Pericles, Prince of Tyre Analysis
by William Shakespeare

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Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

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*Tyre. Eastern Mediterranean port city that arose as the center of the Phoenician trading empire in ancient times and afterward remained an important trading port. Located in what is now southern Lebanon. The homeland of Prince Pericles.


*Antioch (AN-tee-ahk). Ancient city in Asia Minor and the capital of William Shakespeare’s King Antiochus in this play. Antioch and other cities, such as Tharsus and Tyre, are lands of treachery and blight. To avoid being murdered, Pericles flees Antioch, land of the incestuous Antiochus and his daughter, and hides briefly in Tharsus before taking ship again. Pericles later leaves his daughter in Tharsus, in the care of Cleon and his wife, Dionyza, while he returns to rule in Antioch and Tyre after the deaths of the sinful king and daughter. Years later, Dionyza plots against Pericles’s daughter, Marina, who escapes to Miteline.


Pentapolis. Kingdom ruled by Simonides known as a land of opportunity and ethical judgment. Pericles shipwrecks there, wins a contest for the hand of the king’s daughter, Thaisa, and marries her. They leave the land after it is revealed that Pericles is the rightful ruler of Tyre and must return home.


*Ephesus (EHF-ah-suhs). Ancient city in Asia Minor that is home to the Temple of Diana. After Thaisa dies in childbirth while traveling to Tyre, her body washes ashore at Ephesus. There, Lord Cerimon restores her to life and places her as a nun at the Temple of Diana. The play’s concluding reunion scene takes place at Diana’s Temple.

Modern Connections

(Shakespeare for Students)

Pericles is the first in a group of Shakespeare's last plays called romances or tragicomedies. This group of plays, which also includes Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, The Tempest, and The Two Noble Kinsmen is characterized by improbable situations, and often includes the discovery that characters presumed dead are, miraculously, still alive. In Pericles, for example, the title character thinks both his wife Thaisa and his daughter Marina are dead and suffers terribly in his grief over their deaths. There is great joy and celebration at the end of the play when he is reunited with first Marina and then Thaisa. The audience, however, knows throughout that Pericles's wife and daughter are still alive. Shakespeare brings characters back from the dead with similar, perhaps greater, dramatic effect in The Winter's Tale when a statue of Hermione comes to life and surprises both the audience and her husband Leontes, who has presumed her dead for nearly twenty years. In the romance plays, there is the lamentation of tragedy and the sense that the will of the gods cannot be opposed by human actions. There is also comic resolution, the plays ending in marriage, reaffirmations of love, and social harmony. The romances are a strange blend of completely different genres, yet they most certainly found an interested audience in Shakespeare's day. They are also curiously appropriate to our own age, an age in which many people are too cynical to believe in a seamlessly comic resolution to all of life's problems, yet not so pessimistic as to believe that all events in life are controlled by a destiny beyond human influence. Additionally, the romances are not so different from today's popular romantic comedy films. Characters in these movies often are touched by pain and grief in some way, but, typically, in the end all is resolved with a happy ending. Of all the romances, Pericles is, perhaps, the most strange, a hodgepodge of styles and themes.

On stylistic grounds, critics maintain that Pericles was not written entirely by Shakespeare. It has been suggested that the first two acts were written by someone else, Shakespeare adding touches to the first two acts, here and there, and writing the last three acts himself. Despite its stylistic inconsistencies, Pericles presents an absorbing story which delights the imagination with its depictions of pirates, storm-tossed ships, and knightly tournaments. The story of Pericles is an old one, having been...

(The entire section is 1,900 words.)