia—the lover of his possible namesake, Pyrocles—Pericles is exposed to the dark side of the marvelous, and the remainder of the play represents, at least in part, Pericles' journey toward the recovery of cleansed perception and healthy wonder.

As we have seen in the Gower speeches, Pericles constantly reminds us of the potential for visual duplicity. The play proper is no exception. Even a seemingly innocent description of pre-famine Tharsus, "whose towers bore heads so high they kiss'd the clouds, / And strangers ne'er beheld but wond'red at" (1.4.24-25), retrospectively resembles what Bishop calls "visual prodigality" when we think of the later actions of Cleon and Dionyza.38 Further, both the verbal/visual dualism and the problem of hermeneutics are foregrounded in the tournament scene (2.2), as Simonides attempts to decode imprese paraded in front of him and Thaisa.39 And although the fishermen praise their king to Pericles on the latter's arrival at Pentapolis, Simonides sounds very much like Antiochus as he describes the marvelous beauty of his daughter, Thaisa, to the wondering suitors:

  and our daughter here,
In honor of whose birth these triumphs are,
Sits here like beauty's child, whom nature gat
For men to see, and seeing wonder at.


Pericles does not immediately know what we do—that Simonides is different, that he understands the potential threat to perception that vision can pose: "Opinion's but a fool, that makes us scan / The outward habit by the inward man" (56-57). In fact, Simonides finds himself in the awkward position of wondering over Pericles: "By Jove, I wonder, that is king of thoughts, / These cates resist me, he not thought upon" (2.3.28-29).

Yet Pericles' skepticism about fathers and appearances extends to Simonides and the "wondrous fair" (2.5.36) Thaisa; after reading a letter that details Thaisa's love for him, Pericles proclaims doubtfully: "'Tis the King's subtility to have my life" (44). Only when Simonides stages a mini-romance, complete with trials (he pretends to think Pericles a traitor) and a peripeteia ("Either be rul'd by me or I'll make you—/ Man and wife" [83-84]), does Pericles put aside his skepticism enough to believe in what he hears and sees. After the death of Thaisa, which shortly follows, he loses this capacity until he encounters a more fully developed drama—staged and performed by his daughter.

The resurrection of Thaisa by Cerimon in act 3, scene 2, is the play's central marvel, one that foreshadows the figurative restoration of Pericles in act 5. Witnessing this wonder and hearing the language used to describe it—"marvel" (21), "most strange" (24), "wondrous heavy" (53), "most strange" (64), "wonder" (96), "rare" (104), "strange" (106), "most rare" (106)—the audience recognizes what Pericles cannot: that there is an alternative wonder, one that saves and transforms perception instead of damning and sullying it. Cerimon—the man who, like Cornelius Agrippa and John Dee, "can speak of the disturbances / That nature works, and of her cures" (37-38)—uses his magical and mystical knowledge to effect the good. Further, there is no doubt of his motives or abilities, the way that there is in Nashe's Agrippa in The Unfortunate Traveller; this wonder is thoroughly possible and noble in the world of Pericles. And although the First Gentleman declares that Cerimon's career will benefit from this act—"The heavens, / Through you, increase our wonder, and sets up / Your fame for ever" (95-97)—there is never any doubt that this restoration is its own good for the magus.

Let by Gower and privy to the salvation of Thaisa, the audience is further along its journey toward perceptual cleansing than Pericles by act 4. Here we are also able to see Marina in Mytilene, whose skills and education make her "both th'heart and place / Of general wonder" (4.cho.10-ll). It is her story that is able to transform men, turning them "out of the road of rutting for ever" (4.5.9). Thus, Lysimachus, himself one of the converted, summons Marina to Pericles' ship at the beginning of act 5, in hopes that she can wrest Pericles from his nihilistic and silent despair.

