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by William Shakespeare

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About Book

Book Description

Each edition includes:

  • Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play

  • Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play

  • Scene-by-scene plot summaries

  • A key to famous lines and phrases

  • An introduction to reading Shakespeare's language

  • An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play

  • Illustrations from the Folger Shakespeare Library's vast holdings of rare books

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


1 Chorus

Enter Gower.


To sing a song that old was sung,

From ashes ancient Gower is come,

Assuming man's infirmities

To glad your ear and please your eyes.

It hath been sung at festivals,

On ember eves and holy days,

And Lords and ladies in their lives

Have read it for restoratives.

The purchase is to make men glorious,

Et bonum quo antiquius, eo melius.

If you, born in these latter times

When wit's more ripe, accept my rhymes,

And that to hear an old man sing

May to your wishes pleasure bring,

I life would wish, and that I might

Waste it for you like taper light.

This Antioch, then: Antiochus the Great

Built up this city for his chiefest seat,

The fairest in all Syria.

I tell you what mine authors say.

This king unto him took a peer,

Who died and left a female heir

So buxom, blithe, and full of face

As heaven had lent her all his grace;

With whom the father liking took

And her to incest did provoke.

Bad child, worse father! To entice his own

To evil should be done by none.

But custom what they did begin

Was with long use accounted no sin.

The beauty of this sinful dame

Made many princes thither frame

To seek her as a bedfellow,

In marriage pleasures playfellow;

Which to prevent he made a law

To keep her still, and men in awe,

That whoso asked her for his wife,

His riddle told not, lost his life.

So for her many a wight did die,

As yon grim looks do testify.

He indicates heads above the stage.

What now ensues, to the judgment of your eye

I give my cause, who best can justify.

He exits.

Scene 1

Enter Antiochus, Prince Pericles, and followers.


Young Prince of Tyre, you have at large received

The danger of the task you undertake.


I have, Antiochus, and with a soul

Emboldened with the glory of her praise

Think death no hazard in this enterprise.


Music! Music sounds offstage.

Bring in our Daughter, clothèd like a bride

For embracements even of Jove himself,

At whose conception, till Lucina reigned,

Nature this dowry gave: to glad her presence,

The senate house of planets all did sit

To knit in her their best perfections.

Enter Antiochus' Daughter.


See where she comes, appareled 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 ever razed, and testy wrath

Could never be her mild companion.

You gods that made me man, and sway in love,

That have inflamed desire in my breast

To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree

Or die in th' adventure, be my helps,

As I am son and servant to your will,

To compass such a boundless happiness.


Prince Pericles --


That would be son to great Antiochus.


Before thee stands this fair Hesperides,

With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touched;

For deathlike dragons here affright thee hard.

Her face, like heaven, enticeth thee to view

Her countless glory, which desert must gain;

And which without desert, because thine eye

Presumes to reach, all the whole heap must die.

He points to the heads.

Yon sometimes famous princes, like thyself,

Drawn by report, advent'rous by desire,

Tell thee with speechless tongues and semblance pale

That, without covering save yon field of stars,

Here they stand martyrs slain in Cupid's wars,

And with dead cheeks advise thee to desist

For going on death's net, whom none resist.


Antiochus, I thank thee, who hath taught

My frail mortality to know itself,

And by those fearful objects to prepare

This body, like to them, to what I must.

For death remembered should be like a mirror

Who tells us life's but breath, to trust it error.

I'll make my will, then, and as sick men do

Who know the world, see heaven but, feeling woe,

Gripe not at earthly joys as erst they did;

So I bequeath a happy peace to you

And all good men, as every prince should do;

My riches to the earth from whence they came,

To the Daughter. But my unspotted fire of love to you. --

Thus ready for the way of life or death,

I wait the sharpest blow.


Scorning advice, read the conclusion, then:

Which read and not expounded, 'tis decreed,

As these before thee, thou thyself shalt bleed.


Of all 'sayed yet, mayst thou prove prosperous;

Of all 'sayed yet, I wish thee happiness.


Like a bold champion I assume the lists,

Nor ask advice of any other thought

But faithfulness and courage.

He reads the Riddle:

I am no viper, yet I feed

On mother's flesh which did me breed.