After singing him a song and asking him to listen to her tale, Marina is greeted violently by Pericles, "pushing her roughly back" (5.1.83 s.d.). It is at this point that Marina begins her story, significantly admitting that she knows the dark side of wonderment, learned all too well from her experience in the brothel: "I am a maid, / My lord, that ne'er before invited eyes, / But have been gaz'd on like a comet" (84-86). Still lost in a kind of solipsism, Pericles speaks because he has heard fragments that resonate with events from his own life: "My fortunes—parentage—good parentage—/ To equal mine—was it not thus? What say you?" (97-98). The power of telling has penetrated Pericles' skepticism, but he does not move beyond doubt until he sees something in Marina that reminds him of Thaisa:

  Prithee speak.
Falseness cannot come from thee, for thou
Modest as Justice, and thou seemest a palace
For the crown'd Truth to dwell in. I will
believe thee,
And make my senses credit thy relation
To points that seem impossible, for thou
Like one I lov'd indeed. . . .

(119-25; emphasis mine)

We have not heard Pericles lavish such praise on anyone since Antiochus's daughter. Marina now is the repository of truth that will allow him to "believe" in things seemingly "impossible." And unlike the daughter, Marina is a true wonder, a paradox who is not born "of any shores, / Yet . . . was mortally brought forth, and am / None other than I appear" (103-5) and who "beget'st him that did thee beget" (195). As Hippolyta suggested, truth can emerge from the marvelous, and wonder can transfigure minds.

It is significant, too, that this recovery of a moral referent is figured as something spatial and visual—a "palace"—instead of textual: the daughter in Antioch had been described as the "book of praises." It is not just narrative, then, that transforms, but—as we saw in Daniel—visual wonder as well. Furthermore, although Pericles' reunion with Thaisa is not as central as The Winter's Tale's portrayal of conjugal reunion, it is crucial to this play and comes about because of another visual marvel. His capacity for wonder restored to him by Marina, Pericles is able to experience what no one else on stage can: the theophanic message of Diana that sends him to Ephesus and Thaisa. In a play focusing on the link between the journeys of Pericles and the audience, it is significant that the playgoers are the only other people aware of Pericles' vision.

Wonder for Pericles is not passive awe, however. Just as Gower calls for the active participation of the audience in his speeches, Shakespeare does not let Pericles rest with his knowledge, and indeed, as Dennis Kay has shown, both Pericles' questing for knowledge and the questions of Pericles go on beyond the frame of the play.40 Pericles wants to uncover the truth about his and his family's lives, and the final scene is filled with verbs of recognition and proof: "see" (25), "confirm" (54), "hear" (56, 84), "resolve" (61), "deliver" (64), "shown" (66). And yet this is not the destructive raging after knowledge and certainty that plagues Hamlet, Othello, and Leontes and that Stanley Cavell has called "the burden of proof."41 Pericles' inquiry takes the form of Montaignian and Patrizian wonder: with uncertainty as a base that allows him to entertain the impossible, Pericles seeks to know what he can. In the process his faith in perception is restored.

Although Pericles foregrounds the artistic act less than the other three romances, there is still an embryonic version of what I call throughout this study a "wonder shift." Just as early modern scientists' wonder moves from a general fascination with nature to an appreciation of its minute mechanisms, so Shakespeare's vision of wonder increasingly includes not only wondrous subjects and ideas but also the marvelous mechanics of his dramatic art.42 To Bishop, the wonder shift in Pericles comes in the "skill and sophistication with which the playwright has restored this 'mouldy tale' to new life"; Shakespeare thus "directs our attention, even as we are deeply moved, to the exercise of composition over the materials."43 This shift, this redirecting of attention, comes for me in the foregrounding of the audience's role.44 For in late Shakespeare, a phase in many ways ushered in by Pericles, the audience experiences—and finally enables—the active, dynamic process of wonder. This is the very process that I have located in Patrizi and Montaigne and that was to become increasingly "Shakespearean." To paraphrase Gower, the spectators' joy attends on their patience—and increasingly upon their capacity for wonder.


1A Midsummer Night's Dream 5.1.1. Subsequent citations from the works of Shakespeare, all of which are taken from the Riverside edition, are annotated within the text.

2 See Puttenham, Arte of English Poesie, ed. Willcock and Walker, 225-26.

3 Thomas Bishop—whose Ph.D. dissertation, The Uses of Recognition, shares many of the interests of this study—sees an active audience participation as part of the romance form: romance articulates "through its narrative workings claims and understandings that are part of 'the real,' by means of a particular participation of the audience in the work" (202). For a brief treatment of Shakespearean comedy that begins to explore wonder in a way similar to mine, see Dolora G. Cunningham, "Wonder and Love in the Romantic Comedies."

4 Stanley Cavell acknowledges the audience's role in the Shakespearean journey beyond skepticism in his essay on The Winter's Tale in Disowning Knowledge ("Recounting Gains, Showing Losses," 193-221). "A transformation is being asked of our conception of the audience of a play," Cavell writes, "perhaps a claim that we are no longer spectators, but something else, more, say participants": "our capacity for participation is precisely a way of characterizing the method no less than the subject of this piece of theater" (218-20; see also his introduction to this volume, esp. 15-20). On theophanic wonders in the relationship between Shakespeare's foregrounded art and audience participation in the romances, see Knowles, '"The More Delay'd, Delighted.'" More recently Philip C. McGuire has explored uncertainty and audience participation using some of the terminology of quantum physics in his Speechless Dialect, esp. 122-50. See also Barton, "'Enter Mariners Wet,'" in Essays, esp. 202-3.

5 See Bradshaw, Shakespeare's Scepticism; Cavell, Disowning Knowledge; Chaudhuri, Infirm Glory; Engle, Shakespearean Pragmatism; Freedman, Staging the Gaze; Levao, Renaissance Minds; and Rabkin, Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning.

6 Popkin, History of Scepticism, xiii-xv. For Socrates, see the Apology 21b-d, in Collected Dialogues of Plato, ed. Hamilton and Cairns, 7-8. For Cicero, see Académica 1.4.16, trans. Rackham, 424-25. For a general background to skepticism in the Renaissance, see Carey, John Donne, 217-46.

7 See Popkin, History of Scepticism, 18-65. See also Victoria Kahn, Rhetoric, Prudence, and Skepticism, esp. 115-51. Gregory Vlastos discusses the irony, complexity, and misinterpretations of this disavowal of knowledge in his Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher, 82-86 and 236-42. Vlastos notes the earliest known misreading as that of Cicero (83 n.4). It would seem that, if Vlastos is correct, Socrates is actually closer to the Pyrrhonian position than to the Academic one that was founded on his pronouncement.

8 Montaigne, "Apology for Raymond Sebond" (2.12), in Complete Essays, trans. Frame, 374; and Essais, ed. Villey, 505.

9 Bradshaw, Shakespeare's Scepticism, 39.

10 Calderwood, To Be and Not To Be, xiv-xv. This sort of doubleness exists in Longinus as well and is explicated carefully by Paul Fry in his The Reach of Criticism, 47-86. On Montaigne's work as an example of this resistance to certainty and resolution—in both theory and practice—see Kahn's chapter on Montaigne in Rhetoric, Prudence, Skepticism, esp. 129-51.

11 Even in his first essay on Shakespearean skepticism, "The Avoidance of Love," Stanley Cavell stresses the importance of wonder to Shakespeare's plays: "a strategy whose point is to break up our sense of the ordinary (which is not the same as a strategy whose point it is to present us with spectacularly extraordinary events) also has claim to be called philosophical: This is perhaps why an essential response in both philosophy and tragedy is that of wonder" (Disowning Knowledge, 88). See also Bradbrook, The Living Monument, 184-226; and Young, The Heart's Forest, 104-91. I should also add that this view of wonder, linked as it is to the epistemological and aesthetic issues I have been exploring throughout, is different from the providential readings of the romances, however useful I may find them. See, for example, Hartwig, Shakespeare's Tragicomic Vision; Knight, The Crown of Life; Mebane, Renaissance Magic, 169-72; and Peterson, Time, Tide, and Tempest. For a fascinating article linking the marvelous in the late plays to fantasy and self-consciously fictive forms of literature, see Semon, "Fantasy and Wonder in Shakespeare's Last Plays."