I sought a husband, in which labor

I found that kindness in a father.

He's father, son, and husband mild;

I mother, wife, and yet his child.

How they may be, and yet in two,

As you will live resolve it you.

Aside. Sharp physic is the last! 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?

Fair glass of light, I loved you, and could still

Were not this glorious casket stored with ill.

But I must tell you now my thoughts revolt;

For he's no man on whom perfections wait

That, knowing sin within, will touch the gate.

You are a fair viol, and your sense the strings

Who, fingered to make man his lawful music,

Would draw heaven down and all the gods to


But, being played upon before your time,

Hell only danceth at so harsh a chime.

Good sooth, I care not for you.


Prince Pericles, touch not, upon thy life,

For that's an article within our law

As dangerous as the rest. Your time's expired.

Either expound now or receive your sentence.


Great king,

Few love to hear the sins they love to act.

'Twould braid yourself too near for me to tell it.

Who has a book of all that monarchs do,

He's more secure to keep it shut than shown.

For vice repeated is like the wand'ring wind,

Blows dust in others' eyes to spread itself;

And yet the end of all is bought thus dear:

The breath is gone, and the sore eyes see clear

To stop the air would hurt them. The blind mole casts

Copped hills towards heaven, to tell the earth is thronged

By man's oppression, and the poor worm doth die for 't.

Kings are earth's gods; in vice their law's their will;

And if Jove stray, who dares say Jove doth ill?

It is enough you know; and it is fit,

What being more known grows worse, to smother it.

All love the womb that their first being bred;

Then give my tongue like leave to love my head.

Antiochus, aside

Heaven, that I had thy head! He has found the meaning.

But I will gloze with him. -- Young Prince of Tyre,

Though by the tenor of our strict edict,

Your exposition misinterpreting,

We might proceed to cancel of your days,

Yet hope, succeeding from so fair a tree

As your fair self, doth tune us otherwise.

Forty days longer we do respite you,

If by which time our secret be undone,

This mercy shows we'll joy in such a son.

And until then, your entertain shall be

As doth befit our honor and your worth.

All except Pericles exit.


How courtesy would seem to cover sin

When what is done is like an hypocrite,

The which is good in nothing but in sight.

If it be true that I interpret false,

Then were it certain you were not so bad

As with foul incest to abuse your soul;

Where now you're both a father and a son

By your untimely claspings with your child,

Which pleasures fits a husband, not a father,

And she an eater of her mother's flesh

By the defiling of her parents' bed;

And both like serpents are, who, though they feed

On sweetest flowers, yet they poison breed.

Antioch, farewell, for wisdom sees those men

Blush not in actions blacker than the night

Will 'schew no course to keep them from the light.

One sin, I know, another doth provoke;

Murder's as near to lust as flame to smoke.

Poison and treason are the hands of sin,

Ay, and the targets to put off the shame.

Then, lest my life be cropped to keep you clear,

By flight I'll shun the danger which I fear. He exits.

Enter Antiochus.


He hath found the meaning,

For which we mean to have his head.

He must not live to trumpet forth my infamy,

Nor tell the world Antiochus doth sin

In such a loathed manner.

And therefore instantly this prince must die,

For by his fall my honor must keep high. --

Who attends us there?

Enter Thaliard.


Doth your Highness call?


Thaliard, you are of our chamber, Thaliard,

And our mind partakes her private actions

To your secrecy; and for your faithfulness

We will advance you, Thaliard. Behold,

Here's poison, and here's gold. He gives poison and money. We hate the Prince

Of Tyre, and thou must kill him. It fits thee not

To ask the reason why: because we bid it.

Say, is it done?


My Lord, 'tis done.



Enter a Messenger.

Let your breath cool yourself, telling your haste.

messenger My Lord, Prince Pericles is fled. He exits.

Antiochus, to Thaliard

As thou wilt live, fly after,

and like an arrow shot from a well-experienced archer hits the mark his eye doth level at, so thou

never return unless thou say Prince Pericles is dead.


My Lord, if I can get him within my pistol's length, I'll make him sure enough. So, farewell to your Highness.


Thaliard, adieu. Till Pericles be dead,

My heart can lend no succor to my head.

They exit.




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