12 Gilman, Curious Perspective, 14.

13 Mowat, Dramaturgy of Shakespeare's Romances, 99 (see Wölfflin, Principles of Art History, esp. chap. 3, 124-54). Douglas L. Peterson makes a similar distinction between the ordinary, probable, and verisimilar found in "mirror comedy," and the extraordinary and marvelous found in "ideal comedy"; see "The Tempest and Ideal Comedy," in Shakespearean Comedy, ed. Charney, 99-110.

14 See Greenwood, Shifting Perspectives. The term "mannerism" is a deeply problematic one and has caused a great deal of controversy in art history. For a thorough discussion of the concept of mannerism—the history behind it and the debates that surround it—see Mirollo, Mannerism and Renaissance Poetry, esp. 1-71. Important general studies include Battisti, L'antirinascimento, esp. 19-45; Bousquet, Mannerism, trans. Taylor; Shearman, Mannerism; and Sypher, Four Stages of Renaissance Style. Shearman in particular rejects the notion that there is much of anything intellectual or epistemological in sixteenth-century mannerism. What almost all recent commentators agree upon, however, is that there is a self-consciousness to mannerism, a heightened awareness and foregrounding of form and technique. Although I sense that Arnold Hauser is at least partly right about the intellectual doubt and uncertainty behind mannerism (see below), I use the term primarily in its formal sense.

15 Hauser, Mannerism, 277.

16Mannerism, 10 (on Shakespearean mannerism, see 112-13). See also Brooke, "Shakespeare and Baroque Art"; Caws, The Eye in the Text, esp. 9-10 and 36-37; Hoy, "Jacobean Tragedy and the Mannerist Style"; and Roston, Renaissance Perspectives, esp. 239-75.

17 Although recent, politically oriented Shakespeare criticism has improved upon David Bergeron's influential but overly simplistic Shakespeare 's Romances, the new historicists have had less success with romances than other Shakespearean genres because their explications of power have not accounted for the power of wonder. In the case of Steven Mullaney's Place of the Stage, this omission is curious because Mullaney writes eloquently about wonder cabinets but does not connect these insights to his treatment of Pericles. Even those who do address the marvelous do not seem to see its wide-ranging impact. Leonard Tennenhouse limits his vision of the scenes of wonder in the romances to Shakespeare's "strategy for rewriting the king's body . . . ; the unfolding of disorder within the domestic unit operates to reinscribe this unit within a hierarchy governed by the metaphysics of blood" (Power on Display, 182-83). Only Stephen Greenblatt's recent work—Shakespearean Negotiations ("Martial Law in the Land of Cockaigne," 129-63); Learning to Curse ("Resonance and Wonder," 161-81); and Marvelous Possessions—recognizes the epistemological and aesthetic, as well as the political, power of wonder.

18 See Bentley, "Shakespeare and the Blackfriars Theatre."

19 Gurr, Playgoing in Shakespeare's London, 167-68.

20 Seltzer, "Staging the Last Plays," in Later Shakespeare, ed. Brown and Harris, 128-29, 163.

21 Frye, The Secular Scripture, 186.

22 Wells, "Shakespeare and Romance," in Later Shakespeare, ed. Brown and Harris, 49. Many prefer the term "tragicomedy" to describe Shakespeare's late plays. George Hunter has brilliantly elucidated the importance of Guarini's Il pastor fido in shaping the epistemological concerns of late Shakespeare. A crucial characteristic of tragicomedy, according to Hunter, is paradox, "the collision of two opposed attitudes" and "the painful and unbridged gap" between them (Dramatic Identities, 153).

23 Guarini, Compendium of Tragicomic Poetry, cited in Literary Criticism, ed. Gilbert, 511. Fletcher, "To the Reader," "The Faithful Shepherdess ": A Critical Edition, ed. Kirk, 15-16. Felperin, Shakespearean Romance, 62. For a more general discussion of Shakespearean romance and tragicomedy, see Frank Kermode's introduction to the Arden Tempest, lix-lxiii. On the political and social forces that may lie behind the genre of romance, see Jameson, Political Unconscious, esp. 103-150.

24 Bliss, "Tragicomic Romance in the King's Men," in Comedy from Shakespeare to Sheridan, ed. Braunmuller and Bulman, 158-59.

25 See Frye, A Natural Perspective, 8, and Secular Scripture. See also Knight, Crown of Life.

26 See Frye, Secular Scripture, 38, and "Romance as Masque," in Shakespeare's Romances Reconsidered, ed. Kay and Jacobs, 11-39.

27 Robert S. Knapp, ShakespeareThe Theater and the Book, 233. See also Patricia Parker's notion of romance as "a form which simultaneously quests for and postpones a particular end, objective, or object" (Inescapable Romance, 4).

28 Montaigne, "Of Cripples" (3.11), in Complete Essays, trans. Frame, 788; and "Of Experience" (3.13), in Complete Essays, 818.

29 Patrizi, La deca ammirabile, in Della poetica, ed. Aguzzi-Barbagli, 2:365 (my translation): "Di credere, perchè la cosa si vede essere; e di non credere, perchè ella è improvisa, e nuova, e non più da noi stata conosciuta, nè pensata, nè creduta poter essere."

30 A parallel from the Italian Renaissance can be found in the letter from Pietro Aretino to Bernardino Daniello in 1536, describing Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel: "the eyes, in suddenly being raised to those figures, and confounded in meraviglia, and confused in such marveling, begin subtly to retrace with their gaze the might of his labors" (cited in David Summers, Michelangelo and the Language of Art, 174-75).

31 Kuhn, "Much Virtue in If," 50. Kuhn is responding to Palmer, "Art and Nature in As You Like It. "

32 Mowat, Dramaturgy of Shakespeare's Romances, 98-99.

33 For a thorough treatment of the authorship issue, see F. D. Hoeniger's Arden edition of Pericles, lii lxiii. More recently see A Textual Companion, ed. Wells and Taylor, 556-60. On unity in Pericles, see Edwards, "An Approach to the Problem of Pericles"', Knight, Crown of Life, 32-75; and Pitcher, "The Poet and Taboo," in Essays and Studies, ed. Bushrui, 14-29.

34 Bishop, Uses of Recognition, 266-67.

35 The Quarto reads "this long's the text"; the Third Folio reads "thus long's the text." "This 'longs the text" is an emendation of Theobald's.

36 See Adelman, Suffocating Mothers, 194-96; Bishop's chapter on Pericles in Uses of Recognition, 237-307; Felperin, Shakespearean Romance, 143-76, esp. 148-49; and Pitcher, "The Poet and Taboo."

37 See Bishop, Uses of Recognition, 251.

38Uses of Recognition, 265.

39 On this scene and its relationship to Renaissance emblems, see Young, "A Note on the Tournament Impresas in Pericles." Given his role in negotiating the verbal and the visual in act 2, Simonides' name may have significance: according to Plutarch, it was Simonides of Ceos (ca. 556-467 B.C.) who first uttered the famous maxim "Painting is mute poetry, and poetry a speaking picture." See Plutarch, "Were the Athenians More Famous," in Roman Questions 346f., trans. Babbitt, 501. See also Hagstrum, Sister Arts, 10.

40 See Kay, "'To Hear the Rest Untold,'" esp. 211-13.

41 See Cavell, Disowning Knowledge, 179-91.

42 It is helpful to recall the remarks of the Pseudo-Aristotle that I cite earlier (preface, note 13): "Our wonder is excited, firstly, by phenomena which occur in accordance with nature but of which we do not know the cause, and secondly by those which are produced by art despite nature for the benefit of mankind" (Mechanics, 847al0ff., in Complete Works, ed. Barnes, 2:1299). The cause of the marvel, then, can also induce wonder.

43 Bishop, Uses of Recognition, 306.

44 What Northrop Frye has said about the role of romance in the recovery of myth can also be applied to the theater: "The first step . . . is the transfer of the center of interest from hero to poet. The second, and perhaps final, stage is reached when the poet entrusts his work to the reader. . . . As we have seen, the message of all romance is de te fabula: the story is about you; and it is the reader who is responsible for the way literature functions, both socially and individually" (Secular Scripture, 185-86).

Source: "Pericles and the Wonder of Unburdened Proof," in Reason Diminished: Shakespeare and the Marvelous, University of Nebraska Press, 1997, pp. 124-38.